Italy’s tourism industry reports €120 billion loss in 2020

Italy lost a total of €120.6 billion over the course of 2020 due to the pandemic and restrictions on travel and tourism, the World Travel & Tourism Council has revealed.  

Tourism in Italy
Photo: Miguel Medina&AFP

The loss equates to a 51 percent decrease in tourism’s contribution to Italy’s gross domestic product (GDP). 

Only 25.5 million foreign visitors spent at least one night in Italy last year, in comparison to 65 million in 2019 – a fall of more than 60 percent.

The lucrative sector accounted for up to 14 percent of Italy’s GDP before the pandemic hit.

READ ALSO: How Italy’s ‘Covid-free islands’ vaccine plan hopes to save summer travel

The latest statistics released by the WTTC in the annual Economic Impact Report (EIR), suggest that a total of 337,000 people working in the travel and tourism industries in Italy have been left unemployed.

Nearly 100,000 companies in Italy’s tourism sector are at risk of bankruptcy due to the travel restrictions in place, according to research institute Demoskopika.

Gloria Guevara, President & CEO of the WTTC told “The situation could have been far worse if it were not for the government’s Cassa Integrazione Ordinaria scheme, which supported up to 80 percent of a worker’s salary and kept many people in their jobs whilst the Travel & Tourism sector continued to suffer”.

Photo: Vincenzo PINTO/AFP

The report also showed that domestic visitor spending had decreased by 49.6 percent, due to travel restrictions within the country, while international spending was down by 62 percent.

 “Another year of terrible losses can be avoided if the government supports the swift resumption of international travel, which will be vital to powering the turnaround of the Italian economy,” Guevara added.

 Based on the data, Guevara expects that the travel and tourism industry could recover this year, saying its contribution to GDP could increase by 48.5 percent if international travel resumes by June 2021.

READ ALSO: Is Italy’s crisis-hit economy set to improve in the coming months?

While Italy’s government on Friday set out a roadmap for some business reopenings, it has not yet given a firm date for restarting holiday travel in summer.

Under current restrictions, people living in Italy are currently prohibited from travelling between regions or towns for non-essential reasons, making even domestic tourism impossible.

Also on Friday, Italy’s state-run railway began operating the first “Covid-free” high-speed train service, which is among a string of initiatives aimed at allowing tourism to restart this summer.

Italy’s holiday islands are pushing for all residents to be vaccinated as a priority, Italian media reported on Monday.

Italian airline Alitalia last year launched Covid-tested flights on selected domestic and international flights.

While some travel restrictions still apply, US passengers are allowed to avoid spending 14 days in isolation if they travel on special flights from New York or Atlanta to Rome.

The EU’s Digital Green Certificates, due to be released in June, could help this to become a reality however Italy has not yet confirmed it will be taking part in the scheme.

The proposed Digital Green Certificates will have information on whether a traveller has been vaccinated or not, if they have received a negative test result, or if they have recovered from Covid-19, allowing them to travel throughout the bloc more easily, the European Commission website states.

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Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

As the infection rate rises sharply across the country, Italian virologists are calling for concerts and festivals to be rescheduled.

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

Italy has seen a large increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent days, so much so that a number of virologists across the country are now urging the government to postpone major live events in a bid to curb infections. 

According to a new report by Italy’s independent health watchdog, the Gimbe Foundation, 595,349 new cases were recorded in the week from June 29th to July 5th; a worrying 55 percent increase on the previous week. 

In the same time span, the country also registered a 32.8 percent rise in the number of hospitalised patients, which went from 6,035 to 8,003.  

The latest Covid wave, which is being driven by the highly contagious Omicron 5 variant, is a “real cause for concern”, especially in terms of a “potential patient overload”, said Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Gimbe Foundation. 

As Italian cities prepare to host a packed calendar of concerts and festivals this summer, health experts are questioning whether such events should actually take place given the high risk of transmission associated with mass gatherings.

READ ALSO: What tourists in Italy need to know if they get Covid-19

“Rescheduling these types of events would be the best thing to do right now,” said Massimo Ciccozzi, Director of Epidemiology at Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome. 

The summer wave is expected to peak in mid-July but, Ciccozzi warns, the upcoming live events might “delay [the peak] until the end of July or even beyond” and extend the infection curve.

Antonello Maruotti, Professor of Statistics at LUMSA University of Rome, recently shared Ciccozzi’s concerns, saying that live events as big as Maneskin’s scheduled Rome concert are “definitely not a good idea”. 

The Italian rock band are slated to perform at the Circus Maximus on Saturday, July 9th but the expected turnout – over 70,000 fans are set to attend the event – has raised objections from an array of Italian doctors, with some warning that the concert might cause as many as 20,000 new cases.

If it were to materialise, the prospected scenario would significantly aggravate Lazio’s present medical predicament as there are currently over 186,000 Covid cases in the region (nearly 800 patients are receiving treatment in local hospitals). 

Italian rock band Maneskin performing in Turin

Italian rock band Maneskin are expected to perform at the Circus Maximus in Rome on Saturday, July 9th. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

But, despite pleas to postpone the event, it is likely that Maneskin’s concert will take place as scheduled.

Alessandro Onorato, Rome’s Tourism Councillor, said that rescheduling is “out of question” and that “all recommendations from the local medical authorities will be adopted” with the help of the event’s organisers and staff on the ground.

At the time of writing, there is also no indication that the Italian government will consider postponing other major live events scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, though the situation is evolving rapidly and a U-turn on previous dispositions can’t be ruled out.

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

On this note, it is worth mentioning that Italy has now scrapped all of its former Covid measures except the requirement to wear FFP2 face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings.

The use of face coverings is, however, still recommended in all crowded areas, including outdoors – exactly the point that leading Italian doctors are stressing in the hope that live events will not lead to large-scale infection.

Antonio Magi, President of Rome’s OMCEO (College of Doctors, Surgeons and Dentists), said: “Our advice is to wear FFP2 masks […] in high-risk situations.”

“I hope that young people will heed our recommendations and think about the health risks that their parents or grandparents might be exposed to after the event [they attend].”