As DUCO 2021 gets underway in Florence, Carolina Perez, the event’s founder, speaks about her Italian roots, what delegates can expect from the return of the top tourism event and future travel trends for the bel Paese.
Your website explains that DUCO was “born out of a passion for cultural exploration and understanding of Italy”. Can you explain further about the origins of DUCO, your Puglian heritage and why you chose Florence as the venue for DUCO Italy?
I was born into a family of women who loved to travel and explore the world. My mother Teresa inherited her appetite for travelling from her grandmother, and I have never known a different life. That has helped to shape my professional life, which eventually led the way to Italy. I was always fascinated by my family’s Italian roots: my Pugliese great-grandfather Giovanni Falcone married my great-grandmother Catherina Mastracchio from Veneto. They emigrated to Brazil and started a family, where I was born and raised. The connection with Italy has remained strong in the family, inspiring much of my love for il bel Paese. The inspiration to create DUCO came on a summer night watching Verdi’s Nabucco at the Verona Arena, as a richiamo del sangue (call of the blood) – the desire to return to my ancestors’ land.
I chose Florence to host DUCO as it is one of the most gracious cities in the entire world, right in the heart of Italy, pleasantly walkable and replenished with beauty. Nothing speaks louder to my heart than art, therefore Firenze, the cradle of Renaissance!
What is DUCO, how does it work and why has it become so important for the Italian hospitality sector in such a short period of time?
DUCO is a niche initiative to promote The Best of Italy. While all the most prestigious travel fairs are international and promote the entire world of travel, DUCO follows a different path, focusing on one single destination. My aspiration was to bring the world to Italy, as a tribute to the excellence of Italian hospitality. The essence of DUCO is destination-oriented, which makes it a profound experience of Italy for travel advisors and a reference for the high-end travel community. Beyond the annual summit in Florence, DUCO is a channel for year-round promotion and education, engaging buyers and suppliers through digital platforms.
What are the challenges and joys of holding a high-end tourism event in Florence, before and especially now in the current climate? In what ways has Destination Florence Visitors & Convention Bureau contributed to the success of DUCO?
DUCO takes place in unique venues, rather than big convention centers. Each place chosen to host DUCO’s events embodies the Italian spirit with history, art and beauty, bringing out emotion, curiosity and enthusiasm for what will come next, as every day there is a new scenario to be discovered. This year in particular, we have the added challenge to reduce people density at every venue and to achieve that we had to create a complex logistics of simultaneous events and ceremonies split in different sessions.
Destination Florence Visitors & Convention Bureau has been a very important partner and supporter since 2016, when I first came to Florence to share my idea of DUCO with friend hoteliers and was introduced to Carlotta Ferrari. Carlotta and her team have been fantastic and relentless in finding solutions for DUCO, supporting our relationship with the City of Florence and connecting us with venues and fiorentini event suppliers.
What can attendees expect from this third edition of DUCO? The line-up sounds exciting, from appointments at top hotels to the Lemon Awards.
I foresee an event with lots of emotional value for everybody and a unique moment to celebrate what Italians are calling “Il Rinascimento del Turismo”. DUCO Italy is the first fair of the high-end travel industry calendar since 2019. The wait has been long and we all have ideas about the new era for travel. To hold the DUCO Italy 2021 summit in Florence has a unique meaning, as it is like a Renaissance for the sector.
How has DUCO focused on the digital side of its operations in recent months?
At the beginning of 2020, when the world was forced to take a pause, DUCO strived to create different ways to keep the essential bond alive. We wanted to continue to connect the world to Italy with an inspirational and educational approach and this is how DUCO Parla! webinar series was launched and achieved the impressive mark of 7,000 views and incredibly positive feedback from travel advisors. Then came DUCO Galleria, consolidating DUCO as a year-round channel for the promotion of Italy with dynamic content. DUCO Virtuale, the online one-to-one meeting program, held in April 2021 for the first time, was important to reconnect the community ahead of the summer.
Italy will always be a lovemark destination for international travelers, but what changes do you think Italy’s hospitality scene will undergo as a result of Covid-19?
DUCO’s commitment to Italy is to support the bounce back and help push travel forward. The tendency is fewer trips and longer stays, deepening experiences as travelers will seek more meaningful and self-fulfillment moments. And after being celebration-deprived for so long, the comeback certainly brings lots of emotional value. For Italy, I believe in a more united tourism sector, with public institutions and private sector joining forces for the continuous and consistent promotion. The key is to work together and not to be isolated. This is a favorable moment for high-end tourism in Italy after such long lasting repressed desire. Travelers are evermore keen to visit, and cities will benefit from quality over quantity, without too many crowds and preserving the historic heritage. I trust that the next cycle will be very positive for Italy and for Florence.
This article was originally published in Issue 2 of the Destination Florence Magazine.
Destination Florence Magazine is a new magazine aimed at promoting Florence as a quality destination by Destination Florence Convention and Visitors Bureau in partnership with The Florentine, with the support of the Comune di Firenze. Featuring news, interviews, articles and events from an original point of view, DF Magazine dives deeper into the Florence you don’t expect. From trade shows to conferences, the wedding industry, startups and study abroad programs, this magazine offers insight and ideas for the future of Florence and Tuscany.