Italian DMC focused on community conscious travel

IC Bellagio Founder/CEO chats exclusively with LATTE

San Gimignano, Siena, Italy

Slow-season travel needs to be made “sexy” to the consumer to drive interest in off-peak travel, says the Founder and CEO of award-winning DMC, IC Bellagio. Speaking exclusively with LATTE at Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas last month, Andrea Grisdale said the benefits of travelling at quieter times of year will find clients receive a more fulfilling and engaging experience with locals.

This summer’s bumper crowds across Europe, and more specifically in Italy, have seen the destination management company pushing the message to partner to consider what it has coined the “slow season”. That message was relayed to Virtuoso owner-managers at the ANZ Forum in Fiji back in March.

Grisdale dove deeper into the topic with LATTE at Travel Week, saying visitors will experience more genuine hospitality in quieter times of year, outside the peak and shoulder seasons.

“Quite simply, people are going to have the time in lower season to talk to you, to make a difference to your trip. The guy in the restaurant is going to stop at your table and ask questions – where are you from? How are you doing? What are you doing this afternoon? Go see my friend who has a shop down the street,” she used as instances of engagement in “slow season”.

Andrea Grisdale, Founder and CEO, IC Bellagio

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Another example Grisdale used was that of a private car driver for a transfer in Rome, who in June has job after job, after job, and doesn’t have the time to assist clients beyond collection and drop off as they “always have to keep moving”.

“If he does the same transfer in November, December, January, February and March he can walk the traveller into an attraction, have a coffee with them, or help them onto the train,” she explained.

IC Bellagio recently launched a campaign with the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) – of which the Italian company is an original member – to highlight solutions to over-tourism and a greater focus on “community-conscious travel”.

“While high-season travel arguably offers more activities, excursions, and attractions to experience, travelling outside of this can lead to a more meaningful and authentic experience of those that are available,” the article suggests. Read the case study, ‘The perfect time to visit Italy‘ campaign here, which the WTTC aims to roll out globally.

“All I think about is making it really sexy to travel out of the main season – give clients incentives to do that,” Grisdale told LATTE.

“Obviously accommodation prices are much different, there’s more availability, happier locals, less cars, you can breathe, you can get a table, you can just wander into a restaurant that you feel like wandering in and at the time you want to meet. There’s no way whatsoever, you’re going to get a restaurant reservation, right now in peak season, by doing that. I mean, it’s more interesting than here in Las Vegas!” Grisdale quipped.

Rome's Trevi Fountain overflowing with tourists at lunchtime in May 2023, as captured by LATTE

“We’re really encouraging people to consider that. With our colleagues, we’re encouraging them to look at the time of certain tours. For example, we used to offer a yacht tour of the Amalfi coast over to Capri starting at 9:30am, which would have you back by, 6-ish.

“Now, we encourage people to have a lie-in – you’re on holiday – leave at 12:30, late lunch along the way, and by the time we get you to Capri, it’s 4:30 when all of the day trippers has been gone, have a couple of hours on the island, and come back to our base enjoying the most beautiful sunset behind us.”

“We’re basically telling clients these are the reasons why you should do this, without telling them that we’re making a shift because people are scared of change sometimes.”

Grisdale said it was also a mission of IC Bellagio to disperse traffic flows away from some of the top destinations in peak season.

Collecting their award at Virtuoso Travel Week 2023, the IC Bellagio representatives - Carole Pertusini, Andrea Grisdale and Marta Valsecchi.

“How can we make going to Tuscany and not going into, for example, Chianti or San Gimignano, but take visitors to the villages or the towns that nobody else goes to? But it’s got to be made sexy. It’s got to be made to have a bragging rights appeal.”

“We’re also recommending to hotels to open a week earlier and stay open a week later. Also attractions like museums. Can we get them to stay open later so there’s more dispersal?” Grisdale said.

At this year’s Virtuoso Travel Week, IC Bellagio was awarded the Partner winner in the Culinary space in the 2023 Community Awards. The award recognises partners with a passion for epicurean travel, featuring experiences that go beyond traditional dining with well-rounded culinary experiences that are immersive, interactive and educational. 

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