Maurizio Vitale, President of Turismo Torino e Provincia.
Maurizio Vitale, Presidente di Turismo Torino e Provincia since July 2020, came to the role during one of the most challenging times in recent history for Italian tourism. Needless to say, the entrepreneur and face behind music festivals Movement and Kappa FuturFestival is on a mission to get tourism back on its feet, bigger and better than before.
Born in Turin, he spent time in Milan as a young student and later cut his professional teeth in Amsterdam at BasicNet where his entrepreneurial spirit was honed. While his brother, who had moved with him, followed work opportunities to Germany and then the USA, Maurizio circled back to Torino once again in 2002 while continuing to work for BasicNet until 2008. Two years prior to that, in 2006, he founded Movement Entertainment, the innovative agency that signs some of Europe’s best-known DJs and electronic music acts.
Maurizio’s love for the city and the country where he was born is evident, pointing out that, “Italy is the country in the world where you can have a good lifestyle — life is cheaper, it’s richer in culture, and we [Italians] are also pretty good fun and welcoming. The weather is good, so where else to go if not in Italy?”
He tells me that there are currently more than five million Italians living abroad, two of his brothers among them, “And each of them, if you asked them if they would come back, they would say yes; even my youngest brother would come back in a heart beat, but only if certain issues are resolved.”
The critical issues of controlling public debt and a lack of private investment combined with creating more favorable conditions where bureaucracy isn’t such an obstacle, are the keys to creating this sea change, Maurizio says. He goes on to explain that this has the potential to attract more Italians back home and create better conditions for private investment, and of course, to grow a bigger and better tourist industry. Indeed, he points out, “Either we expand our economy and empower citizens to build their wealth again, otherwise there’s gonna be a downturn. And you can’t create wealth just with public investment, you should attract private investment. That, to me, is the key along with transforming general opinion in Italy that being an entrepreneur is a negative thing. It’s not bad. Social, cultural and industry entrepreneurs should be considered the most important generators of wealth creation, that they can then redistribute in order for the country to grow.”
And as he adds, “If we solve these problems, Italy would probably be the best country in the world.”
So, I asked Maurizio Vitale what his ideas are for getting the Italian tourist industry back on its feet again and what’s new for Torino for 2021 and beyond.
Congratulations on being elected President of Turismo Torino e Provincia last July. You took over during a critical period for the tourist industry. What do you see as the main challenges for tourism in Italy?
I’ve noticed two things that I would put under ‘governance’. Formal governance — on a national and regional level — meaning assigning customized functions to specific companies and organizations so they can take timely and effective decisions. And then there’s digital governance which means empowering each organization and company with digital instruments so they can manage themselves better. Governance means focusing on marketing our cities and eventually combining institutional, economic and public governance entities so they participate locally within a kind of foundation, like Friends of Turismo Torino for example — each of them would have voting rights but would be a public entity that deals effectively with the private sector to guarantee efficiency in following the mission and what the stakeholders want addressing and implementing. One entity that is selected locally and tailored to local needs — a streamlined governance with a streamlined mission and function with a dedicated budget that is not only a public budget — because the entity should also be able to deal with the private sector and be able to collect resources also from private companies.
I’m not expecting tourism to be fully governed by a public entity because tourism to me is private; it isn’t like education and healthcare, but as far as we consider it in our agency, we should be able to address and orientate the political operations. As long as economic and political entities and residents participate, you are guaranteed independence and you can avoid conflicts of interest. Tourism today is too complicated — too many levels and interactions and those interactions are not proving efficient. Too many entities taking decisions over the same material — I’m not saying that we should streamline employment though, just the mission — to take action and implement the vision. Asking someone to have a vision is almost impossible but asking someone to streamline governance is easier.
In an article in La Stampa back in December 2020, you mentioned that the Nitto ATP tennis finals, due to take place in Turin in November 2021, are not by themselves enough to get tourism going again here. So, what else does Turismo Torino have planned for 2021?
First of all, the mission of Turismo Torino e Provincia is not to put on events but it is to stimulate the tourism economy to empower tourism — meaning cultural, commercial and industry – to improve their operations so we mainly collect information and orientate tourism activities, not only produce them; [producing them] isn’t the main mission. The mission of Turismo Torino is to welcome, inform, protect our tourists (our best friends, as we say), to promote and train and then data analysis (collecting data and redistributing it to the consumer) we also have to stimulate the MICE (meeting, incentive, convention, exhibition meeting) industry which is business oriented and we are now working on applying for Torino to host events in 2024.
For the big events, 2021 has gone already, except for the Nitto Atp finals. From a business point of view, Atp is considered the biggest indoor sport events in the world but it probably isn’t enough to relaunch the city, that’s what I simply said. We have drafted a tourist plan — a series of initiatives to leverage these big events which will last for 5 years — so the mission is to highlight Turin in the sporting industry globally — tennis specifically — for the next 5 years. So, it’s a great opportunity, but it can’t be the only one.
At Turismo Torino e Provincia, I like to say we should manage our ordinary tasks in an extraordinary way. We have more than 350 activities to manage every year to support our territory. We oversee 312 comuni (city councils). Piedmont is the biggest area, geographically speaking, in Italy with respect to any tourist agency, so we should ordinarily have a look at our extraordinary mission; a mission takes years. Each day we are making our mission come true and simultaneously we manage our ordinary tasks and try to do so as quickly as possible in the best extraordinary way — not because we are under stress, but because we have industrialized our operations and we can give great added value to each ordinary operation. This is the big strategy.
Then if we’re talking about sporting events, this year we also have Giro d’Italia with 4 stages in Piedmont, and we will also have The Davis Cup at the end of November.
There are three main objectives [for Turismo Torino]. The first is to try and increase the average spending of visitors in town in the mid-term. Secondly, to attract tourists out of season too — ‘deseasonalize’ the flow of tourism from the traditional one when the big events take place such as Salone del Gusto, Salone del Libro, contemporary arts that used to be a just a weekend. The mission is to extend this to a longer period to become ‘contemporary arts week’ from Halloween onwards. Then I would say the Kappa FuturFestival, which is a very attractive element in July even though it isn’t typically high season for Turin. So, here you get tourists mostly for the ski season at the beginning of the year and then for contemporary arts week. The third mission is to improve overnight spending. At the moment we have an average of people spending 2.1 nights but our aim is to reach 2.5.
In the same article, you said that Turin needs to have just one platform people can go to for up-to-date information on cultural events. Can you tell us what your vision is for that?
This is the digital governance that I mentioned before. I consider this essential to orientate tourism, to collect information and the profile of each visitor in order to improve the offer based on demand. We have been doing the exact opposite for the past 20 years! But by analyzing data you will be able to redistribute [information] to your stakeholders in order for them to get ready, to meet expectations and the global trends.
And the platform should be able to enable the commercialization of services and products offered by the number of companies presently operating here — this is my idea, my mission, my dream. So, you have political and physical governance and then digital governance. It’s nothing really new but it’s just complicated to activate. But I guess if we don’t do it then there’s no chance for us to leverage tourism, meaning both cultural and commercial activities. If we don’t centralize governance and collect that data, we won’t be able to have effective marketing campaigns and we won’t be able to integrate the tourism of our area with the global tourism system. We need to be fully integrated and we are not. We are truly disintegrated at the moment.
As you know there have been lots of great international art exhibitions in Turin, such as Renoir at the Galleria Civica d’ Arte Moderna e Contemporanea (GAM) that attracted over 250 thousand visitors. Can visitors expect to see more high-profile exhibitions here soon, considering that their closure is one of the reasons why art cities have been the most affected by COVID?
This is a question to address to our Deputy Councilors of Culture (assessori) for Turin and Piedmont, but as far as I understand the big events are a long-term element of discussion. These are the big attractors, for example from the Olympics to the smaller art exhibitions. Everybody is always talking about big events. For me big events are strategic as long as they are well managed — which is not always the case — and fully integrated with the vocation of the city which must be aligned. So not overspending on something where you don’t expect any return — and that’s a big issue.
Regione Piemonte and Città di Torino have a long-term strategic positioning in sports from soccer to tennis and skiing, golf. We also used to be popular in the past for volleyball, basketball and rugby, while in the 1980s Torino had a strong water polo team. Those examples are very dated now but the focus is going to be on sport, industry and culture so, on the cultural side arts (performing arts, music, and food and beverages).
Eike Schmidt, Director of Galleria Uffizi in Florence recently spoke to CNN about the Uffizi diffusi project; the idea of enticing visitors out to smaller towns and villages to see exhibitions in the places where, perhaps, the artists were born or had connections. What are Turin’s plans for a more sustainable form of tourism in its province?
Florence and Turin have two very different backgrounds. Our starting point in Turin is very different. We are far away from over-tourism, this is consideration number one. Consideration number two is that the indoor capacity of those big entities, like Teatro Regio, isn’t sufficient anymore. So the idea of spreading out over the city for the Regio is a both necessity and on the other side an opportunity to be closer to the population, you know. But they need time to do this.
With respect to sustainability, this is again one of the main key words being used over and over again in the last few years and there’s a big misunderstanding. For me, sustainability is mostly related to the efficiency of management. It’s not related to planting a tree here and there, you know, to clean up your conscience. That’s not sustainability. Sustainability is to respect your citizens. And the first way to respect your citizens is to manage public funding well. Punto.
Efficienza gestionale (efficiency management), rispetto del impatto ambientale (respect for the environment) and social impact. These three elements listed in the new PNR (Piano Nationale Residui) recovery plan where they talk about social inclusion and social impact. To me these three elements are all part of the same approach and when we talk about social impact, the answer is employment. This is the best and only way to restore dignity to the individual.
Sustainability is not the final objective: it’s a means to an end. It’s like digitalization — those are methods to approach the new politics — the new strategy, so they should be reaching into each segment of the economy. We want to digitalize and be sustainable, not just to tick a box but to improve our operations. Only by doing these things will you be attractive and improve your well-being, lifestyle, wealth and education of your population.
In 2016, you won Turin’s Bogianen Prize with your innovative idea for the ‘imprenditorialità culturale’ concept. Can you explain what this is and how you have contributed to the growth of tourism in the area?
‘Bogianen’ is a local award that the Chamber of Commerce present to an individual who has performed and contributed extraordinarily to the economic life of their local area. I was the youngest to receive this award at the time. It’s not the Pulitzer, but you know, it was a sort of proud moment for me and I was awarded this for my entrepreneurial work with Movement Entertainment. I contributed to modernizing the local area, so this was the reason for the award.
Kappa FuturFestival was probably a great part of that because it is by far the most successful of the brands I launched. Movement Entertainment continues to contribute to the growth of the area in numbers — quality and quantity. And up to 2019 it was probably the most attractive event in town. We sold tickets to people in 105 countries. Juventus is the biggest attractor in town, then you have Museo Egizio and, until two years ago, Movement Entertainment was in third position. We sold tickets for Kappa FuturFestival and Movement Festival and we also sold tickets for live club music acts, so putting these events together we were probably number three in the province in terms of attracting tourists.
You were the founder of Movement Entertainment and the brains behind Torino Music Festival and Kappa FuturFestival, voted best Italian music festival in 2019. Can we expect to see Kappa FuturFestival back in July 2021 as planned?
No, we have moved Kappa FuturFestival to July 2022. Unfortunately, we’ve run out of chances to envision and manage this edition. It’s just too complicated. But from next year I plan to go back and do what I was doing prior to the pandemic while taking into account that the digital instruments. The digital approach has changed slightly, I simply lost two years. That’s it. But we were doing very well. I got the award for the best music festival in the world in 2019, ticket sales were booming and was invited by the Saatchi Gallery in London to cooperate with them. We had noted a 15% increase in clubbing and the electronic music industry in Italy up to March 2020. So, now we’re moving, hopefully, from the lockdown or, as someone called it, ‘LUCKdown’ to the countdown.
And how do you plan to attract an even wider range of national and international artists and bands to Turin?
My idea is to confirm the full line up again, but I can tell you for sure Diplo, Carl Cox, the Belgian star Amelie Lens: these are the three who have already confirmed for next year. But our mission is to confirm the full line up, as it was for this year. Also, because people already have tickets so, after waiting for two years, I want to offer them an even better show and even better services.
Generally speaking, what is unique about Turin compared to other Italian cities?
Turin is unique because it was the first capital, the first Kingdom — it was the city that made Italy. We also launched a large part of modern entertainment, from radio to television and cinema, and industry (automotive, design, communications, textiles). Turin is also a very aristocratic and at the same time social city. We were named European Capital of Social Innovation in 2016 for this very reason. Then, you’ve got the sea and mountains nearby, we’re centrally located in Europe and well connected and with a great sense of entrepreneurship and vocation which is very ‘mitteleuropean’ and, of course, Torino is also beautiful. Very beautiful.
And what it is still missing?
What’s missing, unfortunately, is that our population is now decreasing along with our numbers of entrepreneurs and students. We are the city with the highest debt in Italy after Rome, which is clearly a critical financial situation, and so it makes it difficult for us to find investment. And, for me personally, we should believe much, much more in young entrepreneurs.
Can you tell us about some of your favorite places in Turin and Piedmont?
There’s a street, via Verdi. To me, this street is not only extraordinary in terms of architecture, because you know, the buildings date from the sixteen hundreds and go right up to the 20th century. So, moving from Teatro Regio, which was one of the earliest forms of social entertainment, to Università di Torino, then RAI radio and television and then movies at the Museo Nazionale del Cinema inside the Mole Antonelliana. The only thing we’re missing in via Verdi, actually is a building to represent the IT revolution.
Then I also love Parco Dora. I would say it’s like the Central Park of Italy; an extraordinary, ex-industrial area which was totally revitalized to a 4.0 operation from deep to soft industry, so from Fiat and Michelin to entertainment today. Then I love Sestriere, because I used to spend so much time there. I learnt to ski there — my childhood was spent on the Vialattea (the Milky Way). And then more recently — and I have to thank my current job for this — I’ve rediscovered Ivrea, really a unique place. The Canavese, the area around Ivrea, is extraordinary and super underrated. I also love Pinerolo, a marvelous area with its long military, religious and cultural history. So, yes, my favorites are the area around Ivrea, the Canavese, Pinerolo and especially Sestriere, because most of the time I spent with my father was there when I was growing up.
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