Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Viva Italia


I love Italy and all things Italian. As the family becomes more and more interlinked with Italy, first through my dearest friend, Paolo Ettorre, and now through daughter-in-law, Clarissa, and granddaughter, Stella, I have an increasing bond for the country and their people. I love their design, their flair, their cars (from Fiat to Ferrari), their hotels (Bulgari and Hotel de Russie), their food, their wines (especially Brunello’s, Barolo’s and Super Tuscan’s), their football teams (Inter Milan and Juventus) and their rugby development. I love Benetton and Fabrica, Renzo Rosso and Diesel, and my two new watches from Giuliano Mazzuoli.

But what on earth is the country doing to itself? A decade ago it was the number one tourist destination in the world. Now it’s number five and is haunted by the specter of organized crime, tons of rubbish on the streets of Naples (now at least gone), terrible customer service, ridiculously high, rip-off tourist prices and a great name like Alitalia - the gateway to the nation - suffering so badly.

There are some bright points, such as Milan being awarded the Expo 2015 through the superb efforts and vision of Letizia Moratti and her team. With the Expo’s sustainability theme, this is worth its weight in gold for Italy.

Many of the regions are working hard on tourism but the national campaign is nonexistent. I believe the country needs to invest massively in a new logo, promise and campaign, and back it up with a revamped airline.

I’m excited by the appointment of Matteo Marzotto to president of the Italian Government Tourist Board. Matteo strikes me as the guy for the job. With his cultivated but down-to-earth style, empathy, radical optimism and leadership experience in the luxury sector, Matteo represents the future of Italy.

A call to the nation to lift the customer service levels and to rally around the country for the benefit of all should be communicated loud and clear. Otherwise Mediterranean neighbors with emerging economies, such as Croatia, will continue to eat Italy’s tourist lunch.