Mauro Galli (President - Italian Chamber of Commerce in Chicago)

Dall'Appennino a Chicago: incontriamo Mauro Galli

Apr 12, 2013 6264 ITA ENG

On our journey to find out what Italy means in the USA, today we meet Mauro Galli, President of the Italian American Chamber of Commerce in Chicago, as well as of the most important organization that brings together leading American travel companies specializing in tourism to Italy. We thank President Galli for our talk, which, in a way, counts as double.

Mauro – you have been an entrepreneur in the tourism sector for several years. Based in Illinois, you promote Italian culture in America, encouraging American citizens to visit some of the beauties of our country. You are also President of the Italian Travel Promotion Council (ITPC), which is comprised of the main American travel companies to Italy. What can Italy do in order to better exploit its exceptional treasures?

I have been head of ITPC for around 12 years: this is comprised of 21 very important travel operators in the field of tourism to Italy. For several years now, we have been presenting the different Italian Governments with suggestions derived from our experience in the sector.

In terms of return on investment in tourism promotion, America is the leading market: it is a strong and wealthy country, it is fascinated by what Italy offers and it is culturally very attached to us. Yet Italy made the choice of focusing investment in developing countries, where however – apart from a niche of wealthy people who travel often and already know how and why they should visit Italy – the needs of the great majority of the people do not include intercontinental travel.

Then there is a problem of internal organization: the museum system, for example, is not managed in an organic way, because each museum works under a different institution. It is difficult for tourists to get information and thus organize their visit efficiently. They are often left at the mercy of queues and bad public transport, whilst it would be easy to help them optimize their time and visit more things based on the visitor flow, capacity and distance of the various sites. In this way, tourists would be able to visit more attractions, and the country would benefit.

Moreover, we should offer the younger clientele – who want a different kind of holiday than adults in terms of both contents and financial possibilities – tailored feedback managed by their Italian peers who share their tastes and interests. Italian kids would be perfectly capable of promoting also cultured contents that the young Americans might not necessarily look for. And in doing so, some of them would also learn an interesting profession, as well as earning a bit of money (or course credits for those already studying in the tourism sector). Americans kids in turn would be more prone to coming back, and to consuming Italian products back home.

Lastly, the negative publicity of the conditions of the various cultural and archeological sites in Italy certainly heavily penalizes American tourism to Italy. This tourism is susceptible to many markets, and looks to Italy very favorably. But we need to learn to manage incoming tourists in a much more professional way.

You are President of the Chamber of Commerce in Chicago: the third biggest city in the USA for population, second biggest for business, but first biggest for both characteristics out of the cities which are not on one of the two coasts. Which area do your activities cover, and how important is this area for the American economy?

The Chamber in Chicago is an aggregator of Italian economic and business interests covering a broad area. We organize missions, take part in fairs, and promote meetings and events that benefit our associates as well as the local community interested in Italian products from different sectors.

The Midwest includes Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Missouri, Indiana and Tennessee: this is the area we work in. It produces an enormous slice of the industrial and farming American GDP. Chicago is the main hub for the farming and livestock industry in America – if not even in the whole world.

What are the most successful Made in Italy sectors in the Midwest?

The Made in Italy sectors that attract the greatest interest in this part of America are certainly the food and beverage industry, fashion, design and more in general anything handcrafted in Italy, with its small-scale, extremely high quality manufacturing, which adds great value to our export.

The purpose of an organization such as the Chamber of Commerce is precisely to favor the exposure on the international market of the products of small Italian businesses that would be unable to achieve this without a guide – especially here in America. The products of our small industry are not suitable to the mass market, and in order to access smaller markets they depend on an institution present on the American territory and communicating with the Italian producers.

Chicago has a significant Italian-American community. Are we still paying the consequences of the legend of Al Capone?

The success Italian-American citizens have had in various fields has certainly helped to overcome many negative stereotypes. The legend of Al Capone is now almost entirely forgotten. Italians integrated because they were able to maintain their identity, whilst at the same time acquiring also the American identity. The success of the Italian-Americans is a sign of the high quality of the Italian DNA, that shines through in particular when we are given the opportunity to work well and express our creativity, as we are here in the USA.

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