Italy: Questions and Answers

Pio Trippa, recently-appointed North America Travel Commissioner for the Italian Government Tourist Board, discusses his new post and plans with contributing editor Robin Amster.

TW: As the new travel commissioner you are responsible for all the Italian tourist boards in North America (New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Montreal). What are your plans?

Trippa: For one thing, I plan to better organize the tourist board to improve direct connections with each of our North American offices. We are also asking Rome to strengthen our team in the U.S. with additional staff; perhaps three more here in New York and two more in Chicago. We then plan to hire an outside agency to handle information services for us, supplying brochures and materials to travel agencies and consumers who would call that agency directly.

We are also currently organizing a new Italian Travel Promotion Council, with major representation by leading U.S. tour operators to Italy. These tour operator members will help us to get a better idea how to promote Italy. The tour operators know better than us how things work: The market, the different targets within that market, what we have to improve, and the kind of problems they encounter. It is very important for us to gain good cooperation of this kind.

TW: What is the goal of your promotional activities?

Trippa: We don't try to promote Rome, Florence and Venice. We are trying rather to boost different destinations like the minor art cities, including Vicenza, Parma, Verona, Pisa, Siena, Ferrara and Ravenna. We also have scores of towns in Umbria and Tuscany that are medieval artistic jewels. Another area we want to promote is southern Italy and destinations like Campania, Calabria, Sicily and Sardinia.

In America these are all lesser-known destinations. On their first trip to Italy, Americans like to visit the big cities. But for their second or third trip -- and there are many Americans that go to Italy every year -- we want to improve the image of these other destinations and enlarge this market.

TW: What kind of year was 1997 for U.S. travel to Italy?

Trippa: We have no figure yet for 1997 but we expect the numbers will top 1996, when nearly 2.8 million Americans traveled to Italy. Many tour operators reported a business increase of about 10% in business for 1997 over 1996. The strong U.S. dollar continues to be a great motivator for travel to Italy. In 1998 we're hoping to reach the three million mark for American visitors.

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