It was a hot September five years ago. Another summer was behind me, my travels were over and it was time to look ahead to a new academic year. I was doing a degree in Digital Humanities and had a strong desire to find out what the future had in store for me.
I also had a job offer. Strange, cool, interesting, I can’t remember what I thought about it at the time. They asked me to be an evangelist. Uh what? Yeah, an evangelist for a two day event at the Stazione Leopolda in Florence. An event about tourism. BTO – Buy Tourism Online.
Yeah. They used odds words, words that at the time seemed more like nonsense than the foundations of my future. Social media, engagement, brief, page view, fan pages, friend feeds. There was even a brand that let you pay for your holiday when you got back home, and the amount you paid depended on how good it was. Atrapalo it was called. There were also people there who were starting to talk about Twitter, there were people there who thought it would all come to nothing. The highlight of the event was when they asked us evangelists – there were four of us after all – to dance in the style of “Where the hell is Matt?”, possibly one of the best videos ever.
Nobody was talking about start-ups or about big data. Or about social media strategy or advertising on Facebook. What people were talking about a lot about was tourism, the only certain thing we could cling on to. Perhaps even the other half of the event name (Buy Online)wasn’t that certain six years ago, but there was (happily!) people who believed in it and who wanted to dive into the incredibly exciting yet little known world of the internet.
Since my first job, I have more hair on my face than I do on my head and many (so many!) things have changed. If BTO was being organised for the first time today, perhaps it wouldn’t be called BTO. In 2014 buying online has practically become the rule and the exception is buying your holiday offline. The internet drives us, the internet saves us money, the internet brings us closer together and unites us. Bits sent in milliseconds from one side of the earth to the other. Digital hugs. Internet.
These few lines do not pretend to be anything but a short ode to the web, to change and to faith. Because we really do need them (among other things). Just as you want to travel, to tell stories, share your emotions and just as you can now say you’ve read about a digital humanist who was an evangelist (which he actually really enjoyed) and danced with no music at the Stazione Leopolda.
Oh, I almost forgot. Travel Appeal is looking forward to seeing you at BTO 2014.