The Municipality of Genoa (IT) adopted the City Tax Management System in 2012, based on an official agreement between City Hall and the Chamber of Commerce on behalf of the tourism sector. Under the Genoa City Tax Management System, the City Tax is considered as a way to improve the marketing, communication and branding strategies and the hospitality services of the city. It is perceived as an opportunity and not as an obligation.
The agreement’s operational instrument is the City Tax Working Group (CTWG), which defines and implements strategies to promote the city using these tax resources. Coordinated by the Deputy Mayor for Tourism and Culture, the CTWG is composed of representatives of the Chamber of Commerce, associations of hotel owners and tourism stakeholders.
Each year, the Chamber of Commerce submits the Marketing and Communication Plan guidelines to the City Council. It is elaborated and shared among the members of CTWG, approved by the City Council, and implemented by the City Marketing, Tourism, International Relations Department of the City Hall, in collaboration with CTWG members. Results are regularly monitored during the year.
This good practice offers an effective solution to the potential conflicts between public and private sectors. It creates confidence among partners, empowering each member and avoiding useless discussions, focusing on results. It guarantees a specific budget to promote the city, and it proves, through the close and strategic cooperation between all the partners, that tourism is a strategic asset for the economic development of a city. Some of the effective solutions offered by the good practice are:
• Coordination of marketing, communication and media relations plans of all the tourism stakeholders in the city;
• Coordination of the different Departments of the Municipality in charge of road services, public transport, mobility, protection and maintenance of the urban heritage, parks and gardens, according to tourism priorities;
• Support for the implementation of new services and tourist products by independent local operators, with economic benefits and growth of employment;
• Sharing strategies, tasks and commitments between the city administration and stakeholders, in order to offer citizens a unique and incisive programme of city promotion; and
• Strong involvement of local press and media.
One of the most important challenges for a city is to face complex problems with an integrated approach. This approach is a pillar of the URBACT method. Our method includes the involvement of stakeholders and citizens, as well as the work of several municipal departments, like City Marketing, Culture, Economic Development, Public Works and Transport. The CTWG is a real public-private partnership (PPP), which shares common goals. Different opinions and professional backgrounds become a benefit.
EU institutions often stress the importance of creating PPPs to reach shared goals in urban governance. The quick and sustainable growth of Genoa as a tourist destination since the institution of the City Tax in 2012 (a 25% increase in bed nights in four years), proves that the model is the most effective way to create, in a few years, a new perspective for the city.
Participation and awareness of citizens ensures the sustainability of tourist growth, avoiding the risks of an invasive tourism that may damage the environment, authenticity, local culture and quality of life. Furthermore, tourism is an incentive for the improvement of local services, and a chance to change the look and the atmosphere of the city. The new identity of the city results in a new sentiment of belonging and pride in citizens. In short: the use of an integrated approach to promote tourism can provide permanent benefits for the urban community and the whole territory.
The City Tax Agreement sets rules and ways of partners’ involvement. The CTWG involves stakeholders at every step of the decision-making and operational processes: addressing their priorities through the “Guidelines document”, approving the “Marketing and Communication Plan”, implementing and updating it with municipal departments and monitoring the results through previously accepted criteria.
The involvement of restaurant and bar owners has been crucial to improve the level and the quality of all aspects of hospitality. Encouraging a habit of working together between institutions and stakeholders, the City Tax Management System has created the conditions for a widespread enhancement of ancient commercial and local gastronomic traditions and the creation of the historical shops’ register. Smaller thematic working groups have been created for organising big events, conferences, communication campaigns, social media, marketing and promotional actions.
The Genoa Social Media Team (strongly connected to the URBACT III Action Planning Network Interactive Cities, led by Genoa) has been created to involve citizens in the social media strategies and to coordinate and co-promote web communication actions. A working group has been created to enable citizens to propose to the city administration specific projects of public works that can be implemented using City Tax resources, i.e. restoration of monuments, maintenance of historical buildings, public gardens and parks.
The City Tax Management System has positively affected relations and cooperation between the administration, stakeholders and citizens. Furthermore, it has helped to re-establish confidence between the parties. These results confirm the importance of the integrated approach to the development of tourism implemented by Genoa. Tourism has become an important part of city governance.
From the economic point of view, the results of this good practice are strong and evident, in terms of the number of bed nights (2,000,000 in 2016, up 7.34%), the level of internationalisation of tourism in the city (51.48% on the 49.40% of Italy), the number of tourists visiting the Tourist Information Centres (358,000 in 2016, up 28.72% from 2015), time spent in Genoa (2.3 days in 2016, in 2012 it was 1.98), economic impact on the city (€491,360,000 in 2016), level of employment (approximately 1,500 new jobs in five years).
There are evident results also in terms of brand visibility, positioning and reputation of the city on the tourism market. This can be demonstrated by several indicators: press release numbers, the results of the digital campaigns, visitors to the official website www.visitgenoa.it, results achieved on social media (quality of the contents, statistics about user numbers and engagement rate) and destination reputation analysis: the City commissioned a consultancy to analyse Genoa’s reputation on the web; from 2014 to 2016 its Reputation Index grew from 35 to 74/100.
Many cities are facing the problem of relations between the city government and stakeholders as they seek to promote the city and attract tourism, talent and investments. Tourism can create an important leverage effect by boosting investments. networks and associations, like European Cities Marketing, unite a lot of cities to work together in this field and lobby the EU institutions. The importance of tourism in economic and urban development is clear, also considering the growing attention EU institutions pay to tourism by putting it as a priority in Territorial Cooperation Funding Programmes.
In several European projects, including City Logo and Interactive Cities, we have met and discussed with other cities about the right way to include tourism in their strategic planning of economic development. The economic crisis is forcing cities in this direction. Many cities are already asking us to share with them our experience, explain our City Tax Management System and help them to adopt a similar method to promote their cities as tourist destinations.
Many cities in Europe have already established a City Tax, but are dealing with the problem of managing it without the consent of hotel owners, stakeholders and citizens. Despite the economic crisis, many cities are investing resources in tourism development. This good practice, through cooperation, participation and commitment, helps achieve good results with limited funding.