Those of you who have spent any time in Italy this summer fighting crowds, forking over exorbitant fees for gondola rides in Venice, or stood in long Vatican Museum lines may be shocked to hear this, but it’s true – Italy has been dropping steadily in the last few years in terms of popularity as a vacation destination. No matter what statistics you looked at in recent years, France routinely came out on top as the most popular tourist country. Italy almost always ranked second on such lists. But these days, Italy is being outpaced by the likes of Spain, the United States, and even China. So what is Italy doing about it? Why, they’re working on a website, of course.
Of course, in the 21st century the idea of using a website to revitalize a flagging tourism industry isn’t crazy – provided it’s done well. Spain’s excellent tourism website, launched in 2002 with a budget of about €9 million, provides great information for visiting Spain and (rightfully) continues to get millions of visitors every year. There’s no reason Italy couldn’t accomplish the same thing, given how web-savvy many travelers are becoming and how much Italy has to offer. Unfortunately, however, things with Italy’s official tourism website have gone a bit pear-shaped.
You may remember that early last year, Italy’s online tourism portal – italia.it – was launched with great fanfare and a new logo, and both the website and the logo promptly fell flat on their respective faces. The website was fraught with errors, and the logo was – in a word – horrible (that’s the old logo at the top of this post). And this was after the government had already spent five years and more than €45 million on it. What’s more, the website itself was actually shut down this past January.
The current Italian government is now tasked with re-launching the country’s tourism website, but some people aren’t optimistic about the new effort. One consultant who worked on the last website thinks that its demise was due in part to too many cooks in the kitchen, and too much money being allotted for the project – but it seems to me that giving control of the entire Italy tourism website to one agency could result in an uproar from regional tourism agencies who feel their selling points aren’t being adequately marketed. While Italy’s regionalism is, in my opinion, one of its charms – it’s also one of the things that would make a single entity running the tourism portal a near-impossibility.
There’s no telling what the next iteration of the Italy tourism website will look like, but one assumes it can’t be any worse than the last one. Of course, you know what assuming does…
>> For more on this story, see this WSJ online article.