ITALY boasts the strongest presence at ITB China as the nation rises as Europe’s most prominent supporter of China’s Belt and Road Initiative
Several other destinations, tech suppliers and hotel groups have big, well desiged stands at the three-day B2B travel show in Shanghai, but Italy triumphs as the largest individual exhibitor with a booth measuring 320 sqm.
Italy's commitment comes as China’s President Xi Jinping seeks to ease signs of growing international scepticism about the Belt and Road trade and investment network. President Xi made a state visit to Italy in March, and event that saw Rome announcing it would strengthen economic, cultural, tourism links with China.
Italian provinces and city destinations were represented at the country’s stand at ITB China, the Messe Berlin show, which is now in its third year..
The Italian tourism body signed up as the show’s official destination partner and co-sponsored a gala evening on May 14 followed by an invitation-only “Italian Dream Night” featuring “exclusive live performances” from Arena De Verona.
Giorgio Palmucci, president of ENIT – Italy’s national tourism board – said Italy attracted 3.1 million Chinese tourists a year, representing more than 5 million overnight stays, and was seeking a 10 per cent growth in new tourism stays from China.
Palmucci said the nation was also looking ahead to 2020 – the Year of Culture and Tourism between Italy and China.
ENIT also signed an agreement with Shanghai Ctrip Commerce to promote tourism network opportunities and supporting Italian regions and operators. Ctrip is the largest online travel company in China with a huge social media network.
Palmucci told ITB China News that ENIT was “working in terms of ‘best brand’ positioning and operative marketing actions – enhancing our brand awareness on WeChat”.
He said more Chinese visitors were looking beyond the “classic” Italian destinations and seeking experience-based tours in areas such as Naples, Pompeii, Genova, Bologna and wine regions such as Piedmont and Tuscany.
The appearance of Arena de Verona in a marquee event in the grounds of Intercontinental Shanghai Expo in front of 200 guests represented “our culture through one of the most acknowledged points of our heritage, that of music”.
ITB China closes on May 17.