Nothing will be the same even when the emergency ends. It will be necessary to focus on long-term factors such as ethics, sustainability and digital: in the words of Simon Anholt, Edoardo Colombo, Paolo Iabichino and Paolo Verri.
Flows. Attendance. Tourist expenditure. Beyond these quantitative factors, how much the pandemic has affected travellers' perceptions of destinations remains an open question. This issue is of huge relevance at a time when many destinations are trying to use the 'stop & go' imposed by the emergency not only to recover visitors, but also to reposition themselves.
We asked Simon Anholt, who has been policy advisor to presidents and prime ministers of more than 50 countries and who edits an authoritative country brand index with IPSOS, theAnholt-Ipsos Nation Brands Index, for an opinion on this complex issue. "The survey I conduct with IPSOS indicates that, apart from China, no country has been severely impacted by the pandemic. However, it is always difficult for a destination to 'manage' its image and all that can be done is to act in an increasingly responsible, ethical and trustworthy way".
The situation is exemplified by the case of Italy, as Anholt further explains: "Italy was always in the headlines in the first phase, often reawakening old stereotypes. In Italy, the tourism industry even more needs to focus on structural factors, such as sustainability, professionalism and the ability to look at quality rather than quantity'.
These are long-term factors for which technologies are the enabler. "During the pandemic, new digital solutions have been adopted even by the people least accustomed to them and the possibility of living virtual travel experiences has grown exponentially,"comments Edoardo Colombo, a tourism digital transformation expert. "A focus on security and sustainability will favour destinations that can embrace change, attracting 'Digital Nomads' who want to be connected at all times and can move for long periods of time working remotely from other cities or countries.
According to Paolo Iabichino, Advertising Writer, Creative Director, Founder of the Civic Brands Observatory with Ipsos Italia and Master of the Holden School, in order to attract these new targets we need to focus on lifestyles and empathy: "To relaunch itself, the sector must focus less on 'selling' and more on 'engaging'. Communications must resonate at the level of values and identity: we must also go beyond the concept of 'experience', which all too often translates into pre-packaged packages, and put more authenticity into the narrative. A destination cannot afford to wait until the traveller is on site to trigger empathy: it has to do it first'.
“At Turin 2006, our team was the first to develop the concept of the 'temporary citizen '," concludes Paolo Verri, currently Executive Director of Ocean Race at the Genoa City Council, "a new way of experiencing the destination that brings value to both residents and visitors, who no longer enter the context intrusively, but instead enrich it. Tomorrow’s tourism, in Italy above all, must redefine itself in this direction: reducing fragmentation, becoming more ‘European’ and working to better differentiate the physical experience.”