Sicilian mayor invites Chinese tourists to "overwhelm" his city

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    Sicilian mayor invites Chinese tourists to "overwhelm" his city
    Apr 19,2014

    By Alessandra Cardone

    ROME, April 18 (Xinhua) -- In a globalised world, even tourism marketing must keep pace with the times.

    With this firm belief, the mayor of the Sicilian town of Agrigento recently launched a promotional initiative that proved to be creative and original enough to hit the headlines among Italian media and web sites.

    "Dear Chinese friends, please overwhelm us... We will not disappoint you," declared mayor Marco Zambuto in a video released on the web on April 17th. He expressed his 1-minute video appeal in Italian language, but with Chinese subtitles, urging Chinese people to "inundate" Agrigento and enjoy its historical heritage.

    Several reasons drove the mayor to this step. "First, because Chinese people now represent a big portion of international tourism flows," Zambuto explained in an interview with Xinhua.

    Secondly, according to the mayor, both Italians and Chinese have an ancient civilisation behind them, although different. Such a common point, he said, might hopefully make Chinese tourists particularly "inclined" to appreciate what Agrigento offers.

    "It seems to me that Chinese people today are increasingly curious and willing to discover new things," Zambuto added.

    Indeed, Agrigento does not lack for attractions. Located on the southern coast of Sicily, the city was founded by Greeks around 582 BC, and ruled later by Carthaginians and Romans. Then came the Arabs, the Normans, and so on.

    All these cultures left their mark upon Agrigento identity. The city also overlooks the sea, offering around 160 kilometres of "beautiful beaches and coasts," as the mayor proudly stressed.

    Last but not least, Agrigento was enlisted as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 for its famous archaeological area: the Valley of the Temples, one of the world's best example of intact Doric temples, built between sixth and fifth century BC.

    Obviously, it was exactly from the Valley of Temples where the mayor addressed his potential audience.

    "Agrigento and the whole Sicily are true pearls of Italy," said Zambuto enthusiastically in the video, with the huge Temple of Zeus visible behind his back. "We have sun, sea, good food, history and amusement, a most rare mix of attractions. Please, come numerous... We will not fail you!" he said.

    To strengthen the message, Zambuto ventured to repeat his final appeal in the Chinese language. Such an effort, considering the notorious "weakness" Italians show in foreign languages, was praised as remarkable. It was also the main reason why the video got the attention of Italian media and was commented on the web in a matter of 24 hours.

    Between surprise and amusement, comments were positive.

    "I did not receive negative feedback by Italians so far," the mayor confirmed. "I wanted to be direct and open at most, and not formal, and that is why I tried to speak in Chinese. I thought it would help them understand that Agrigento is ready to do its best to be welcoming," Zambuto explained.

    Despite its historical heritage and beauty, however, the province of Agrigento is not a top touristic destination in the region. According to Sicily government data, it recorded 372,963 arrivals and 1,300,906 overnight stays in 2012. Among those, Chinese tourists made 1,176 arrivals and 1,586 stays.

    These were not big figures, the mayor recognised, especially if compared to the whole tourism inflow in Sicily, which consisted of over 4.3 million arrivals and over 14 million overnight stays in 2012.

    "This is a crucial point for Agrigento's future," Zambuto told Xinhua. "My city is extremely rich in term of cultural and natural attractions. Yet, it is not valued enough and has never made full use of the tourism as primary source of revenue".

    Some progress was recently made, in terms of making Agrigento more "attractive."

    "Agrigento has always been less easy to reach than other cities in Sicily. Now, a new airport has just opened in the city of Comiso, which is not far, and the highway between the eastern city of Catania and Agrigento was also completed," the mayor explained.

    Next step would be improving international presence.

    "We must speak to the world," Zambuto insisted "and Chinese people, from my point of view, represent exactly how the world is today: that is, globalised," Zambuto concluded.

    Sicilian mayor invites Chinese tourists to "overwhelm" his city | Shanghai Daily
     
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