Interview with Francesco Tapinassi, Scientific Director of BTO2020

1) Focus on people. In just a few lines, tell us about your personal side. Your professional curriculum is known and, in any case, we will read it in your biography on the website. Here, we would like to get to know what you are like in life. Tell us who Francesco is in just a few lines.

I think the best way to describe myself is as a “practical dreamer” – a dreamer with his feet on the ground. I am a fundamentally curious person and I try to find answers to the many questions I ask myself every day, in the continuous search for a permanent centre of gravity that appears to be inherently quite elusive. I combine this journey, which is sometimes tiring, with a good dose of humour and healthy irony, which helps me to see the amusing side of life. I also think I have a natural propensity for empathy, which allows me to reinterpret the world through other people’s eyes and be attentive to the quality of the services I receive or organise. Another key point is maintaining central focus on meeting and exchanging opinions with the many people I respect and with whom I have the pleasure of working. For this reason, I have proposed a collective model for the construction of the BTO programme, with a scientific committee of 50 people. This choice has allowed me to combine work with passion and, above all, to deal every day with visions, opinions and thoughts that offer me an extraordinary opportunity for personal and professional growth.

2) Tell us about the BTO, Buy Tourism Online event, for those who don’t yet know about it: what is it and which are its target audiences?

The BTO is described as a big conference that, with its numerous speakers, offers all operators in the field of tourism services an insight into digital innovation. I consider it a moment of knowledge sharing, an agora where our knowledge is pooled together and shared. Two days, during which it is possible to meet experts, teachers, trainers, managers who have analysed dynamics, tools and scenarios or have dealt with complexity or organisational models before other people and share their experience in a horizontal flow of knowledge.

3) Why was the “Travel Onlife” theme chosen for BTO 2020?What message does BTO want to leave or launch?

I thought it was important to encourage some deliberation on the overall effects of technology on the travel sector, at a time when some resistance to digital innovation is perceived. I believe that, like all tools, the problem only concerns the methods of use and possible excesses, but that the changes that technologies have produced in the life of every traveller life are very, very positive. I also think that we always need to keep in mind that travelling focuses the attention on meeting other people and that, in any case, our knowledge is always enriched by these encounters. How to combine new technologies with the central focus on man in the tourism experience is the main theme of “travel onlife”, in harmony with the reflections contained in the Onlife Manifesto compiled by Prof. Floridi’s staff for the European Commission’s DG Connect.

4) We won’t ask you to disclose the programme but can you give us a heads up or reveal something new?

We are working to ensure that the four main BTO topics (Digital Innovation, Hospitality, Food and Wine and Destination) are increasingly connected in a holistic vision of travel, not considering them separate worlds but trying to interpret them together through the eyes of the traveller. Starting with a few reflections on the overall use of technology and on the relationship between people and machines in the travel sphere, we will tackle the most important innovations in each sector, trying to highlight their interactions and above all highlighting the profound changes that the new man-machine interfaces (such as voice searches) and the speeding up of connections (5G) will produce in data exchange and in everyone’s daily life.

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

I am in a phase of my life in which I try, every day, to identify the deep sense of things I should do, eliminating the superfluous. A constant search for the “why” pushes me to constantly seek a main purpose, while trying to maintain my childlike way of perceiving the world with amazement. From this point of view, a phrase that expresses my thoughts on tourism very well is: The real journey of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. (Marcel Proust).

6) We will conclude with an invitation to the public: why, in your opinion, is BTO2020 an event not to be missed?

Our commitment (and I use the plural with knowledge of the facts, given that the programme emerges from the joint work of 50 people) is to build a programme with the passion and desire for knowledge that we have always had when participating in previous editions of BTO, as simple visitors, speakers and coordinators, while trying to find – for each individual panel – the best evidence of digital innovation in tourism. This year, the challenge is big. We are dealing with a theme that is both technical and social. It concerns the lives of each one of us and, above all, it concerns our future. Our goal is to combine training, reflections and experiences, our purpose is to make the BTO2020 an important opportunity to increase the competitiveness of our destinations and businesses and our desire is to work towards making 12 and 13 February two really important days for the enrichment of knowledge.