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Milano expo 2015 to deliver huge tourism boost

20+ mn visitors will help reboot economy

13 February, 19:46
Milano expo 2015 to deliver huge tourism boost (By Gordon Sorlini).

(ANSA) - Milan, February 13 - Organizers of Expo Milano 2015, as well as local and national politicians, sounded an optimistic tone Thursday, suggesting that the event - to be held from May to October next year - will help jumpstart Italy's economy and beat the organizers' own expectations in terms of visitor numbers.

Speaking at a press conference within the annual BIT tourism trade fair - held at the Rho trade grounds on the outskirts of Milan, just opposite the site where the Expo area is being built - Piero Galli, Expo 2015's event management division general director, said Expo is on track to easily beat the forecast 20 million visitor mark thanks also to increasing interest abroad.

"The level of interest in Expo I have seen in my meetings abroad indicate that the number of foreigners who will attend will be far above our expectations," Galli said.

So far, Expo planners have said they expect some 6-8 million foreign visitors to come over the 6-month span of the event, whose theme is "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life". Half of expected foreign visitors will be from Europe while the remainder will be from the rest of the world, Galli said, pointing to a great interest for the event in Asia. Some 12-14 million visitors are expected to originate from Italy. Signaling the importance participating countries are placing on the event, Galli said that some 60 countries are building their own pavilions, a record number. For the Shanghai Expo in 2010, there were 42 single country pavilions despite there being 194 exhibitor countries. So far, Expo has signed up 142 exhibitor countries, Galli said, including the United Kingdom which will sign up Friday. He said he he expected the USA to formally sign up sometime during the next 1-2 months. One of Expo's hoped for impacts will be to boost Italy's tourism industry, which represents around 10% of Italian GDP, Massimo Bray, Italy's minister for cultural heritage and tourism, said at the conference. "We have to bring the world to Italy with Expo," said Bray, who added: "Tourism is the lever for rebooting the country." Carlo Sangalli, the president of Milan's chamber of commerce, said Expo should help lead to the creation of some 84,000 tourism-sector jobs and generate some four billion euros in additional revenues through 2020.

During a brief speech, Lombardy Region President Roberto Maroni, said that - among other initiatives - the Lombardy Region had set up a 100 million euro fund to help hospitality players in the region finance "requalification" projects.

The effects of Expo will be felt well beyond tourism, however. Michele Perini, president of Fiera Milano, pointed to the wider impact the event will have on the Italian economy: "Expo isn't just a fair, it's an accelerator of Italy's national industrial policies in key sectors like food, fashion and industry." The European Union was also represented at the Expo-BIT conference, highlighting the importance European institutions have placed on the event's success. European Commission Deputy President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship with a brief also on tourism, said that Expo was determined to be "central" in the EU's first strategy on tourism, launched after the Lisbon Treaty came into effect in 2009. Tajani said that events like the Expo serve as "engines for growth". Citing figures published Thursday by Eurobarometer, the EU's statistics agency, Tajani said that in 2013 Italy ranked third in terms of attractiveness to European tourists, after Spain and France. However, he added, Italy is on track to take France's second place this year. "Expo has to be the occasion when our tourism offer makes a qualitative jump," Tajani said.