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TOURISM

MAP: Which parts of Italy will get the most tourism this summer?

Italy’s tourism sector is on its way to post-pandemic recovery. But how many visitors will the country get this summer - and where are they going? Here’s a look at the data.

Italian beach, Lampedusa
The beach is going to be Italians’ favourite holiday destination in 2022. Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

The Covid-19 pandemic has literally battered the Italian tourism sector. In 2019, before the virus hit, some 96 million international tourists visited the country and tourism alone accounted for 13 percent of national GDP.

All that, of course, came to an abrupt halt in early 2020, when the country lost a staggering 120.6 billion euros because of travel restrictions and an estimated 337,000 people were put out of work.

Italian tourism recovered slightly in 2021, but visitor numbers were still far below the norm as many international travel requirements remained in place for much of the year. 

So far, 2022 seems to have brought about a much-awaited change in trend, with the end of nearly all Covid-related measures and the return of international visitors putting a smile back on the faces of many business owners and tourism workers. 

“2022 is going to be the year of our resurgence,” Italy’s tourism minister Massimo Garavaglia had told Corriere della Sera in April. The data gathered by market research institute Demoskopika seem to prove him right. 

Over 92 million people – both residents and international arrivals – are expected to travel to an Italian destination over the course of 2022, marking a 43 percent increase on last year.

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

Italy, Lake Garda

Lake Garda is one of the most sought-after Italian destinations and is especially popular among international holidaymakers. Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP

Tourism this year is expected to be worth around 26 billion euros in tax contributions to state coffers. If confirmed, this would represent a 11.8 percent rise compared to 2021.

It nearly goes without saying that not all Italian regions will benefit equally, as both local and foreign holidaymakers will be spread unevenly across the stivale.

According to Demoskopika, the five most visited regions by total number of arrivals will be Veneto (15.2 million arrivals), Trentino-Alto Adige (11.3 m), Lombardy (10.1 m), Emilia-Romagna (9.8 m) and Tuscany (9.3 m).

Tourism to these areas alone is expected to generate a total of 16.5 billion euros, equal to around 62 percent of Italy’s prospective tourism revenue. 

Conversely, Umbria, Abruzzo, Calabria, Aosta Valley and Basilicata will be the five least visited regions, attracting just about 6.5 million visitors between them.

But, beyond regional differences, what are the single most sought-after Italian destinations?

Data collected by private research institute Zucchetti show that the three most popular holiday spots across the country are Lake Garda, Emilia-Romagna’s Adriatic Riviera and Puglia’s Salento peninsula.

Veneto’s coastline and Tuscany’s ‘Etruscan Coast’ beaches follow in fourth and fifth place respectively.

Interestingly, Lake Garda is the only top-five tourist destination to register more international bookings than national ones, with foreign visitors (mainly German, Dutch and American) making up about 84 percent of the tourism demand in the area.

Emilia-Romagna’s Riviera and the Salento area are also expected to welcome large numbers of foreign visitors, albeit in far smaller figures compared to Lake Garda (28 and 20 percent of the local demand respectively). 

Aside from seaside and lakeside destinations, major art cities are the next most popular vacation spot among stranieri.

According to Roberta Garibaldi, CEO of ENIT (Italian National Tourist Board), “art cities have suffered a lot over the past couple of years” but the data for the upcoming summer are “promising”.

Venice, Rialto bridge

Venice will be one of the most visited Italian art cities as it is expected to welcome 5.3 million foreign tourists. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Rome will lead the pack as it is set to receive 5.4 million foreign visitors (mostly from the US, UK and Spain), thus marking a whopping 239-percent increase on last year and contributing to 10.4 percent of Italy’s total international tourism. 

Venice will follow closely with a total of 5.3 million foreign tourists (23 percent of them will travel from Germany). 

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

Finally, Milan and Florence will sit in third and fourth place respectively, with the former set to welcome 2.8 million foreign nationals and the latter expected to receive 2.6 million.

But, art cities won’t be a hot commodity among foreign tourists alone as 18 percent of Italians are planning to spend the holidays in a città d’arte.

As for other popular holiday spots, Italians’ favourite destination will once again be the beach, with seaside locations expected to welcome 57 percent of local holidaymakers.

Nearly one in four (23 percent) will instead opt for a ‘holiday in nature’, travelling to the mountains, countryside or lakes.

Regardless of the chosen destination, it will be a very ‘patriotic’ summer for many Italians as, of the 30 million residents (equivalent to 51 percent of the national population) who are planning to go on holiday in the coming months, nine in 10 will stay in the country.

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VENICE

EXPLAINED: Why Venice has delayed its ‘tourist tax’ – again

After the city of Venice announced yet another delay to its long-discussed plan to impose an entry fee, we look at why the project has run aground and what this means for visitors in 2023.

EXPLAINED: Why Venice has delayed its ‘tourist tax’ - again

For an island surrounded by shoals and shallow waters, it seems oddly fitting that Venice’s long-discussed ‘tourist tax’ system remains hopelessly stranded. 

The idea to impose an entry fee on all day-trippers, intended to regulate the number of visitors and supposedly solve the city’s overcrowding problems, was first mooted in 2019.

OPINION: Why more of Italy’s top destinations must limit tourist numbers

It has been repeatedly delayed – first after historic floods, and then amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

All the pieces seemed to have finally fallen into place earlier this year, and Venice was expected to get its much-touted ‘tourist tax’ system up and running by January 16th, 2023. 

However, to the surprise of no-one who’s even remotely familiar with the project’s troubled history, the city has now announced another delay – meaning the entry-fee saga will now continue well into the new year.

Why all the delays?

While Venice’s comune (town hall) vaguely attributed the latest deferral to the need to “change and improve” the project, a number of specific longstanding issues seem to have bogged down the city’s plans once more.

Confusion still lingers over who exactly will be exempted from paying the entry fee (contributo d’accesso), which will range from three to ten euros based on the day and time of the year. 

A gondola right in front of Venice's Doge Palace

Under Venice’s new tourism regulation system, day-trippers will have to pay an entry fee of three to ten euros to access the city centre. Photo by Laurent EMMANUEL / AFP

While tourists staying in the city overnight, residents, second-home owners and those studying or working in Venice have long been identified as exempt categories, local authorities have never quite clarified what their plans were in relation to people living in other Veneto provinces. 

READ ALSO: How will Venice’s tourist tax affect second-home owners? 

And, according to the latest Italian media reports, a squabble between Venice’s administration and regional authorities over the status of Veneto residents – the region is reportedly pushing for a full exemption, which Venice seems to oppose for now – may have been the main reason behind the latest stand-off. 

But a clearer definition of exemptions isn’t the only outstanding item in the city’s to-do list, not by a long shot. 

The administration’s failure to reach an agreement with local transport operators and port authorities over the enforcement of the new rules has largely contributed to the latest delay, and so have issues related to the planned online booking platform.

In particular, the comune pledged earlier this year that the website allowing day-trippers to book and pay for their visit to the city would be ready by the end of 2022 – but with less than a month to go until the new year there’s no sign of it.

READ ALSO: Moving to Italy: How much does it really cost to live in Venice?

Tourist sitting in a cafè by Rialto Bridge in Venice

Due to a number of structural issues, the introduction of Venice’s entry fee system is now expected to happen over the course of next year’s summer. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

It is perhaps telling in this sense that the city is still in the process of asking residents for comments and suggestions on the entry fee plan: the website created to collect feedback on the project went live on Tuesday, December 6th and will remain available until January 7th.

So when might visitors have to pay an entry fee?

Any changes made to the project now will have to be approved by the city’s council (Consiglio Comunale), after which it’ll take months – perhaps as many as six – to get the system ready to go. 

This means that, even if the council somehow managed to approve the new plan by the end of the year, the project’s trial stages could only start next summer at the earliest, with the local Feast of the Redeemer (Festa del Redentore) on July 15th potentially being the first real test for the system. 

But, given the project’s history, we doubt many people will bank on it.

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