Assessing the digital maturity of tourism companies in Italy
Digital skills play an increasingly prominent role in the tourism sector in Europe, yet skills gaps and a slow uptake of technologies persist. These issues are evident in research by the Next Tourism Generation (NTG) project but also in data analysed for the Italian Union of Chambers of Commerce, from the PID Network on Digitalization. This blog by UnionCamere summarises PID findings on the level of digital maturity amongst Italian tourism enterprises and demonstrates that there is still a long way to go.
Internationalization and digitalization
UNWTO statistics show that tourism is a highly international phenomenon, for example, in Italy the number of international tourists exceeded national ones in 2018. Therefore, the advantages offered by digital technologies – such as faster communication and improved access to information – can play a fundamental role for companies operating in the European tourism industry, particularly in Italy. Proof of just how important digitisation can be is that in 2018:
- The share of companies selling tourism services/products on the most popular online portals rose from 33% to 82%;
- The share of tourists choosing their holiday destination through social networks increased from 10% to 40%.
Digitalization of the Italian tourism sector
Established in 2017, the PID Network on Digitalization (Punti Impresa Digitali) of the Italian Chambers of Commerce together with the Italian Network of Digital Innovation Hubs and Competence Centres support the Industry 4.0 policy.
The PID Network shows that there is a lot of room for growth in the digitisation of the tourism sector. In fact, if we analyse the results from the 16,000 companies that used the digital maturity assessment tools of the PID, we can see that companies are still slow to adopt digital technologies, in particular those that fall under Industry 4.0 policy plans.
In total, almost 1,200 Italian tourism companies used the PID digital maturity assessments and enterprises included transport, entertainment, cultural activities and accommodation. According to UnionCamere (2019), the results paint a picture of a sector with an average digitisation level of 1.59 out of 4, lower than the national average of 1.81 out of 4. More specifically in the tourism sector, there are more companies with lower levels of digital maturity (“Newcomer” or “Apprentice”) and fewer companies with more mature digital profiles (“Specialist”, “Expert” or “Champion”).
Technologies and training in the tourism sector
The most widespread technologies in the Italian tourism sector are mobile payment (40% of companies), ERP (30%), cloud (30%) and e-commerce (29%). Mobile payment technologies are more widespread in tourism than in other sectors of the Italian economy but only 18% of tourism companies claim to have technologies to protect their data, compared to 28% of companies in other sectors. Lastly, 26% of tourism companies stated that they do not have any 4.0 digital technology and this is higher than the average for Italian companies, which is around 21%.
In conclusion, there is one key point: the importance of training. However, tourism companies are investing only a small amount in staff training. In line with the limited diffusion of digital technologies in the tourism sector, only 7% of companies have carried out training courses on topics related to Industry 4.0 compared to 10% for companies in all other sectors nationwide.
Digital assistance and awareness in the tourism sector
The Chambers of Commerce PID provides digital assistance services aimed at micro, small and medium-sized businesses. The companies in the tourism sector that have taken advantage of these services show an interest in digitisation and are only now beginning to understand the opportunities and potential offered by new enabling technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud etc.
There is still a long way to go. Once tourism companies have understood the potential offered by digital, they will have to take steps to encourage technological transfer. This will require investing in technologies, developing new organisational and business models, training and updating staff to ensure their human resources are qualified and capable of meeting the new needs of an increasingly digital marketplace.
This process can help activate corporate innovation and an overall improvement in the quality of the services offered. It may also promote more sustainable approaches from a social and environmental point of view, as required of businesses by governments and the community. The synergy is created between companies, institutions and research bodies, in part due to participation in European projects, is fundamental in this process in order to encourage the transfer of technology and knowledge.