What programs or initiatives did you worked on to promote LGBTQ+ tourism when you were working in in Turin and Piedmont?
The themes of diversity and inclusion have always been important to me and are, together with sustainability, the pillars of ENIT’s tourism promotion strategy. Starting with the 2006 Olympics, when I was Director General of the Piedmont Tourism Promotion Agency, I launched a project on LGBTQ+ tourism, with the Associazione Quore di Torino, for the awareness and training of the tourism industry, the development of LQBTQ+ tourist products/packages and for their national and international promotion. A tour of the city was then launched called ‘Tutta un’altra storia’ (A whole different story), which is still available today and illustrates lesser known but extremely fascinating aspects of Turin.
Has support for these initiatives been provided by the community and businesses involved in tourism? Do you think they have achieved good results?
The commitment to work in favor of an inclusive culture in the world of travel always brings good results, but we know how important it is to persevere and to coordinate internal and external marketing actions in order to maintain a high level of attention on the theme, while demonstrating the tangible benefits for the territories and communities. There is increasing attention to the LGBTQ+ segment from Italian destinations, travel agencies, tour operators, cruise lines and airlines, in order to create specific offers tailored to the needs and desires of the modern LGBTQ+ traveler. On the basis of quantitative and qualitative surveys, we understand the profile of these travelers, and that they are often trendsetters with high spending power, and that the sector shows continuous growth. There are many destinations in Italy that are well-known and beloved by the LGBTQ+ community, thanks to international film productions made in Italy over the years, and which are an important lever of communication. Luca Guadagnino’s film, Chiamami Col Tuo Nome (Call Me By Your Name), released in 2018, is a good example.
Do you think that similar programs could be launched in other Italian regions and, if so, what are the key elements to put in place for a successful promotion?
There are many Italian cities and destinations that have launched virtuous projects in this direction. First of all Milan, which will host the IGLTA Convention in 2022, which ENIT has supported since the candidature stage, together with AITGL, the Italian National Association for Gay and Lesbian Travel. The event in Milan will be important not only for the city and for the Lombardy region, but for the whole of Italy, in order to develop greater awareness of this market, and to help tourist destinations to develop experiences in line with the demands of the LGBTQ+ traveler.
Given your experience, what do you think Italy can do to position itself as a leading LGBTQ-friendly tourist destination?
For Italy, being able to offer experiences that show sensitivity to the global market, and which are attentive to inclusion and diversity is not only an ethical goal, but it also demonstrates awareness of the economic, social and cultural opportunities offered by LGBTQ+ tourism. It is very important to portray the country as welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community.
Maria Elena Rossi is currently the Marketing and Promotions Director for ENIT (Italy’s National Tourism Board) in Rome, and was previously the Director General of the Piedmont Tourism Promotion Agency, based in Turin.