THAILAND is emerging as a potential high-growth market for tourism to Italy, underpinned by that country’s opening of promotional office in Bangkok that has activated a new antenna for luring Thai visitors as well as those from elsewhere in Southeast Asia.
The office, which was opened late last year, is operated by the Italian National Tourist Board (ENIT), which is responsible for the promoting tourism to Italy from around the world.
“The new Bangkok office plays a very important role, as the first the Italian hub in Southeast Asia with the task of promoting Italy and its destinations throughout this portion of the tourism market in this part of the world,” Giovanni Bastianelli, Enit executive director, told The Nation in an interview.
As Southeast Asia's tourism demand for destinations worldwide is growing, it is a fundamental task for Italian regions to have a point of reference in such a growing market, said Bastianelli, who pointed to Italy’s status as a world-renowned top tourist destination.
Apart from Thailand, the Bangkok office is responsible for promoting tourism in the newer source markets of Vietnam and Myanmar, along with Malaysia, as visitors from these countries are increasingly heading to Europe, said Bastianelli.
“Since countries in this region make up an emerging market for the Italian tourism sector, it is still necessary to develop a correct and stronger brand positioning in order to reach the best target for Italian destinations, and namely the more affluent segment, as well as millennials and multi-generational family groups,” he added.
Enit’s marketing strategy is based on global campaigns to promote knowledge of Italy and its locations among travellers while providing information on tourism offerings and products.
Tourism promotion for Italy would be oriented towards “some strategic cross-cutting musts: sustainability, accessibility for all and digital implementation”, he said.
According to Bastianelli, tourism from Asia is increasing faster than that of the total tourism demand, because of the major increase in long-haul tourism markets in Italy with respect to its neighbours, he said.
Italy experienced a boom in tourism from Asian travellers in 2017, especially from Thailand.
The number of Thai arrivals in Italy increased almost 90 per cent over the past three years, from 18,000 in 2014 to 33,700 in 2017, according to Bastianelli.
In 2017, there were more than 254,400 nights spent in Italy by tourists from Thailand, he said.
Compared with 2016, these flows depict a growing trend regarding every variable of tourism. The number of nights spent increased 47.6 per cent, with a 7.4 per cent increase in expenditure that reached 21.7 million euros, Bastianelli said.
Alongside the increase in the number of Thai visitors to Italy, inflows from the rest of Asia also rose in 2017.
China is the biggest source market when it comes to Italian accommodation figures, with over 3 million arrivals for growth of 15 per cent; nights spent in accommodation touched 5 million, increasing 12.4 per cent.
Reaching 996,000, arrivals from South Korea increased by 14 per cent, and the nights spent totalled 1.8 million, up by 14.6 per cent.
The 933,000 tourist arrivals from Japan generated almost 2 per cent more nights than in 2016.
The other Asian countries totalled over 1 million arrivals and 2.4 million nights spent, an increase of 1.1 per cent.
As for this year, Enit expects the number of tourists from Asia to be relatively flat compared with last year, Bastianelli said.
“It means we are still growing from 2016 in international arrivals. Overall, there has been a 5 per cent increase in airport arrivals from foreign airports over the last two years (2018 and 2017),” he said.