We have seen how the pandemic crisis has led many companies and operators in the tourism sector to experience the online way to break down distances with their audience and seek new forms of income. For many it was not easy to study alternative solutions and define new business models. However, as is often the case, the new challenges pose opportunity to reinvent yourself and to discover hidden abilities and qualities.
Today we tell the experience of Giacomo Zavatteri, certified tour guide and founder of MilanoArte agency specializing in tailor-made guided tours. Giacomo's audience is mainly foreign, particularly Americans. Suddenly being unable to work was a shock at first. Until he decided to explore new paths he never thought he would take. He thus launched virtual tours to discover Milan and live events on very specialized topics of art history aimed at enthusiasts and his colleagues. The events had an excellent response and proved to be excellent opportunity to diversify the offer and increase earnings. In short, a world of infinite possibilities has opened up for him. Its history is truly emblematic and inspirational even for those who want to propose innovative ways of doing tourism.
- During the restrictions, you too experienced virtual city tours. Can you tell us how it went?
Like all tourism operators, we suddenly found ourselves deprived of our work and stuck at home. I personally took some time to react to the shock. I admit that I wasn't among the first to start virtual tours but when I made up my mind I went headlong. The funniest part was experimenting. Exactly as I did on the occasion of the project #streetart with author, where we have created live online events together with guided visits in person.
On my own I decided to follow a particular trend, not touched by the market, specializing in training for professionals. I held a series of live events, later available also recorded, on some very specific art history topics. I turned to colleagues and people who wanted to deepen very specialized topics.
- What kind of feedback did you get?
I have to say that the feedback was immediately very positive. As I said before, having moved late, I realized that there were many virtual guided tours in Italian and foreign languages available, some of really excellent quality. So I relied on instinct and decided to deepen some topics that I am particularly passionate about. I therefore created lessons that could be purchased individually but which together formed real online courses. Thanks also to an aggressive marketing strategy and to the offer of visit packages at a special price, I must say that I had a very loyal audience who guaranteed the financial support of the initiative. The customers who instead joined the individual events guaranteed the extra income, which I can have was not negligible. I was certainly satisfied with the work done and the feedback from the public.
3. In the light of your experience, what are in your opinion the advantages and criticalities of virtual tours?
Virtual tours are a very interesting experience and the great possibilities that must be exploited. Unlike many colleagues, I don't see them competing with face-to-face experiences. On the contrary. The desire to visit a place also comes from a well done virtual tour! Many customers contact me after taking a virtual tour because they want to visit Milan and Italy with me.
As for companies, I don't know. I have done some events for them but it is difficult to have direct feedback when you have so many guests following you. One of the advantages of the virtual tour is the direct exchange between host and audience and when you have a hundred guests it becomes difficult. However, the fact that they bought them makes me think that there is an interest in these products.
- Virtual tours are not a substitute for face-to-face experiences. Can you explain this detail to us better?
The virtual tour is a very different thing from the guided tour in presence. On the one hand, direct human contact is lost, the facial and body expressions of the public that a good guide knows and must recognize. On the other hand, very effective means are available, which do not replace real experience but exploit the potential of the medium. I am talking about images of works placed thousands of kilometers away which, obviously, cannot be included in the same tour in presence, the possibility of showing video and audio that involve the viewer, and also to hear more voices, such as those of guests.
This winter, when the tourist season slows down, I wish resume my online training courses. Let's see what the future brings us! And then of course partnering with you at Vivila to produce the best virtual tours ever. Your project is one of my priorities when it comes to virtual experiences.
We thank Giacomo for his precious testimony. May it be an inspiration to other tourist guides who want to try their hand at virtual tours, and obviously we can't wait to collaborate to offer a screaming virtual experience!
With Antonella Leak he founded MilanoArte agency that organizes tailor-made guided tours.
Doctor in Conservation of Cultural Heritage with a passion for the Middle Ages, so much so that he graduated with the leading expert in the sector, Prof Carlo Maria Quintavalle, tells of the Middle Ages, and beyond, as a tour leader and tour guide in Milan, Monza & Brianza and Varese.
He worked at the Handel House Museum in London but the nostalgia for Italy, Milan and his cutlet finally brought him back home.