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Destinations, Hospitality & Technology: A Dynamic Trio

Destinations, Hospitality & Technology: A Dynamic Trio

In the Mind of the Expert: Robi Veltroni



With spring in full bloom and summer rapidly approaching, we were curious to uncover the latest insights about destinations as tourism reaches its annual peak. Destinations rely on hospitality, restaurants, museums, experiences and attractions alike, so how are DMOs creating the perfect offer in the digital age to attract visitors to their city or region?

To better understand the future of destinations and innovation, Officina Turistica started the event JMO (Join Maremma Online) seven years ago. We sat down with Robi Veltroni, Scientific and Editorial Coordinator at Officina Turistica, to learn the key takeaways from this year’s edition.



Digitalisation was a key theme at JMO 2019 as it’s not a predictable business model, but a necessary one for destinations. DMOs are facing ever-increasing challenges to attract visitors. What is the current state of destinations leveraging the internet and what does the future look like?

With the development of social networks and internet dependence, investing in technology and infrastructure is increasingly necessary. In today’s digital world, it’s impossible to attract tourists if they cannot benefit from a destination digitally. A few days ago, I read an American study where they explained that millennials will represent 40% of the labor force over the next few years. The study revealed that none of these millennials will be willing to work for companies that are not technologically savvy.

I believe that destinations without technological infrastructure and systems in place are destined to fade away from the tourism radar. Of course there are exceptions. Niche destinations and places off the beaten path will still attract visitors. However, these destinations will not redistribute significant margins for world tourism statistics.



Museums were also a hot topic at JMO. Certainly museums are not a lacking resource throughout Italy and Europe, but visitor attendance at the smaller and lesser known ones could always be improved. How can a destination transform a museum into a tourist attraction?

Italian museums are already great attractors, but not as profit generating as in other countries. Being Italian is a privilege, which is not necessarily always good. Living in a country with such rich resources at our fingertips doesn't put pressure on us to take advantage of these cultural excellences.



Let's talk about food and wine, something Tuscany and Italy are definitely not lacking! How can food and wine become an effective reference point for a destination?

Looking at the Maremma region where JMO was held (south-western Tuscany and northern Lazio), food is a critical element. It may come as no surprise that many tourists come here just to enjoy the number one dish in this region - a nice plate of pappardelle with wild boar sauce!

When we look at where visitors spend their money, food and wine are a significant part of the market share. This phenomenon has only increased with recent trends. Eating “like locals” and zero-kilometer foods are the desires of many. However, you should always read statistics with a grain of salt. It’s one thing to ask how much you would be willing to spend for a zero-kilometer breakfast, it’s another to ask how much you paid for your last zero-kilometer breakfast. The numbers would be completely different.



During the event there was talk about TripAdvisor, as they have adapted to new trends and their dynamics are quickly changing. What’s the right approach to keep up and climb the rankings?

I always follow Tripadvisor, both as a "container" of reviews and as a company that operates in tourism. I do think they need to be cautious of too much diversification. Accustomed to being the leader in reviews, Booking.com and Google are now the top channels for hospitality. Adding restaurants and experiences to the mix has produced interesting numbers, but not enough to significantly change the company's total profitability. Investors are also mindful. Today’s stock price has fallen to €40, quite a dropoff from €100 during the best of times.

However, their social turning point could generate tourist profiling, which proposes the right trip at the right time. If they succeed? I'm not that good at predicting the future....



Are there other aspects about the 2019 edition of JMO that are worth considering?

One interesting trend I’ve seen in Italy in particular, is that the tourism industry is increasingly distant from schools and courses. At JMO, we had a dedicated section to understand and enhance the relationship between schools and tourism professions. Training workers in the tourism sector the proper way is critical.

There is a disconnect between training centers, high schools, universities and entrepreneurs. If this relationship is not resolved, Italy will never be competitive in the tourism industry. We need to inspire brilliant minds and welcome them to the workforce.



As a final takeaway, how do you think things will change over the course of 2019 for the tourism sector, destinations and hotels?

Things have already transformed quite substantially over the first half of 2019!

Within less than a month, we’ve seen Booking.com want to charge commissions on all hotel services and Airbnb lowering commissions to fight Booking.com. Booking.com has teamed up with Amazon and Amadeus (putting the entire inventory on a GDS - global distribution system), while Marriot is making peace with Expedia for the commission war. Hilton has overtaken Marriott in the rankings for the most valuable hospitality brand. 

It’s exciting to see Travel Appeal integrate with 7 new PMS. Airbnb is also diversifying into hotels and investing in Oyo - a network of apartments in the Netherlands. Even Prince Charles has opened his luxury B&B in Scotland!

We are inside a distribution tornado where everything is constantly in motion. As I always say, "It’s all about selling!"