Italy ready for bumper tourism year

Tourism in Italy this year is set to smash the record levels set before the coronavirus pandemic, new data showed, putting the sector’s recovery ahead of pace in Europe as a whole.

Provisional data from the start of the year shows a dramatic improvement in the sector compared to the same period a year earlier, Sandro Cruciani from Italy’s National Statistics Institute (ISTAT) told the Italian parliament Wednesday.

Cruciani told the Chamber of Deputies that the number of overnight stays by tourists in January and February was up more than 45 percent compared to same period a year ago, with a larger increase in foreign tourists (more than 70 percent) than domestic travelers (29 percent).

“If the data for the coming months confirms this trend, it will be possible to see a full recovery and even to exceed pre-pandemic levels in 2023,” Cruciani said.

The last full year before the pandemic, 2019, was a record year for Italian tourism. The prediction that 2023 will overtake 2019 “must push us to do more and more, intervening to favor policies of seasonal adjustment and overcome the phenomenon of over-tourism,” said Daniela Santanche, Italy’s minister for tourism, after Cruciani’s speech.

Tourism represents a major element of the Italian economy, accounting for around 13 percent of its gross domestic product in 2019. The country was Europe’s third leading tourism market that year, behind only France and Spain in total tourism arrivals.

The crash of the tourism sector due to the pandemic contributed to a 9.04 percent contraction of the Italian economy in 2020, the year that bore the greatest brunt of COVID-19. The sector then began a slow recovery in 2021, ISTAT said, followed by a large increase so far in 2023.

However, the tourism sector in the rest of Europe is recovering more slowly. A report from the European Travel Commission (ETC) shows international tourist arrivals in Europe as a whole were around 18 percent below the 2019 level through this year as a fourth of destinations covered by the ETC report recorded arrivals more than 10 percent below 2019 levels.

The ETC says the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which began in February 2022, “continues to hinder travel sector recovery in Northern and Eastern European destinations.” ■

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