SHARE
COPY LINK

TOURISM

Italy’s tourism industry braces for ‘worst revenue slump in over 20 years’

The Italian tourism sector is expecting a steep fall in visits this summer, and is concerned that the drop in revenue could become the worst ever recorded.

Italy's tourism industry braces for 'worst revenue slump in over 20 years'
Visitors return to Rome's Colosseum. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

The country, which welcomed over 60 million foreign tourists in 2018, according to the World Tourism Organization, is now expecting 56 million fewer overnight stays, according to a new survey from Florence's Centre for Tourism Studies (CTS).

That translates into a 3.2 billion euro ($3.6 billion) drop in turnover for the industry, representing the worst results since 1998, the survey found.
 
Nearly half of the drop in revenue will come from the hotel sector, found the study, which surveyed more than 2,100 entrepreneurs in the sector.
 
“A decrease was expected, but if it continues like this it will be the worst drop in the history of our tourism industry,” said Vittorio Messina, president of Assoturismo, Italy's tourism federation, which commissioned the survey.
 
“We have to make a plan for the revival of the sector which represents 13 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and our calling card abroad,” Messina said.
 
The Italian tourism sector was already reporting its “worst crisis in recent history” in early March as the initial outbreak prompted a flurry of travel cancellations.
 
After an almost three-month lockdown, Italy allowed European tourists to return on June 3rd, but tourism from outside the Schengen zone is still prohibited. No date has yet been announced for it to restart, though it is expected to be after June 30th.
 
And even though Italy is starting to re-allow travel, many flight routes have yet to resume, some 40 percent of hotels still haven't reopened, and many other countries including the US and UK currently have their own travel warnings in place.
 
Overseas tourists spent a record €40 billion in Italy in 2017, according to the most recent Banca d'Italia figures.
 
The numbers show that the majority of Italy's tourist revenues – 67 percent – are concentrated in just five regions: Lombardy, Lazio, Veneto, Tuscany and, more recently, the southern region of Campania.
 
The south continues to make less money from tourism than the centre and north, despite visitors tending to stay longer there.
 
This year, a lack of tourists is the very opposite of the usual problem: Italy's most established tourist destinations famously suffer from overcrowding, especially in the peak summer season. Many local residents' groups have long warned that the influx, however profitable, takes a considerable toll on their quality of life and jeopardizes the survival of Italy's heritage, the key to its appeal. 
 
Residents' groups and even some of those working in the travel industry say now is the time for change, with some Italian attractions saying they'll be doing things differently in future.
 
Italian tourism chiefs say they are now looking at ways to make the industry “greener and slower”.

“Post-Covid crisis, there will be an opportunity to tackle the issue of sustainability and a new way of proposing and experiencing tourism,” 

Palmucci predicts that the tourism industry will recover quickly, once unrestricted travel begins again, with the market getting back to where it was in 2019 “by 2022.”

He said he expects “a rapid recovery of international tourism from distant markets, especially in the States.”

However many tourism businesses warn that they might not be able to to hold out much longer, with small businesses in particular saying they're feeling the squeeze and have had little support from the government.

Some small accommodation business owners told The Local earlier in June that a government scheme meant to incentivise tourism could actually leave them out of pocket in the short term.

“We’ve had requests from guests wanting to use the 500 euros off your holiday scheme, but we’re expected to claim the money back through tax credits which could take a long time,” said one hotel owner in Umbria, who gave her name as Stefania. 

Bernabó Bocca, president of Italian hoteliers' association Federalberghi, called on the government to provide more assistance for the sector, telling the Senate in that “some of the measures taken so far go in the right direction, but with maddening slowness.”

“We need to increase resources to support tourism and speed up the time taken for measures to come into force,” he said. “otherwise companies won't make it.” 

A closed hotel in central Rome. File photo: AFP

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

MONEY

How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting Italy

If you're visiting Italy from outside the EU you risk running up a huge phone bill in roaming charges - but there are ways to keep your internet access while avoiding being hit by extra charges.

How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting Italy

Travelling without access to the internet is almost impossible these days. We use our phones for mapping applications, contacting the Airbnb, even scanning the QR code for the restaurant menu.

If you’re lucky enough to have a phone registered in an EU country then you don’t need to worry, thanks to the EU’s cap on charges for people travelling, but people visiting from non-EU countries – which of course now includes the UK – need to be careful with their phone use abroad.

First things first, if you are looking to avoid roaming charges, be sure to go into your settings and turn off “data roaming.” Do it right before your plane lands or your train arrives – you don’t want to risk the phone company in your home country starting the clock on ‘one day of roaming fees’ without knowing it.

READ ALSO: Ten ways to save money on your trip to Italy this summer

But these days travelling without internet access can be difficult and annoying, especially as a growing number of tourist attractions require booking in advance online, while restaurants often display their menus on a QR code.

So here are some techniques to keep the bills low.

Check your phone company’s roaming plan

Before leaving home, check to see what your phone plan offers for pre-paid roaming deals.

For Brits, if you have a phone plan with Three for example, you can ask about their “Go Roam” plan for add-on allowance. You can choose to pay monthly or as you go. Vodafone offers eight day and 15 day passes that are available for £1 a day.

For Americans, T-Mobile offers you to add an “international pass” which will charge you $5 per day. Verizon and AT&T’s roaming plans will charge you $10 per day. For AT&T, you are automatically opted into this as soon as your phone tries to access data abroad.

READ ALSO: Seven things to do in Italy in summer 2022

These all allow you to retain your normal phone number and plan.

Beware that these prices are only available if you sign up in advance, otherwise you will likely be facing a much bigger bill for using mobile data in Italy. 

Buy a pre-paid SIM card

However, if you are travelling for a longer period of time it might work out cheaper to turn off your phone data and buy a pre-paid SIM card in Italy.

In order to get a pre-paid SIM card, you will need your passport or proof of identity (drivers’ licences do not count).

READ ALSO: TRAVEL: Why now’s the best time to discover Italy’s secret lakes and mountains

Keep in mind that you will not be able to use your normal phone number with the new SIM card in, but will be able to access your internet enabled messaging services, like WhatsApp, Facebook and iMessage. Your phone will need to be ‘unlocked’ (ask your carrier about whether yours is) in order to put a new SIM card in.

Here are some of the plans you can choose from:

WindTre

WindTre, the result of a 2020 merger between the Italian company Wind and the UK network provider Three, currently offers a “Tourist Pass” SIM card for foreign nationals. For €24.99 (it’s sneakily marketed as €14.99, but read the small print and you’ll see you need to fork out an additional €10), you’ll have access to 20GB of data for up to 30 days.

The offer includes 100 minutes of calls within Italy plus an additional 100 minutes to 55 foreign countries listed on the WindTre website. Up to 13.7GB can be used for roaming within the EU. The card is automatically deactivated after 30 days, so there’s no need to worry about surprise charges after you return from your holiday. To get this SIM card, you can go into any WindTre store and request it.

A tourist protects herself from the sun with a paper umbrella as she walks at Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps in Rome.
A tourist protects herself from the sun with a paper umbrella as she walks at Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps in Rome.

Vodafone

Vodafone has had better deals in the past, but lately appears to have downgraded its plan for tourists, now called “Vodafone Holiday” (formerly “Dolce Vita”), to a paltry 2GB for €30. You get a total of 300 minutes of calls and 300 texts to Italian numbers or to your home country; EU roaming costs €3 per day.

Existing Vodafone customers can access the offer by paying €19 – the charge will be made to your Vodafone SIM within 72 hours of activating the deal. 

READ ALSO: MAP: The best Italian villages to visit this year

The Vodafone Holiday offer automatically renews every four weeks for €29 – in order to cancel you’ll need to call a toll-free number. The Vodafone website says that the €30 includes the first renewal, suggesting the payment will cover the first four weeks plus an additional four after that, but you’ll want to double check before buying. You’ll need to go to a store in person to get the card.

TIM

TIM is one of Italy’s longest-standing and most well-established network providers, having been founded in 1994 following a merger between several state-owned companies.

The “Tim Tourist” SIM card costs €20 for 15GB of data and 200 minutes of calls within Italy and to 58 foreign countries, and promises “no surprises” when it comes to charges.

You can use the full 15GB when roaming within the EU at no extra charge, and in the EU can use your minutes to call Italian numbers. The deal is non-renewable, so at the end of the 30 days you won’t be charged any additional fees.

READ ALSO: MAP: Which regions of Italy have the most Blue Flag beaches?

To access the offer, you can either buy it directly from a TIM store in Italy, or pre-order using an online form and pay with your bank card. Once you’ve done this, you’ll receive a PIN which you should be able to present at any TIM store on arrival in Italy (along with your ID) to collect your pre-paid card. The card won’t be activated until you pick it up.

Iliad

Iliad is the newest and one of the most competitive of the four major phone companies operating in Italy, and currently has an offer of 120GBP of €9.99 a month. For this reason, some travel blogs recommend Iliad as the best choice for foreigners – but unfortunately all of their plans appear to require an Italian tax ID, which rules it out as an option for tourists.

Contract

Though buying a pre-paid SIM card is a very useful option for visitors spending a decent amount of time in Italy, as mentioned above, there’s a significant different difference between buying a one-time pre-paid SIM versus a monthly plan that auto-renews.

Make sure you know which one you’re signing up for, and that if you choose a plan that will continue charging you after your vacation has ended, you remember to cancel it.

UK contracts

If you have a UK-registered mobile phone, check your plan carefully before travelling. Before Brexit, Brits benefited from the EU cap on roaming charges, but this no longer applies.

Some phone companies have announced the return of roaming charges, while others have not, or only apply roaming charges only on certain contracts.

In short, check before you set off and don’t assume that because you have never been charged extra before, you won’t be this time.

SHOW COMMENTS