With or without Sun: if Italian hoteliers sue the weathermen…
31/07/2014 § Lascia un commento
The hoteliers of the most visited seaside tourist destination in Italy, the Romagna Riviera, intend to bring an action against weather forecast websites. Of course, since ever the climate has strongly influenced the character of many tourism places. Sometimes the weather has even become one of the crucial selling points for making those places appealing to visitors. Without doubt, the rhythm of seasons is crucial not only for the Romagna Riviera, but also for other destinations in which the presence of natural elements, such as the sun in the Summer or the snow in the Winter, makes a difference for visitors willing to fully enjoy their vacation.
The move of Italian hoteliers is, according to them, a necessary reaction to weather forecast websites unreliability. “Terroristic weather reports”, so the argument goes on, exert a negative impact of tourism revenues every weekend, because reports announcing clouds and rain discourage tourists to come to the beach, while encouraging cancellations of booking., causing a 15 mil. € loss per weekend. This is happening during a Summer season featuring a more-than-usual number of rainy days. And during a year in which the manifestations of the economic downturn have slightly increased. This sets the anxious context within which the announcement has been received and discussed among tourists and inhabitants.
A quick look at international news websites would immediately show that these are not unprecedented events. Two years ago Belgian tourism officials took legal action against a private weather bureau that had announced persistent rain and very low temperatures for the upcoming season. A similar story took place in Wales last year, when the boss of one of Wales’ oldest and most popular attractions, the National Showcaves Centre, was threatening to sue the weathermen who had announced five days of snow over Easter, causing hundreds of cancellations. Thus, no surprise if also Italian hoteliers intend to act in line with what foreign colleagues in the tourism and hospitality industry have already done before. But being the Romagna Riviera is my birth-area I have the temptation to dig in this case a little bit more.
It is inspiring to look at the readers’ comments on the newspapers’ websites reporting the news story. What we witness is animosity, indignation and derision both towards the weather forecast websites, accused of being unprofessional, and the hoteliers, accused of “outsourcing the entrepreneurial risk”. This latter allegation leads to the point I want to make. While it is true that, on the one hand, the weather still remains a factor that the tourism industry cannot control and that, on the other hand, companies releasing weather reports should comply with professional standards in delivering their forecasts, it is also true that very few people in the Romagna Riviera are brainstorming on how to make part of the tourism offerings less dependent on the contingent weather conditions.
What is missing in the debate is a reflection on how, and to what extent, would it be possible to nurture the tourism appeal of the area regardless the absence of the clouds above the heads. What kind of events, for instance, could be arranged (or rearranged) in order to avoid weather-related cancellations? Sport competitions, such as the stunning flying disc tournament organised for Easter every year in Rimini, is just one example. It is worth noting that tourism trade associations in neighbouring areas are facing the same problem but with a different attitude, by combining forms of protest with the elaboration of constructive ideas to tackle the online “weather terrorists”. For example, in the Venice area the association “Tourism Jesolo” intends to offer customers who book tourism services online the chance to purchase an insurance and, thus, be refunded in case of bad weather conditions during their stay. Similar ideas came up in the Romagna Riviera as well in 2006 and maybe the time has come to bring them further.
The risk is that the ‘colossal’ narrative of the legal action performed in the Romagna Riviera might sound like a collective lament, thus negatively impacting on the brand of its main epicentres, such as Rimini, Riccione and Cesenatico. What’s more, the story of the legal action does not resonate with the entrepreneurial attitude of the small and medium firms that have always successfully driven the development of the Romagna Riviera even in spite of dramatic events, such as the eutrophication of the Adriatic sea in the late Eighties. Besides suing the weathermen, the tourism industry representatives should also communicate their commitment to keep up with investing in innovation. With or without Sun. Why not, for example, to launch a weather app to be distributed to inhabitants and tourists in order to engage with them in a more informed conversation about the weather and the attractions delivered in the area? I do believe that the real enemy against which the Romagna Riviera hoteliers are fighting today are much worse than the weather.