Interview with Roberta Milano, coordinator of FOOD & WINE TOURISM

1) People are in the centre!
In just a few lines, introduce yourself, telling us what kind of woman you are. We will read your professional CV in the biography on the website. Here, we want to know about the human aspect – what you are like in life.

I am proudly Ligurian, but I also have Ciociaro blood (from Ciociaria, the central Italian area corresponding to the province of Frosinone). A strange combination that perhaps explains my character: reasonable and sentimental.
The most recurrent word pronounced when others speak about me seems to be “passion”. People tell me that they perceive it and that I convey it. This is also a limitation: I am unable to work on projects that I don’t feel involved in or that don’t excite me. I follow my instinct but “the dots” always end up joined together. Among my passions: sport (first volleyball, which I played, and then water polo, which I watch), music and every form of communication. For example, when writing a greetings card with a group of friends, they turn to me and say “you write the card, because you’re original”.
I have an adolescent son who tries to explain trap music to me. He is my secret adviser for Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat and all the social media used by young people.

2) In the working group you coordinate, what are you dealing with specifically? What are the themes and goals of the topic of “FOOD & WINE”?

Anyone who works with tourism knows how much both the focus and the market for food and wine tourism is growing in Italy and in the rest of the world. In a study, Ipsos asked the question “why would you go on a trip to Italy” to a sample from 18 countries: food and wine are the 3rd greatest motivation for a trip and Italy is in 1st place for its association to quality of life.
However, the worlds of catering, production and accommodation are still struggling a little to communicate with other. This is, in fact, one of ours goals. We want to act as a stimulus for working better together. Of course, our focus is always on the digital world, which is decisive in the phase in which we are dreaming of and looking for a trip, as well as during the trip itself. Visit Napa Valley has estimated that, during the planning phase, the first six sources of information are all digital, from website reviews to maps and social media. But innovation concerns other phenomena that we will address due to their disruptive impact: online food delivery, voice and voice assistants, product traceability, blockchain and smart payment systems applied to catering. Without ever forgetting sustainability and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

3) Can you give us a little preview or tell us about anything new?

We will have a discussion on the food and wine tourist strategies in foreign countries because measuring ourselves against the international dimension is always fundamental. We will open windows onto: Online Food Delivery, as a market and as a change in behaviour with a strong social impact in the near future; booking restaurants online, a phenomenon that is very widespread elsewhere and is now also emerging in our country; reputation and reviews; storytelling on the subject of food and wine tradition and technology; neuromarketing applied to images in the digital world; the best techniques for promoting wine through social media. But we will also talk about the potential of our food as an ambassador and promotor of tourism in the world.
From strategic topics to highly operational toolboxes, a programme full of case histories that demonstrate how much we can do immediately, starting now.
OK, I’m biased, because this is my baby, but I really think it will be a fantastic programme, just like the group of experts who are working on it and whom I thank for their commitment.

4) How will the “Onlife” theme be organised under the topics you are dealing with?

“One day machines will be able to solve all the problems, but none of them will ever be able to pose one” (Albert Einstein). I hope this statement remains valid. Today, not only do we live in a hyperconnected world, but we are also in an era in which human prerogatives, such as intelligence, can be attributed to machines or algorithms. We need to defend our centrality from interference with our privacy and rights and greater awareness is needed in order to exploit the enormous potential of technology.
From automatic wine vending machines with biometric scanners to determine the legal age for drinking to the new restaurant booking apps, drone deliveries and sommelier robots, the new developments are truly exciting. However, as operators and tourists, we find ourselves before a crossroads every day: whether to govern technology or be governed by it. Being an optimist and in love with innovation, I think we are experiencing an exciting period, full of opportunities and new creative spaces, but with one condition… when at BTO, you will understand.

5) A quote, a phrase, a book or a concept that inspires your work in the world of tourism. In short, a thought that you would like to share with all of us.

“Everyone eats while on holiday, but that doesn’t mean that it’s always all about food and wine tourism”.
I no longer remember who I heard it from or if it is even something I thought up as a result of processing the many stimuli I have received. It has become a sort of mantra for me, that inspires my projects. A critical sense that we need to maintain in order to fully grasp the opportunities of food & wine tourism.

6) To conclude, we ask the public the following question: why, in your opinion, is BTO 2020 an event not to be missed?

Because BTO is a place of answers but also one of questions, visions and warnings. BTO is the event, in the world of tourism, that provides you the tools to get a better understanding of the present and to imagine your future – As a protagonist.