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Italy’s tour operators lag behind on both the web and social media

by Marzio Bartoloni

Digital tourism is advancing rapidly, as nowadays the travel experience starts online well before the actual trip takes place and then explodes on the social networks when, after having reached destination, tourists recount - through videos, photos and comments - their experience. Too bad that too many tour operators remain way behind these digital tourists.

If it is true that wi-fi is a must for travelers - especially for those who want to share their experiences - only 55% of tourism companies guarantee a wi-fi connection. And even though 80% of operators consider online reviews as crucial because they affect the choices of other travelers, only 5% have an account on Twitter and 7% on Instagram, while 51% has at least a page on Facebook. Finally, only 10% plan to invest in online advertising, when a quarter of travelers looks for information and books online.

These and many other numbers can be found in the “Digitaly Experience” report on Italy’s image as a tourist destination in the world, recently presented in Capri. The Observatory’s first report - which aims to become a “tourism information hub” - took into account over 20 million comments (in Italian and English) on Twitter and Instagram in August. Next to the online survey on demand it posted a supply-side analysis based on a questionnaire issued to 500 operators.

What emerges from this double analysis is, on the one hand, the exponential increase in the use of the web and social networks - more than 90% of the conversations concern the destination and the experience (in 72.9% of cases, this occurs while the tourist is traveling) - and, on the other, the delay (and low level of investments) with which operators are adapting.

Only 7% are considering creating a direct booking service on their website, and only 9% plan to create a social media profile for their companies. While 10% plan to launch digital services to measure customer satisfaction.

“Natural and artistic attractions are not enough, if one isn’t able to attract modern tourist demand with an up-to-date offer that exploits the potential of technology,” warns Donato Ferri, transportation mediterranean leader, EY. Ferri also recalled how, as world tourism grew for the sixth consecutive year to over 1.2 billion travelers, “without digital culture, the culture of physical locations is likely to become invisible.”