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Italy braces for Easter cancellations as food and travel costs soar

The rising cost of fuel, food and accommodation means this year’s Easter holidays won't be the return to normality many were expecting, Italy's consumer groups warn.

Italy braces for Easter cancellations as food and travel costs soar
The soaring cost of living has quashed hopes of a revival for Italy’s hospitality industry this spring. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

Until recently, most people in Italy were hopeful, even confident, that the 2022 Easter holidays would mark the beginning of a return to normality and a much-awaited restart of the pre-pandemic way of life – from travel to family celebrations.

But judging from the latest reports from industry and consumer groups, this Easter will instead be marked by eye-watering price hikes for consumers and further financial woes for hospitality businesses.

Household budgets are being squeezed further this spring as prices rise amid the war in Ukraine and the ongoing impact of the pandemic.

Italian consumer rights group Assoutenti found recent double-figure price increases for goods such as butter, oil, flour, vegetables, and pasta in the shops mean making a home-cooked Easter dinner will cost an average of six percent more than last year, Ansa reports.

Furthermore, 76 percent of consumers have noticed a significant increase in food prices, with 48 percent already trying to slash their supermarket expenses by switching to cheaper options in their carts, according to findings from polling company Radar SWG.

The situation isn’t looking much better for those heading to a restaurant for their Easter lunch. SWG found 66 percent have cut their budgets for eating out, while menu prices are forecast to be 5 percent higher compared to last year. 

READ ALSO: War and energy prices: Why the cost of pasta is rising in Italy

In some parts of the country the cost of the bill for a family meal out is set to increase by 10 percent, warned Italy’s National Artisans Union (Confederazione Nazionale dell’Artigianato), which represents craftspeople and small business owners.

If soaring restaurant prices seem to have already put many off eating out, sky-high fuel prices are expected to force many people to remain at home over the holidays. 

With petrol being up by an average 12.2 percent and diesel being a whopping 22.7 percent dearer than last Easter, one in three have already decided against travelling over the holidays.

The Italian tourism federation (Federazione Italiana del Turismo) said the government’s ’30 cents per litre’ fuel discount hasn’t produced the expected results.

The Federation’s president, Vittorio Messina, told La Repubblica: “Expectations for springtime tourism were very high. However, the recent increase in fuel prices has a bearing on the overall cost of travelling, and Italians, who have already been hit hard by the hike on household bills, have naturally decided to resize their budgets.”

READ ALSO: Will tourism in Italy return to pre-pandemic levels this year?

Such budget cuts are expected to place further strain on the ailing Italian hospitality industry.

Hotel bookings across the country are presently down by 30 percent compared to last year, and big cities are once again being hit the hardest, tourism industry groups warned

In Rome alone, the number of bookings over Easter is nearly half of what it was in 2019 and a whopping 250 hotels are currently closed in the city

Milan doesn’t fare any better. “Out of 30,000 available hotel rooms, only 6,000 are currently booked,” said the president of Italian hoteliers’ association Federalberghi, Maurizio Nano.

“That is roughly 20 percent. This time two years ago, bookings were around 75 percent of the overall capacity.”

Hundreds of hotels in Rome have not reopened following closures during the pandemic. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

The ongoing war in Ukraine has considerably aggravated the situation. “From the start of the war, we’ve had plenty of cancellations,” said Giuseppe Roscioli, from Federalberghi Roma e Lazio.

Unfortunately, Federalberghi warned, the conflict has not only curbed tourism from Russia and Ukraine but has also prompted travellers from Northern and Eastern Europe to change their plans. Many American nationals have also cancelled bookings since the start of the war.

If a drop in consumer spending has already delivered a blow to hotel managers, increased costs are threatening to put the industry on its knees. 

Soaring gas and electricity bill not only mean households have less disposable income, but rising costs have forced many hoteliers to put up their prices.

READ ALSO: Rising energy prices: How to save money on your bills in Italy

So much so that, according to the latest data from Italian statistics bureau Istat, staying in a hotel or B&B is on average 8.4 percent more expensive than it was last year.

Rising accommodation prices might now make Easter travel inaccessible to many. According to a study by market research institute Demoskopica, travel will not be on the cards for 13 percent of Italian families this summer due to a worsening of their financial situation.

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AMERICANS IN ITALY

US citizens in Italy now allowed to renew passports online

The US Department of State has announced a new scheme enabling Americans living in Italy to pay to renew their passports online.

US citizens in Italy now allowed to renew passports online

The US State Department’s ‘online payment program’ allows adult Americans in Italy to pay to renew their passport over the internet, according to a recent announcement published on the website of the US embassy to Italy.

The scheme means US citizens can now apply to renew their passport without having to make an in-person appointment at the US embassy or a general consulate in Italy, as was previously the case.

Applicants can pay the $130 renewal fee via the US government’s secure payment site and will then need to post their application documents to the embassy or a consulate (a tracked courier service is highly recommended).

Once the new passport is ready, they can opt to collect the travel document in person or receive it via courier, completing the entire process remotely.

The announcement states that the service, which opened on May 22nd, is open to US citizens over the age of 16 who are officially resident in Italy or the Republic of San Marino – with some restrictions.

To be eligible for the online payment service, applicants must have been at least 16 years old when their most recent passport was issued, and the passport should have been issued no more than 15 years ago and should have a 10-year validity period.

The applicant must have a valid Italian mailing address and be able to send their undamaged passport to the US embassy or one of the general consulates in Florence, Milan or Naples.

Parents can not use the service when applying for new passports for their minor children under the age of 16, but must continue to apply in person.

16 and 17-year-old applicants require parental consent and must make an appointment to apply in person, though they can still make the payment online.

The announcement highlights that the service is available only for the renewal of passport books, and not passport cards.

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