Farnesina, 20 June 2017
(The authentic text is only the one actually delivered)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to extend a welcome to you all and especially to:
- the Diplomatic Corps,
- Minister Dario Franceschini,
- Vice President Giovanni Lolli,
- the representatives of Ministries, Regions and Local Authorities,
- the representatives of ENIT, Alitalia, specialised Agencies, members of the press and all the people who worked to contribute to developing the Strategic Tourism Plan 2017-2022.
2016 was a very positive year for tourism in Italy:
- We witnessed a 3.7% rise in foreign tourists;
- Italy was the world’s 5th most visited tourist destination, with more than 52 million visitors.
- In the era of social networks, we should also recall that Italy is the world’s most photographed Country on Instagram!
As I recently said at a conference of investors, we are the “shareholders” of an “Global Brand Italy” that goes well beyond the “Country dimension”. It is a concept of life, style, wellbeing and cultural enrichment.
The Tourism Plan is a new instrument aimed at reinforcing the Foreign Ministry’s economic diplomacy. Because tourism is a very important flywheel of our economy: it represents 12% of GDP and 13% of our employment.
Through the Strategic Tourism Plan, we intend to contribute to bolstering the growth trend of GDP that was already recorded during the first months of 2017. We want to continue attracting tourists in our cities and most famous landmarks. But we also want to promote the lesser known destinations which are nonetheless rich in yet untapped potential. I am referring to rural areas, ancient hamlets, small and medium-sized sanctuary cities, and wildlife and marine parks.
To keep in pace with the times, the Plan focuses great attention on digitalisation, innovation and sustainability.
It also places greater attention on the South of Italy: Campania, Sicily and Molise have recorded hikes in tourist spending, well above the national average.
Italian Regions are ready to jump-start to bring jobs to their peripheral towns, investing in companies that create a positive fallout at local level.
We intend to better capitalise on the potential of our 51 UNESCO artistic, cultural and landscape heritage sites.
And we want to do it through teamwork: the Tourism Plan puts together a very large number of players, public and private, operating in the tourism sector.
We are all called on to make a personal contribution.
On the part of the Foreign Ministry, there is the full involvement of our network of Embassies, Consulates, Italian Cultural Institutes and ICE-Foreign Trade Agency offices, which will engage to implement the Plan.
The Foreign Ministry is already making a significant effort in its visa-issuing policies: today Italy is the leading Schengen Country in terms of the quality of the visa service and the speed of procedures.
In some especially important markets like China and Russia, tourist visas are released in only a few days and we have also introduced long-term visas which last from one to five years and allow for multiple entries. This also solves the problem of what we, in Rome, call “touch ‘n go” tourism.
But I would especially like to recall that Italy, over the last 5 years, has released an average of 2 million visas a year: it is a big job at the service of our citizens, our companies and our local communities.
I am convinced that the Tourism Plan will give new momentum to Italy’s well-structured “Italian Way of Life” integrated promotion programme – spanning from the Italian language to design, from technology to art, from cuisine to archaeology – that the Foreign Ministry has developed to capitalise on and uphold “Brand Italy” across the world.
Let me conclude by saying that Italy is the Country that invented modern-day tourism. In the 18th and 19th centuries all the youngsters from Europe’s top-ranking families, artists, men of culture and painters, went on the so-called grand tour of our Country’s sanctuary cities to finish off their education.
Exactly: I think we should rediscover our glorious past with a view to continue attracting an elitist tourism, which is the one that brings in greatest wealth, jobs and growth. But it is also the kind that demands the highest quality of services.
Chinese, Russian and Indian travellers are the “youngsters” of the present, who have replaced the English, German and French tourists of the past. But they are nonetheless equally keen on finishing their education and surrendering themselves to the fascination of our culture and the Italian Lifestyle.
And without downplaying the beauties of Rome, Florence and Venice, we must extend the itinerary of the grand tour, guiding tourists to rediscover the jewels represented by the extraordinary hamlets and the less known landmarks of our magnificent peninsula.
There’s no doubt that this is the challenge we must now meet!