By Marzia De Giuli
MILAN, Italy, Feb. 14 (Xinhua) -- The Milan Expo 2015 was preparing to attract flows of people from around the world with a "visitor oriented" attitude focused on edutainment activities, organizers said here on Friday.
Speaking at the opening of the three-day International Tourism Exchange (Bit) that runs until Saturday in Milan, the General Manager of Expo Milan Event Management Division Piero Galli said 20 million visitors were expected, with 6-8 million people coming from abroad.
The "visitor experience" concept was the distinctive element of Milan Expo 2015, which aimed for high levels of visitor engagement with the theme and related topics, Galli said. Both the site's structure and activities were based on a path to the full spectrum of visitors' well-being, he noted.
The site, located in the northwestern part of Milan over an area of about one million square meters, was designed in a shape of an island surrounded by a canal which also serves for irrigation and microclimate control of the site. The service areas and shopping centers will overlook the canal.
The Milan Expo Country Officer Paolo Sabatini said the exposition will interpret its theme "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life" from economic, scientific, cultural and social perspectives to stimulate "edutainment activities" around one of humanity's greatest challenges, nutrition.
The visit should rouse "interest, reflection, knowledge and awareness," he stressed. A series of innovative elements, he added, will target different types of visitors in search of something new.
Among the most innovative initiatives, organizers noted, there will be evening events where people can meet, get to know various cultures and cuisines. Thematic itineraries will represent another novelty, with theme routes allowing visitors create their own customized journey at the Expo.
Furthermore, for the first time "clusters" joint pavilions will not gather together different countries on geographical basis, as it was in the past, but under the same topical project, from Coffee and Spices to Agriculture and Nutrition in Arid Zones.
The tourism sector was estimated to benefit from approximately 5 billion euros (6.8 billion U.S. dollars) during the six-month event. Over 500 buyers at the Bit have already declared they would like to schedule special "experience packages" for Expo 2015.
Target countries identified by Expo 2015, including China, were especially taken into consideration when selecting buyers who responded by immediately seizing the opportunity, Bit organizers said.
China ranks the first source of international tourism spending. Chinese travelers spent a record 102 billion U.S. dollars overseas in 2012, according to a report by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
With a 4,590-square-meter country pavilion and two corporate pavilions, China will be one of the main international investors in the Milan Expo, which aims at attracting one million Chinese visitors as the result of strengthened bilateral dialogue.
The General Director of China National Tourism Administration Rome Office Liu Cheng highlighted the key importance of cultural exchange. "Travel is everything: language, culture, cuisine, people," he told Xinhua.
China was becoming a more and more popular destination for Italian citizens including families, businessmen and students, Liu said wishing that the Milan Expo will also be an occasion to boost Chinese tourism in Italy.
"The Milan Expo organizers have started contacts with China to promote the event and attract Chinese travelers, which was good as we need more information to better know the Italian event," he added.
A total of 142 participants have already confirmed their presence and around 60 countries are expected to build their own pavilions, a record number for a universal exposition.
Italy's public sector will invest 1.3 billion euros (1.7 billion U.S. dollars) and the private sector around 350 million euros, with additional one billion euros coming from participant countries.