Vela was set up in 1998 by the ACTV, the local public transport company responsible for running the waterborne transport connections in the historic city centre of Venice and surrounding lagoon, together with the road connections in the towns of Mestre and Chioggia and surrounding area from Venice to Padua, Treviso and the Venetian hinterland.
Setting up of Vela was made possible by 1997 legislation (Law no. 128 and Legislative Decree no. 422) specifically providing for special companies such as the ACTV to divide off individual branches of the company for functional or management reasons, with the consequent founding of new companies.
Vela (company capital wholly owned by ACTV) began operating in February 1999 at the peak of the Carnival period.
As well as selling public transport tickets, Vela's mission was to develop the commercial potential of the sales network it owned, consisting of 36 ticket offices in the points of access to the city of Venice (Airport, Tronchetto, Piazzale Roma, Punta Sabbioni, the San Marco area), the main ACTV boat landing stages and the Venetian hinterland.
The service provided by its staff through the ticket offices therefore supplemented the public transport information and sales service with a service providing information and tickets for the principal events taking place in Venice.
It aimed to satisfy the needs of residents and visitors by supplying a wider service than provided traditionally, integrating the event with public transport. The professional skills of the sales staff also evolved to satisfy a more "demanding" customer.
Although building on the tradition of the parent company, Vela immediately felt the need to define itself as a business with its own specific identity, separate and different from the ACTV, known throughout the area as the company which runs public transport and sells travel tickets.
Vela therefore had its own logo with no connection with the parent company's logo and employed largely female staff whose training was centred on customer satisfaction and whose style was an elegant presence in the city. The image of the ticket offices was also renewed.
Right from when it was first set up, the new company established a profitable network of contacts, becoming the preferred interlocutor of the leading Venetian institutions.
This led to important collaboration with the Venice Biennial, the La Fenice Theatre Foundation and VeniceCards, a collaboration which would be consolidated over the years.
Alongside sales, also of fundamental importance was the provision of information to the public, mainly on ACTV transport, then gradually including the most important events in the city which came to represent an ever greater part in sales activities.
During its first year of life, the new company, particularly sensitive to the needs of residents and tourists, specifically designed a timetable for the ACTV boat services.
And so the booklet, an exhaustive source of information for users of the service, made its entry into the city's tradition.
The know-how acquired by Vela in the field of public information was transformed into creation of the city's Hello Venezia call center. During the first two years of activity, this operated with the pay number 8126.96.36.199.
The name Hello Venezia was chosen as it evoked a welcome and, through its reference to the lagoon city, transmitted a strong message. During this phase, the name was accompanied by the slogan "For all the answers on Venice".
The Hello Venezia call center began operations in June 2001. It provided information on transport timetables and lines, the best routes to reach a certain place in the city, booking and purchase of tickets for the most important exhibitions, museums, concerts, plays and sports events organised in Venice by the main international, national and local operators such as Venice Card, the Biennial, the Film Festival, the La Fenice and Malibran theatres and Venezia Calcio.
Using the most advanced technologies and a staff of specialist operators, Hello Venezia, became a convenient tool providing access to the information indispensable for living the city, as well as a meeting point between the "Venice offer" and the demand from tourists and residents... a solution which had been needed for some time.
After the first phase which saw it established in the city as a reference point for sales, it now took on more complex challenges demanding ever more professionalism and commitment.
During 2002, the call center won the confidence of Venice citizens in particular, but was also ever more used by visitors thanks to an information campaign concentrated largely in the city (posters).
The year 2002 also saw introduction of a timetable booklet for bus services to complete the work begun with the boat booklet.
Again in 2002, Vela adopted an automated legally certified system for issuing event tickets and signed an agreement with Charter, the leading ticket issue system company (now Vivaticket), allowing sales activities to be optimised and an ever wider range of proposals to be made available to the public.
This consolidated the relationship with the La Fenice Theatre and the Venice Dance, Music and Theatre Biennial, two cornerstones in the Venice cultural offer.
The Hellovenezia system became the information and sales network par excellence for these two Venetian institutions, at the service of a historic clientele, particularly attentive and well-informed.
The commercial role assumed by Vela and the professionalism demonstrated during development of its activities during the first three years of existence led the parent company to also delegate management of all advertising spaces in ACTV structures, boats and buses to the controlled company.
Vela also became the interlocutor of the tourist trade, interacting with the leading names in the sector and promoting a study of travel agencies and tour operators aimed at understanding the dynamics, needs and expectations associated with such a unique city, translating into ever more targeted communications and offers.
At the end of 2002, the www.hellovenezia.com site was activated to provide information on ACTV public transport services and the main events in Venice.
In the meantime, the call center consolidated its position and slowly transformed into a sales tool.
Partly for this reason, in the spring of 2003, the Hello Venezia call center changed number, from a pay service, becoming a local rate number also reachable from abroad: (+39)-041-2424.
To communicate the new call center and site to the public, the Hello Venezia logo was redesigned and from then on incorporated references to both the telephone number and the web site.
The slogan accompanying the revised logo was "There is now someone in Venice to answer your wishes".
From then on, the Vela ticket offices became Hellovenezia ticket offices.
The message that Vela wanted to transmit through the new communications was that the HELLO VENEZIA brand image identified an information, bookings and sales system with an exclusive range of proposals, made to measure on the basis of a 360? analysis of the interests of the tourist market and the needs of the local community.
Vela thus appeared as an authoritative "signature" to this system, guaranteeing reliability, experience and professionalism.
The very image of Vela changed and its new logo identified it with the ACTV group.
On all communications produced by Venice Local Authority during the 2004 Carnival, the Hello Venezia call center appeared as the official Carnival call center, a title earned by the professionalism shown by the structure since it was set up.
The confidence of the leading city institution in the Hello Venezia call center was an important moment for Vela and recognition guaranteeing the quality of the service offered to citizens and visitors.
The company's exploration of the world of travel agencies and tour operators led to Vela participating with its own Hello Venezia stand in the following important tourist trade fairs: BIT 2004, TTI 2004, TTI 2005, TTI 2006.
In 2005 and 2006, Vela participated at BIT with the Hello Venezia brand as part of a stand keenly desired by the leading companies and institutions operating in synergy in the city at the service of residents and tourists and together forming the Venice System.
Again through its Hello Venezia brand image, Vela also began operating as an event organiser and its opportunity came during the summer of 2005 in collaboration with the Teatro Stabile del Veneto. For this event, which took place on one of the islands in the Venice lagoon, Vela played its natural role, organising the dedicated connections, logistics, promotions and ticketing.
This began a profitable collaboration with the Teatro Stabile del Veneto Carlo Goldoni for which Vela, through its Hellovenezia sales network, became the box office. The tourist trade market became ever more a target for Hellovenezia, which at first proposed itself as a "reference point" for Venice and today as the "single source for many services".
In its own privileged and sought-after advertising spaces managed by the Venetian company in its ticket offices, agencies and public transport landing stages, Vela was again confirmed as an important focus for the city's various companies and institutions.
In 2005, the Vela organisation was reinforced to provide organisational support for the structural growth.
A Marketing and Communications Service was thus set up.
Existing partnerships were developed and new collaborations were sought, linking the Hellovenezia brand to all initiatives worthy of attention in the city, whether institutional, cultural or sporting.
The new structure therefore aimed at developing both Vela's existing activities and those which might potentially be taken on.
In 2006, the Human Resources Service was set up, demonstrating not just the numerical growth of Vela, but above all that the greatest possible attention to and management of human resources are the only way to guarantee the quality of the services provided.
In 2006, Vela felt the need to improve the image of its own commercial brand name, Hello Venezia, creating a fresh, visible, elegant label, strongly linked with Venice... because Hello Venezia is Venice.
To reinforce the immediacy of the name, "Hello Venezia" was joined in a single word and became "Hellovenezia", reinforced by the payoff "The experience behind the network".
In June came presentation of the new logo resembling a fish and inspired by the shape of the plan of Venice, consulted by millions and millions of visitors and thus reinforcing identification of the brand with the city.
But the fish is also the "net" of connections and information and this net can spread out from its eye.
At the end of 2006, the various Vela administrative offices throughout the Venice area came together in a single head office at Tronchetto, together with the parent company. This made the work of the ACTV group more synergic and functional.
For Vela, without doubt one of the most intense years in terms of both the quantity and quality of the work underway.
In January, ACTV delegated Vela to handle group communications covering the entire company structure from definition of the marketing plan to IMOB, the new electronic ticketing system. This marked the beginning of a process initiated during the year with definition of the campaign for launch of the card replacement scheme and destined to continue in 2008 with implementation of the system.
In February, Hellovenezia attended BIT in Milan with a new commercial offer for tourist sector operators who reacted positively to the proposals.
The year 2007 also saw the achievement of another important objective... application of the new coordinated image to all Vela structures, visible in particular in the external decoration of all Hellovenezia ticket offices and aimed at making the brand recognisable to both local people and tourists.
In March, the new hellovenezia.com site was launched, totally renewed in graphics and contents. Together with the ticket offices and call center, it became one of Vela's sales and information channels.
The commercial partnership (exclusive for Venice) with Ticketone, leader in ticketing for major events in Italy, enabled Hellovenezia to become one of the leading reference points for purchasing events in and beyond the local area.
The marriage with the world of culture begun with the La Fenice Theatre and the Biennial was extended with a multi-year contract with the Teatro Stabile del Veneto Carlo Goldoni whose distribution and visibility was increased by Vela during the year.
The work carried out over the years contributed to winning Vela exclusive sales rights for the key event of 2007, the concert by Ennio Morricone in Piazza San Marco. On this occasion, Vela demonstrated the worth of its organisation, not just in terms of distribution, but also of organisation and promotion, supervising the salient phases of programming the two sold out evenings at first hand.
Finally, after years of debate and attempted mergers, the merger between Venice Card and Vela can be considered concluded, thus laying the foundations for planning and reorganisation of the product to be sold in 2008.