Travel agencies and information in Europe
In all European countries, more or less extensive networks of tourist offices have been operating for a long time. In them, tourists can get information about local attractions, hotels, sightseeing and entertainment programs, purchase free maps, buy theater tickets, books, souvenirs. The functions of such travel agencies in different states are somewhat different. Everything depends on the degree of promotion of the country as a tourist destination, on the budget allocated for their maintenance, and on the peculiarities of the national mentality.
Debugged network of tourist offices in Paris
In Paris, there is a well-established network of tourist offices, which are located in all strategic points of the city. For their maintenance, the city authorities, the Chamber of Commerce and professional associations allocate significant amounts by the Moscow standards – 11 million euros. In the offices of the tourists can get free addresses of hotels, maps of the city, a list of tours, colorful brochures in different languages about the sights of Paris. And also any information about staying in the capital of France. If you wish, you can also book a hotel room or sign up for an excursion. For visitors open access to the Internet. Literally everything is thought out: ramps are provided for people with disabilities, a system for hearing impaired people is installed.
Based on surveys of office visitors and special studies, network employees annually produce analytical reports to assess tourist activity in Paris with a view to its further development. In 2003, the structure of tourist offices in Paris changed significantly. Before tourists served a single office on the Champs Elysees. In connection with the relocation of the main department to Pyramid Street, six additional points were opened in strategically important places – near the railway stations, the opera house and the Eiffel Tower. The grand opening of the central office took place on the first day of last year. And recently, in addition to the existing seven, three more offices have been opened.
The results were not slow. If in 2003 about 900 thousand of tourists turned to the office for information, then last year these figures increased to 1.5 million. The goal set by the Paris authorities to travel offices was to serve 6 million visitors in 2006. Such a system of tourist offices operates not only in Paris. In almost any town or place that is visited by tourists, you can find tourist information points under the authority of regional tourism committees. Last year, the budget of the committees amounted to 175 million euros. Of these, about a third is spent on promoting their region and public relations.
In Italy – a multi-level structure of travel offices
The system of tourist offices and information agencies in Italy is multi-level. Regional tourism promotion agencies (ART) are above all, they are in Italy 19. Agencies receive support from regional budgets, with investments in the industry increasing by 5–13% every year, depending on the region. The task of the regional ART is to promote the direction and infrastructure of the region at the state and international levels. For example, the organization of local tourist forums and participation in international exhibitions. As well as the production of promotional products, booklets, videos, the organization of presentations of new directions, excursion programs. Regional ART is actively working with representative offices of the national tourism office (ENIT) and major tour operators in countries where there is an active promotion of Italian tourism products.
Next comes the level of the provinces and their main cities – Rome, Milan, Venice, Naples, Turin and others. In cities with a population of more than 400 thousand people, there are several branches of ART – in the tourist areas of the city, at central stations and at airports. In turofis can apply any. Here they will provide information about the city, give a map, select the appropriate booklets. In the office you can learn about existing exhibitions, museums, various kinds of promotions and holidays. In some ART guides, cassettes and slides, exhibition calendars can be purchased.
Italian ART as a non-profit structure acts as information and tourist centers, and not travel agencies. There can not book a hotel room or book a tour. For a specific service you need to contact the travel agency directly. As a rule, ART cannot officially recommend a specific agency or hotel – just provide a list or indicate the nearest. Although enterprising Italians will always help the tourist with advice. In the southern regions of Italy, for example, in a very market-like Naples, the engagement of the travel agency and reference information is obvious – sometimes a person who “brings a suitcase to the right hotel” is “by chance” nearby. In Italy, even the smallest village can be a magnificent monument of architecture and there will definitely be a tourist or information office in it. In those cities where there is no ART, there are Pro loco. They are practically in all historical settlements, even if one hundred people live there. The goal of the Pro Loco is also the promotion of tourism in your region. This is a non-profit organization, existing at the expense of the public city budget. In Pro loco, you can get the same information as in urban ART. They operate on the principle of information and travel agencies. However, in small places with limited infrastructure, Pro Loco staff can provide more specific assistance – contact a travel agency, help with arrangement. It is difficult to count the number of tourists who applied to tourist offices. According to statistics for 2003, in Rome alone, about 1.9 million of the city’s folding cards were removed from ART and city hotels, around 1.3 million from Florence. Almost all ART and almost all Pro loco have their own sites. Simply select the Italian language in the search engine, the APT or Pro loco in the search window, and then the name of the city in the advanced search or search among the results. Some sites – by the way, it does not depend on the size of the city – real web masterpieces with animation and video clips accompanied by national songs. The site must be given the history of the city, information about its cultural traditions, information about famous personalities who lived or have been in these places, as well as a plan for the entrance to the city. Practically on all sites information is available in two languages - Italian and English. Increasingly, French, German, Spanish and even Polish, Japanese and Chinese pages are found. Sites and museums are highlighted by separate points (with obligatory indication of opening hours), a list of possible excursions and route options covering several notable places in the area. Alpine APT and Pro loco sites have mountain maps with tracking tracks indicating the average travel time on a particular route. Information in coastal APT and Pro loco may contain a description of the underwater world – for diving or fishing. Often, the Pro Loco of one province unite in an association. Several Pro loco, located near tiny villages, usually develop joint excursions, routes, exchange information and, accordingly, tourists. Both in the offices and on the websites, features of local cuisine are always presented (taking into account the fact that gastronomic tourism in Italy is one of the most popular types of travel in Europe). In addition to the recommended cafes and restaurants, you can learn a lot about the history of regional cuisine and even write down recipes for individual dishes. Schedules of fairs, festivals and folk festivals are always posted, including in honor of the obligatory local saint – patron of the city. As well as useful numbers and addresses – city hall, city administration, police, tourist police, consular services (if there are any in the city), “ambulance”. There is a good search system on ART websites: a large selection of hotels of all categories, pensions, residences and apartments, agro-tourism structures, youth hotels and campgrounds. In special windows, the user can set the parameters of the desired institution, the price bar and in response to receive options for hotels. In large cities, railway stations have special offices under the banner of Informazione turistica. They are engaged in accommodation of tourists, and not only in hotels, but also in the private sector. This is especially popular among traveling European youth who want to visit such expensive cities as Venice, Rome, and Florence. Since accommodation in hotels for students is obviously expensive, they are offered to stay in a private apartment, on campus and even in rooms at the monastery (here we must bear in mind that the rules for sisters and brothers are quite strict – they are off after 23 hours). All responses in Hungary will be given to the Tourism Form office in Hungary. National marketing activities for tourism in Hungary are carried out by the National Corporation Hungary-Tourism. This is a joint stock company, 100% of whose shares are owned by the state. The corporation submits to the ministry of development of areas and territories.