There was a time when I would visit Rome and Milan every few weeks for business meetings. I always looked forward to those visits and the wonderful, warm encounters with my Italian colleagues. But despite the great hospitality, I would frequently leave wondering whether anything would actually happen from our hours of discussions. Memories of those days always bring a smile to my face.
A colleague from those days just sent me a link to a thought provoking and sadly, humorous article in the New York Times, “Why No One Goes to Naples” by Beppe Severgnini, a columnist at Corriere della Sera and the author of “A Field Guide to the Italian Mind.” It really resonated with me on so many levels and provides an amazing case study in what NOT to do in developing tourism. Beppe highlights why only 13% of visitors to Italy go to the areas south of Rome despite its great natural and cultural assets. Beside citing corruption, incompetence, waste and politics, he identifies many issues that are fundamental to tourism success such as brand awareness, quality, customer-focus, effective destination managers, collaboration (even with competitors), functioning infrastructure and services, and visionary leaders. The basics!
He made the point that Italy doesn’t have a minister for tourism. After reading his anecdotes about how neighboring regions don’t speak to each other and how trains and planes to Sicily from Calabria fail to connect. Apparently, that’s because Calabria doesn’t want to see tourists siphoned off to Sicily. My immediate thought was that maybe Basil Fawlty’s Italian cousin is already at work sabotaging the nation’s tourism.
Beppe summed it all up by saying, “tourism ought to be to southern Italy what oil is to Norway: a blessing and a source of wealth.” But to get there, they will have to get beyond their Basil Fawlty era.