Rethinking the future: experts' views on Travel to come

Rethinking the future: experts' views on Travel to come

Bit Milano inaugurates the new section dedicated to reflecting on the sector’s "higher" and more strategic aspects by meeting with ADUTEI DIRECTOR Aljoša Ota, futurologist Roberto Paura and neuromarketing expert Mariano Diotto.

"It won't be like flicking a light switch," said Prime Minister Mario Draghi in his inauguration speech to the Senate, speaking about returning to normality after the pandemic. In short, it won’t be a return to "business as usual": lots of changes will have to be made in response to pre-existing challenges, which have merely been highlighted by Covid.


This is true for Travel in particular, a sector that’s based on people’s exchanges and relationships, and is closely linked to issues of security and sustainability. This is why Bit Milano has created a new section, "Rethinking the future", where we can converse with representatives of associations, experts and academics and gain a mutual understanding of how to rebuild a new tourism. In this first issue, we host Aljoša Ota, Director of ADUTEI and  Head of the Slovenian Tourist Board’s Italian Market,  Roberto Paura, director of the Italian Institute for the Future, and Mariano Diotto, Brand strategist, neuromarketing expert and university lecturer.


Aljoša Ota presents us the players’ point of view Ours is a very diverse organisation that includes countries and destinations ranging from short to medium and long haul. In response to the health crisis, each destination has developed their own strategy, according to their own unique features. Throughout 2020, our approach as an Association largely centred on promoting even more in-depth engagement and discussion to share experiences and good practices, which proved very useful. In fact, we want to spend 2021 further developing these initiatives to provide useful guidance for all our members. We’ve also carried out research among our members that will translate into data and information grouped by destination “clusters” that share similar needs and strategies. We will share the results of the survey during the next edition of BIT MILANO.


"Summer 2020 gave us the illusion that not much had changed in travellers’ attitudes, but we’re now starting to notice changes that may be structural —says Roberto Paura — This leads us to believe that a baseline scenario where we return to 'business as usual' is unlikely. Among the more negative scenarios imagined is one where the tendency to replace real life experiences with virtual ones, developed during lockdown, persists afterwards. During the various reopenings, however, we saw that people felt a strong desire to get back out and meet up with others. That's why we believe the most likely scenario is the third one imagined: a 'transformative' one where a search for experiences and authenticity changes travellers’ attitudes in the long term."


"How should operators and destinations respond?  – Paura continues — We need to learn to develop macro-policies and, more importantly, to do lots and lots of planning, especially in Italy. Our country can no longer live off our inheritance. Being the most desired destination in the world is not enough. The risks of overtourism push toward avoiding a quantitative tourism, based on measuring flows, and toward attracting a target market that is more educated and has a greater disposable income, and this shift requires a focus on unique points. Naples and Matera are two examples of Italian destinations that had successfully gone down this path before the pandemic, differentiating themselves from the classic, Grand Tour Italy with very specific ideas".


"Differentiate", to be unique is also a keyword for Mariano Diotto: "As a neuromarketing expert, I’ve often seen techniques applied in tourism that draw on gimmicks such as cognitive bias, i.e. the use of familiar or stereotypical elements to influence choices, like perceived status or compliance with pre-existing expectations. In the post-pandemic context this will no longer be possible. Let's take a look at an example. In online research, under normal conditions, users spent about 60% of their time exploring various options and 40% evaluating and choosing. In 2020, time spent exploring rose to 80%, because travellers are not so much looking to book, but more to get ideas for when everything is back to normal."


"In this context of a strong focus on the exploration phase, standing out and being unique becomes even more important  — he concludes — When people are finally able to travel again after so long, they will want to do so in ways and to destinations that are ‘worth it’. They’ll be looking for unique, exclusive experiences, which doesn’t necessarily mean expensive: exclusivity is a concept that needs to be developed for all target audiences in proportion to their budgets. Reshaping the narrative to trigger new emotions will be important, telling your story in a different way, without dwelling on your destination’s features or facilities which customers are already familiar with. Innovation can undoubtedly be helpful in this process, both in channels and content: we need content that can prompt travellers to transform their attitudes into behaviours, for instance, transforming the desire to visit Italy into an actual visit more frequently”.