So far, ten hotels in Assisi, central Italy, have signed up to the 'Fertility Room' campaign, with more expected to follow. The initiative was officially launched on Friday with the slogan 'Venite ad Assisi. Insieme!' (Come to Assisi. Together!)
Some of the hotels will offer reimbursements to guests who get pregnant during their stay, while others will offer a second stay free of charge.
All you have to do to claim the offer is show the baby's birth certificate to prove they were born nine months (give or take ten days) after the original stay.
“Giving birth to a child is an act of deep love, which should be encouraged despite the multitude of difficulties in life,” organizers said.
The aims behind the unique initiative, which is the brainchild of local tourism councillor Eugenio Guarducci, are to encourage travel to the historic region and stimulate debate about Italy's low fertility rate.
However, local authorities have distanced themselves from the project, with mayor Stefania Proietti telling local paper Assisi Oggi there was no official link to the city administration.
And Claudio Ricci, Umbria’s regional councillor and former mayor of Assisi, announced that the region would be investigating the campaign in order to assess whether it was “fitting for the public image of Assisi and the promotion of the region”.
Ricci said that the “atmosphere” of the “Fertility Room brand” appeared more suitable to French capital Paris or Italian seaside resort Rimini, but admitted that any controversy provoked was “useful for the promotion”.
He explained that he thought the campaign was “incongruous” with Assisi's image as a historical and cultural centre, and particularly as the birthplace of St Francis, the current pope's namesake.
Italy's fertility woes
Italy has the lowest birthrate in the European Union and one of the lowest in the world, with only eight babies born for every 1,000 residents in 2015, according to EU figures released in July. Births reached a record low last year.
A range of factors are thought to be behind the decline, including economic uncertainty and high unemployment among young adults in Italy.
Earlier this year, Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin launched ‘Fertility Day’, a day of talks and screenings to raise awareness about fertility issues.
However, there was huge backlash over the posters promoting the campaign – one of which featured a rotting banana skin and the slogan 'Male fertility is much more vulnerable than you think', and another showing a young woman clutching her stomach and holding an egg timer, with the slogan 'Beauty has no age. But fertility does.'
Lorenzin was forced to scrap the offending posters and start afresh. The new set of posters was also criticized, this time for apparent racism; a group of white friends illustrated ‘good habits’ which people were encouraged to pick up in order to protect their fertility, juxtaposed with an ethnically diverse group and the slogan ‘the bad companions to leave behind'.
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