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MILAN, Italy (eTN) – The Borsa Turismo Italiano, BIT 2014 (The International Tourism Exchange BIT) which was held February 13-15, 2014 in Rho Fiera, Milan, saw 2,200 exhibitors this year – that is one

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MILAN, Italy (eTN) – The Borsa Turismo Italiano, BIT 2014 (The International Tourism Exchange BIT) which was held February 13-15, 2014 in Rho Fiera, Milan, saw 2,200 exhibitors this year – that is one-fifth the size of ITB Berlin with over 10,600 exhibitors. But with a heavy recession, Italians are traveling less.

This year for the first time longtime BIT partners and exhibitors, such as Germany, Switzerland, France, Great Britain, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Scandinavia, the USA, Dubai, Qatar, and cruise ship operators stayed away. Italian provinces like Sicily who always had a big stand in recent years also went missing.

Italy is looking into new tourism markets like Brazil, Russia, and China. But the Chinese are already there. The community of Chinese people in Italy has grown rapidly in the past ten years. Chinatown of Milan is growing fast and estimates about 50,000 Chinese are living there with Rome and Prato (and in Tuscany for leather and fashion goods) being the biggest Chinese communities in Italy.

With little more than one year to go until the opening of the World Expo, the exhibition dedicated to the tourist sector is focusing on the growth opportunities offered by the 2015 event.

As the goal is to gain 20 million visitors to the expo site from May 1 to October 31, 2015, the tourist trade fair has focused on the markets that are most attractive to the World Expo by doubling its investments and inviting more buyers and specialized tour operators.

For journalists, it was hard to talk to anybody at the Expo stand, as everybody seemed to be very busy on their cell phones all the time. Tourism concepts for the upcoming World Expo 2015 are still fluid. For foreign visitors of the International Tourism Exchange BIT, it was difficult to find adequate information in English –often receiving the standard answer of “you can find everything on www…!” That might be true, and Internet is great, but cannot replace personal contact.

In the opening speech at BIT 2014 in Milan, the Expo Commissioner, Giuseppe Sala, said that President Obama himself will most probably announce the adhesions of US pavilions on his visit to Rome on March 27. He also was confident that one million Chinese would come to visit Expo 2015 Milan next year. China is investing 60 million euro in Expo 2015 pavilions. So far, 90 countries (out of 142) have signed up for Expo 2015 adhesion.

Special tourism packages have been designed to attract Italian expats who like to show their children and grandchildren “La Terra Patria.” But there have been a lot of political changes during the past years.

This year, Premier Minister and big Expo 2015 supporter, Enrico Letta, just stepped down from office on the second day of BIT, and Italy is getting ready to get another new Italian government. This might take some time.

But for Expo 2015, the management the countdown has started. Over 4 million Expo tickets are to be sold by July 2014

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