bto 2020
Social trends
An annual event in Florence on digital world of tourism sector.
This year topic was "ONLIFE"
We should not simply undergo changes but to govern them.
Tourism is one of the most dynamic social fields that has reported a constant growth, quickly recovering after economic or safety crisis. Many professionals predict, it will successfully resume after coronavirus crisis too.
Before lockdown always a growing number of people was traveling, more countries were opening to tourism as an efficient income-generating industry and a very powerful transformative activity for local development.

In this view, tourism has seen a great shift towards digital world, as technology advancement has permitted us to go through all the travel stages with the help of our cellphone. The distribution, communication and even trip planning has become immediate, engaging and just within a reach of your hand.

Italy, as a country with very intensive tourism activities (5th most visited country in 2018, UNWTO report), has brought up a very curious annual meeting for travel professionals - Buy Tourism Online, BTO. It has seen its 13th edition this February in Florence and this time, the focus of attention was at the mix of the digital with real and its "onlife" effects. The event itself is rich in panel discussions, usually holding 6 of them simultaneously. The speakers represent different fields like hospitality, destination management, food and wine tourism, digital strategy and innovation. To be honest, ever since I have learnt about this event, I really wished to become a part of it and this year I've got a great opportunity to join its Social Media team.

I was greatly interested in the most futuristic topics. Writing at that moment my thesis on Big Data for Sustainable Destination Management, I have realized that the actual progress with amazing available technologies are already here, nearly fantastic tools we would have never imagined just 10 years ago. So, I have chosen to attend all the panels on Big Data, of course, and about technical innovations that are slowly coming into the game.

It all started with the introduction on how digital we are. Did you know that Google counts 7 000 000 000 queries every day? Also, it seems like yesterday that we started to use Google Maps to search for a new address but it already celebrates 15 years of service in 2020. It counts 6 500 000 places saved every day and 20 000 000 of content added per day… Google assistant can get you appointments and create your agenda. I also overheard, that Google seriously looks at the travel division potential… definitely we may expect something big and surprising from them soon, let's see.

While we spoke about Italy, it was often mentioned that it still remained one of the European countries with a huge gap at the digital transformation and its management on organizational level. There was a significant delay in the use of ICT in many important public and business spheres. This aspect caused the speakers to share a very meaningful reflection that it is important not to undergo changes but to govern them. The technologies are our greatest available tools and we should use them for what they are. Roberta Milano, travel & tourism digital strategist, Scientific committee of BTO, explains this in a very precise way: "Technology is very fascinating but we need to study it, be aware of what it's based on and how we approach it". This is not just about skills but about our relationship with the innovation, how to balance the human side of technology and benefit from its implementation.

BTO 2020 Highlights
The event was split in 2 days and united hundreds of tourism professionals in 6 spaces working simultaneously.
Let's have a closer look at emerging "Onlife" trends that were in question at BTO 2020. In this part of the article I will speak about social trends, while you may read on tech trends here.

Social trends


There are really good news on collaboration and its nature inside digital presence of the tourism sector - businesses start to show less concern for the rivalry as the times are changing. Indeed it is just way more efficient to remain united and to join forces on the market. The shared platforms make it much easier to analyze the data on web visitors and on actual conversion rates, like some distribution portals - they may now link you to the competitor website or to offer his services among their own… it is a growing feature for example for some airline companies, while Paris and London have sponsored one promo campaign in the US for both destinations. I should admit, I really like this trend as collaboration is so much better if you act more like partners, at least in some fields it can greatly benefit both!


There was also a lot to discuss on destination management, it was nice to see that many destinations now aim at creating their own digital tourism ecosystem - integrating all actors of the local offer into one web-platform with higher visibility and promotional potential.
There is a growing popularity of the promotional strategy "bottom-up" which means that the destinations are eager to tell themselves through the ambassadors, tourists, locals leaving behind an "ancient" strategy of imposing promotional plan top-down. This just does not work anymore. The concept of crowd-storytelling proves to be much more influential, it may be expressed in official hashtags or shared blogs. The main feature is that with the support of the local destination management organization (DMO) people get a channel or a tool to create and tell their own story of love for a certain territory or its tradition. Italian great examples are Abruzzo smart ambassadors program and a recent novelty, the official hashtag for Tuscany #mytuscany is … where everybody can add their own experience and feeling. In the case of Abruzzo, people started to create their own micro-teams with different specializations inside, so with the input of the DMO and the region, the collaboration starts to flourish and the local associations and businesses express their interest too. It is just enough to start the process and encourage the local community to become proactive, when the initiatives will be already coming from them.

" The main task of Destination managers in this case is to elevate the local innovation, amplify and transform it. Putting the others in the condition to create - this is leadership. It is not about losing control, it is about creating an ecosystem that is alive and prospering", says G.Sainaghi "Visit Flanders".


The tourists themselves tend to choose more individual and unique experiences, the further you go to personalize their trip, the more are the chances they get interested and speak about you online. There are already the algorithms to target and explore the preferences of every single tourist, so each of us may get personal ads and they may be changing according to our response. Business to Customer (BTC) becomes Business to Me (BTM), it may seen a bit invasive but the technology is already there and the outcome for the travel personalization will be getting more and more surprising… Are you ready?

Provide an alternative

The digitization process goes hand in hand with a growing amount of people in search of digital detox. Having identified this trend and thanks to hard work with the local community, the project of "Recharge in Nature" in the heart of the Dolomites in 2019 received 19 000 calls for 10 free places to spend a week there. This initiative has helped to launch a destination that is changing its perspective. Climate change requires us to reimagine the holidays in the mountain, this is a great challenge but as this example shows it becomes possible and opens new perspectives if you engage the local community.

Embrace the change and lead it

Sustainability is one of the most important world trends, in tourism as well. While some trends remain still future trends, this one is already our present. Everybody acknowledges the need for the change of perception, openly or behind the doors among their collaborators, I am sure all of us agree that we must act now.

From the words of Piero Serra, product manager of Skyscanner, the number one topic among the airlines before lockdown was sustainability and how to reduce the emissions of the industry. Skyscanner has taken the initiative in partnership with some leading companies and has implemented a new type of search filter according to carbon footprint of the flight and the route. Not only that, they try to work on finding ways to sponsor and produce more sustainable fuel that has nearly 80% less of emissions. The future lies in hybrid or electric planes but there is still a lot of work and research to be done to bring this shift to life. "To lead this change it is a huge opportunity and a huge responsibility. We want to encourage green travelers, supply will adjust. ", says P. Serra. In any case such a confirmation from the industry gives us hope that the changes are coming and they are really welcome by the big players too.

Continue to read about tech trends here.
Buy Tourism Online event page.
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