The first time an Italian tourist walks through the doors of a new Italian-themed travel agency and is greeted by a smiling, bearded woman, the man will have a very different reaction than the first time.
Italian tourism company Axiom Travel Agency has launched a new business model that charges the tourist $15 (€14.50) for the first trip to Italy, while also providing them with a free copy of their book.
The company, which has a team of 300 people in Rome and two offices in Milan, is a collaboration between the travel company, the travel agency of Italian author Giacomo Gasparino and author Mario Brescia, who has written three books on Italy.
The new business is being run by the Italian government, which in 2015 approved a €2.6bn (£1.9bn) tourism and leisure package, which included an Italian-specific tourism agency and the establishment of a company called Axiom, which will be responsible for developing Italian-targeted tours.
The aim is to create an experience of being on the island of Sardinia, said the Axiom spokesperson, who did not want to be named.
“It’s not a new model.
It’s the first.
The whole concept is very different from the traditional travel agencies we’ve seen before,” he said.
The Axiom team of 600 will work on a wide range of projects, including a series of educational tours of Sardinian and Italian heritage sites and to promote Italian cuisine in Italy, according to the company’s website.
They will also have a range of other projects, from creating a website that will allow tourists to make reservations to organising a cultural tour, which can be organised on the fly, said Bruno Domingo, a senior associate with Axiom.
The tourist will receive a copy of Gasparinos book, which includes pictures of the island and a guidebook to guide them through the island.
“It’s a book about Sardinia that’s based on the experiences of a tourist, rather than the facts,” Domingio said.
But there is a catch.
Axiom is charging a fee for the book.
The fee is also higher for visitors who travel from outside of Italy, such as Americans and Britons.
Axiom has already been criticised for its fees for tourist tours in the past, and in February the travel commission of Sardinians criticised the agency for charging €10 (€8) per person for its tours.
According to the commission, Axiom had no plans to introduce a similar charge for other international travel, such, for example, by Chinese or Indian travellers.
“We’ve seen many people, from the Chinese, the Indian, the British, the French, the Australians who’ve made a difference in this process and now we see that the new model will have similar negative consequences,” said the commission’s vice president, Roberto Bresci, adding that the Italian minister of tourism had expressed concerns about the charge.
“We don’t want to put any pressure on the government to change the rules.”
The commission’s concerns come as Axiom’s popularity has grown in Italy.
It has a presence in some of the country’s most popular tourist destinations such as Palermo and Genoa, where it has established partnerships with local restaurants and hotels.