Leaning on Cultural Enticement

The Italian tourism board has a new tool for travel agents to market the allure of italy e-mail postcards

By: Steven Rosen

Italy is hoping that continued growth in niche travel cultural, gastronomical, event-oriented will produce a successful year for tourism.

The number of requests for information has increased from the recent low point the start of the war with Iraq. But, cautioned Enzo Colombo, the Italian Government Tourism Board’s travel commissioner for the Western United States, “There could be another crisis, another SARS we don’t know. It’s too early in the season to give estimates. But we are confident we are going where we want to, promoting the lesser-known destinations.”

As a marketing tool for travel agents and tour operators, the tourism board is offering a new service e-mail postcards which can be sent free to clients or prospective travelers.

The cards, which feature such landmarks as a nighttime photo of the Arena Opera Festival amphitheater in Verona and a Napolitano pizza, are on www.italiantourism.com.

This season, the tourism is touting a number of tours, places and events. Gastronomic tours, already popular in Tuscany, are beginning to lure travelers to other regions, Colombo said. And, as an offshoot, demand is growing for agri-tours, he said, adding, “A product very popular is hiking and biking, combined with a stay in farmhouses.”

“The sophisticated traveler is our target now,” Colombo said. A traditional destination, Pisa and its Leaning Tower, has had a resurgence, now that the tower has been repaired and reopened on a limited basis to small groups.

The tourism board is also heavily promoting Rome’s new Auditorium Parco della Musica, the largest concert facility in Europe, which was designed by world-renowned architect Renzo Piano. It has a full schedule of indoor and outdoor musical events, festivals, opera and high-profile concerts. “The impact on the musical world has been tremendous,” Colombo said.

Meanwhile, the 50th Venice Biennale, one of the world’s most important international contemporary art shows, is opening to the public June 15 and will continue through Nov. 2.

“In terms of numbers, I wouldn’t say it’s going to be a record year. But in terms of an increase in demand over the last three months, definitely there is that,” Colombo said.

Italy had a record 4 million tourists in 2000. It was on track to match or top that number in 2001, but, after the jolt of 9/11, it ended up with 3.7 million. Colombo is hopeful that this year will match or beat last year’s 3.3-million tally.

The board has offices in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. For travel agents: 310-820-6357. And, for the public: 310-820-1898.