With over 1,100 exhibitors from all around the world, BitMilano 2020 opens today, 9 February, in its 40th edition, ready to confirm its position as the leading tourism market exhibition, in virtue both of its special standing due to its multitarget formula, and for its role as an “index” of the health of the industry and new trends, as attested not only by the exhibitors, but by all tourism professionals.
The exhibition opens its doors to its public of travellers to showcase new trends and offerings, starting with Italy but also covering points abroad. On the next two days, 10 and 11 February, the exhibition will be open only to professional operators with numerous initiatives for networking, opportunities for discussion and increased matching between players and buyers.
Tourism is the most important non-manufacturing industry in Italy and is registering constant growth year by year. The ENIT research office is reporting, for the period January-October 2019, growth of 2.2% over 2018, with 84.4 million international travellers, 361 million overnight stays (+4.4%) and overall tourist spending of almost 40 bn euro. This trend is also evident in world tourism: performance in 2020 is predicted to grow by 3.5% to 1.5 billion visits, notwithstanding the uncertainty of the geopolitical situation and concerns about health. As for international departures from Italy to the major countries, they are forecast to reach almost 24.6 million trips this year, up by +3.3%: flows towards the Mediterranean area are predicted to grow by more than the average (+3.8%). This positive trend is also confirmed by the UNWTO report for 2019: over the first six months for last year, world destinations received a total of 671 million international tourists, around 30 million more than the same period of 2018, equal to growth of +4%.
Advanced economies confirm their position in the global market with a share of 54%, and are tipped to grow by +3.2%. Emerging countries are reporting greater than average growth (+5.8%) with the top performers in South East Asia (+7.2%), the Caribbean (+11.3%), Turkey (+13.8%) and North Africa (+9.3%). These results are also the basis for UNWTO’s confirmation of a positive forecast for 2020.
BitMilano 2020 reflects the positive feeling of these predictions and the reports issued by the most authoritative sources, with confirmations, prestigious returns and important new entries making up an arena of high value exhibitors, both private and public.
Starting with foreign participants, who see Italian consumers as a valuable target, the exhibition sees the return, after several years’ absence, of Andalusia, Brazil and Egypt, a country which experienced clear growth in 2019, with Italian visitors up 40%. Its participation is an occasion to narrate the thousand facets of the country, even in the view of important events like the inauguration of the GEM – Grand Egyptian Museum and the transfer of the mummies of the Egyptian Pharaohs from Tahrir to the new Al-Fustat Museum of Civilisation.
The foreign new entries to this edition of Bit are also notable: the Indian state of Kerala will be present alongside the Incredible India agency, and both Sarajevo and Ukraine will be present. The North African countries will also be well represented, including Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, in addition to Egypt. The distant Eastern destination preferred by Italians will be present, including Indonesia, the Maldives, Malaysia, Mauritius, the Seychelles and Thailand, as well as the Caribbean territories of Anguilla, the Bahamas, Cuba and the Dominican Republic, which will present a vast offering of eco-tourism attractions and sustainable projects for independent travellers and lovers of sports. Central and South America will also be present in large numbers: the new entry Brazil is accompanied by Chile, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Peru and Uruguay. Other exciting countries include the Canary Islands, Cyprus, Croatia – presenting in particular Rijeka (2020 Capital of Culture), Jordan, Israel, Moldavia, Nepal, Poland, Sri Lanka, the Split and Dalmatia County, and the city of Smyrna.
The international profile of the event can be seen not only from the participating countries, but also from the calibre of the selected buyers invited directly by Fiera Milano: more than 600 will be present, from 65 countries, particularly from the USA, India, Russia, Ukraine, Argentina, Brazil and South Africa.
In terms of incoming, according to Eurostat, Italy takes fourth place in the European rankings, with growth in overnight stays over 2018 from 429 million to 433 million in 2019 (+0.9%). First place is taken by Spain, with 469 million stays (+0.5% on the previous year), second place by France with 446 million (+0.8%), followed by Germany with 436 million stays (+4% over 2018).
Despite its loss of position, Italian incoming figures are on the rise, a positive trend reflected also at BitMilano with the important return of the Piedmont Region, as well as the increase in destinations presented by the Veneto, Lazio, Liguria, Marche, Sardinia and Sicily regions, with a larger number of sellers and more diversified offering, demonstrating their belief in the value of the event. As always, the Lombardy Region will be present, an essential confirmation in the light of the strong ties the city of Milan has with Lombardy, as well as other Italian regions: Abruzzo, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Emilia Romagna, Puglia, Tuscany and Umbria. The novelties for this edition include a number of territories which are growing their profile by participating directly: Pompei, Maratea, Polignano a Mare and La Maddalena, alongside Favignana, San Vito Lo Capo, Erice and Castellammare, the latter represented by the West Sicily consortium.
There will also be a considerable number of private operators, including prestigious names like BWH Hotel Group Italia – Best Western, Blu Hotels, La Compagnia del Relax, Hertz, IVH, Madagascar Destination, NH Hotel Group, Nicolaus Tour, QC Terme, Gruppo Una, and I Viaggi di Maurizio Levi.
The world of associations has also confirmed its interest in the event: after a few years away, ASTOI Confindustria Viaggi, the Italian tour operator association with 60 members, will be back with its own lounge and a reserved area for its associates to hold targeted meetings. During the event, the association will hold the Extraordinary Assembly of the ASTOI Fund, established to enable its associates to offer their clients a guarantee in case of insolvency or failure.
FTO, the Organised Tourism Federation, has chosen to organise the FTO Travel Academy at the event, a training activity for both its associates and travel agencies in general, on 10 and 11 February, with a focus on legality, fiscal issues, digital marketing and motivational coaching. The participation of these two associations marks an opportunity for b2b: the initiatives organised for the event will promote negotiations between their associates and the selected buyers at the exhibition.
The thematic areas have also been confirmed, starting with Bit4Job, the space for tourism industry recruiting: three days for selecting qualified staff, meetings targeted at professional training and seminars about the world of work. Around 20 companies looking for staff have confirmed that they will take part in the initiative: Club Esse, Costa Crociere, Club Med, I Grandi Viaggi, Hertz, Gruppo UNA, BWH Hotel Group Italia – Best Western, QC Terme, Blu Hotels and Marriott. The main job descriptions they are looking for, with more than 1000 jobs on offer overall, are related to reception, waiting, bar tending, cooking and pastry, animation and sport, spas and wellness, and management.
BeTech is the area focussed on digital technologies and applications: 37 innovative startups selected by Associazione Startup Turismo (the Tourism Startup Association) will be present with their experience and presentations on how tourism is also a driver of innovation. Speeches will be given by managers of companies like Homeaway, Kigo, Avantio and Sysdat, considering how to handle new challenges in the tourism market, from the importance of marketing automation to new customer relationship management systems, to direct online sales of rooms, tours and activities.
Hall 4 will also host the I love Wedding area, with services for future brides and groom and wedding planners, curated by Musement and some of the best Personal Travel Agents specialised in honeymoons. The area will host a series of presentations on fashionable honeymoon locations, like the Maldives, Seychelles, Polynesia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Australia, Dubai and the Arab Emirates.
BitMilano is the only Italian exhibition which has an area dedicated solely to events and conventions: the MICE Village will be hosting around thirty exhibitors showing products and services for domestic and international buyers in the meeting industry; and, in collaboration with Federcongressi&Eventi, the trade association, the seminar “Catch them with flavour! How to organise catering and contribute to the success of the event” will be held on 11 February.
What is more, there will be a special focus on LGBT tourism, in view of the 37th IGLTA – International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association annual convention, scheduled for 6 to 9 May at Milan, the location also selected thanks to the collaborative promotion of the event’s previous editions by BitMilano. And the Milan exhibition has also been chosen for the convention entitled “Fluo is OUT. The real trends of LGBTQ+ tourism. Everything you should know about the MILAN IGLTA 2020 Global Convention” which will review the progress of the segment with a special focus on the upcoming event in May.
BitMilano 2020 will host a delegation of IGLTA Ambassadors from all around Europe, led by IGLTA Vice President Clark Massad, who will pay his respects to Italy for this important occasion. The LGBT world is a strongly performing market segment: according to UNWTO, tourists in this segment amount to 35 million worldwide, they travel more frequently and have greater purchasing power than the average. It has been calculated that spending by this market segment amounts to 211 bn a year worldwide, with 2.7 bn in Italy alone.