Tourism as a counter-cyclical resource: vision or reality? A reality, according to the snapshot of Italian feeling portrayed in the 18th edition of the Trademark report: Where Italians go on vacation. Interviews conducted between March 25 and April 9 confirm that vacation time is a good that our compatriots are unwilling to renounce, even during hard times; more thrifty, no doubt, but not ready to cut their travels out of the budget.
Despite a slight downturn in national and international travel volumes, this attitude is what lies behind various positive developments in the forecast for 2009:
•growth in on-line reservations
•stabilization of domestic travel volumes and even some modest growth in some areas
•reinforcement of low-cost flights, especially for short trips
•the confirmation of vacation resorts near the larger traveler-generating regions
“I will never tire of repeating how indispensable a strong and coordinated national policy on tourism is for seizing and building on opportunities in a sector that, along with the many variants of “made in Italy” that tie in to it, constitutes an invaluable national resource,” affirmed Adalberto Corsi, president of Fiera Milano Expocts and deputy vice president of Milan’s Unione del Commercio. “Ours is a sector that – as BIT demonstrates – has a strong need for systematization, starting with close collaborations between public and private entities, [and] between institutions, administrations, and business representatives from the working world. Greater cooperation among the system’s multitude of actors is the only way to achieve our goal of doubling this sector’s contribution (which already measures a healthy 8 percent) to national GDP, much like improvements in infrastructure and the quality of the service supply are trying to do.”
This is the setting in which Bit – International Tourism Exchange carries on the critical role it has been playing for thirty years now – the 2010 edition is its anniversary celebration. There are two different directions: identifying and cultivating the most promising trends and putting operational tools at the disposal of businesses from the sector 365 days per year.
“The numbers show that businesses in the sector are maintaining their prior levels of engagement with Bit in spite of the difficult times,” observed Corrado Peraboni, CEO of Fiera Milano Expocts and organizer of the trade show. “What is changing is that operators are choosing to optimize their investment by taking advantage of the full system of integrated, multi-channel instruments that Bit has grown to represent. The trade show still lies at the heart of this complex, and Bit hopes to do its share by offering a program of concrete initiatives to promote the optimization of investments.”
BIT IS BUSINESS
Bit is “the” marketplace for the tourism system in Italy and one of the top 4 in the world. This fact is punctuated by its portfolio of technical workshops, which is one-of-a-kind in this market. The breaking news of this edition is Buy World, a new workshop that focuses on supply and demand in international tourism. This is where 100 buyers from the most dynamic southeast Asian markets and 200 tour operators and travel agencies, representing the supply-side for the more than 140 countries represented at Bit, can meet up and network in an exclusive appointment and B2B their incoming and outgoing business. Born from a collaboration with UFTAA – United Federation of Travel Agents’
Associations, Buy World is the first entirely “foreign on foreign” Bit workshop, and stands out for its highly-innovative nature. This is the sector’s only de-territorialized technical workshop, and realizing it required a remarkable economic and organizational effort.
Back for its second edition, the Bit Itinera conference focuses on religious tourism. This year, 80 select operators on the demand side are preparing to meet up with 200 supply-side participants. In recent years, religious tourism has added a growing spiritually-motivated element to tourism: “new pilgrims” embrace broader outlooks on spirituality, often independently of specific faiths, and seek out deeper artistic, cultural and scenic experiences in religiously-inspired destinations. In a timely reading of the trend, this year’s Bit Itinera is responding to these market needs by broadening its range of activities to include all three monotheistic religions.
Another reconfirmed success is represented by Buy Club International, the only international workshop dedicated to the world of association-ism. This year, 300 national and international sellers and 160 buyers from 11 different countries will be coming to seize new business opportunities in one of the sector’s fastest-growing segments. Buy Club International is returning to the 2010 appointmen,t riding high on the satisfaction rates from previous editions. According to data gathered by Comitel (an independent agency), 97.1 percent of the buyers who participated in 2009 (and 91.7 percent in 2008) and 91.5 percent of sellers reported that they succeeded in cultivating promising contacts at the fair.
Last of all, the “silver” edition of Buyitaly, one of the world’s biggest and most well-known workshops on Italian products, will be back with us for another round. This 25th edition foresees the participation of 2,200 Italian sellers and 540 international buyers from 55 different countries. In 2009, operators expressed a steady and strong appreciation for Buyitaly. Comitel surveys found that 73.1 percent of participating operators rated this workshop as excellent or good for the Italian setting. Approximately 48 percent of the sellers who participated, reported that they made contacts with buyers during the ensuing 12 months.
Another way that Bit is responding to market expectations is through new exhibition initiatives. The new Venues & Locations area is being dedicated to prestigious locations, hotels, residences, historic buildings, and congress facilities in the national and international circuits. The Short Break zone is another new addition – an exhibition area that targets cities and specialists from the micro-vacation segment, along with the Wellness/Spa zone, which presents new trends in a rapidly-growing market segment.
Pleased with the results of its first edition, Adv Forum is also coming back for this year’s edition. This is a strongly business-oriented networking opportunity for travel agencies and tour operators and is reserved for select leading businesses in the sector. Adv Forum serves as a focused and in-depth venue for tour operators to present their proposals to travel agencies in a special area that is strategically located in the Tourism Collection section. Half of the 200 m2 area is occupied by a 60-seat arena for individual presentations.
Last of all, wine and food tourism is back again with a space designed to help cultivate contacts and connections between the local tourism supply and the local cultures of good food and wine that are so widespread in our country.
In addition to general improvements in the exhibition areas, Bit 2010 offers additional support in the form of special initiatives to help companies in the sector optimize their investments:
• Price freeze: Bit 2010 fees remain unchanged from the 2009 rates
•Investing together – 1+1: reserve more exhibition space than in the 2009 edition and Bit will match every paid meter of new space with an additional meter, free of charge
•Pre-registration: free admission for foreign travel agents who pre-register
•1+1 – 1 pre-registration + 1 free admission: visitors who pre-register and purchase an admission ticket will receive an additional admission ticket to the show free of charge
The 30th Bit – International Tourism Exchange is being held in the Fieramilano district in Rho from Thursday, February 18 to Sunday, February 21, 2010. For the latest updates, visit: www.bit.fieramilanoexpocts.it.