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Americans or Germans - which nationalities visit Italy the most?

The Local Italy
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Americans or Germans - which nationalities visit Italy the most?
Tourists at Rome's Trevi Fountain on August 21st, 2023. Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP.

International tourism was even more important to Italy’s economy this summer, with Italian families travelling less due to soaring costs. But which nationalities visit - and spend - the most?

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US travellers are back in force in Italy this year, as visitors who have put their holidays on hold for the past three years are finally making the trip.

"Americans are travelling again in a big way, the dollar is strong, and they have plenty of liquidity," Bernabò Bocca, president of the Federalberghi hotels association, told journalists, joking in one interview that Italy had been "saved by the Americans." 

The bump in US tourists is all the more important as initial reports suggest domestic tourism in Italy fell this summer due to soaring costs and stagnant wages - though the wealth they bring isn't necessarily shared evenly across the country.

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"Just because Rome is full doesn't mean you can say tourism is booming," Bocca pointed out.

"80 percent of Americans come to us for the first time and so obviously focus their attention on Rome, Florence and Venice."

Tourists on a ferry on Lake Maggiore on August 22, 2023. Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP.

It isn't just Americans, though, who drive Italy's foreign tourism sector; the majority of Italy's foreign tourists (77 percent in 2021) come from within the EU, with Germany leading the pack.

Germans are the biggest spenders overall

German visitors accounted for 18.5 percent of foreign tourist spending in Italy in 2022, making Germans the biggest contributors to the country's coffers, according to a recent Bank of Italy report.

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German tourists spent a total of 8.2 billion euros in Italy last year - a 114.8 percent increase on their 2021 spending. 

READ ALSO: Nine alternative places to visit in Italy in 2023

Americans, meanwhile, came in second place, contributing 10.6 percent of the total with 4.7 billion euros; a whopping 255 percent hike on the amount spent in 2021.

Such sharp increases reflect the rapid acceleration in foreign travel that took place between 2021 and 2022 as Covid restrictions were lifted and international tourism resumed.

Tourists sunbathe Sicily's Isola dei Conigli (Rabbit Island). Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP.

Germans make up the largest share of foreign visitors

The number of German tourists who visited Italy in 2021 - the most recent year for which official statistics are available - was 8.9 million, according to Italian government figures

Italy's Germany tourist numbers fell by more than half from 12.4 million in 2019 to 5.3 million in 2020 as the pandemic hit; so its numbers were seeing a slow but steady recovery as of 2021.

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In the years leading up to and during the pandemic, Germany has consistently supplied the highest number of tourists to Italy of any foreign country.

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The US is still playing catch-up from the pandemic

Pre-pandemic, the US came second only to Germany in terms of the number of foreign tourists visiting Italy annually.

Over 6 million Americans travelled on holiday to Italy in 2019; around half the number of German tourists, and the second highest number in total, with France coming in third with 4.7 million.

Tourists walk across St. Mark's square in Venice on July 31st, 2023. Photo by ANDREA PATTARO / AFP.

That number plummeted to just over 407,000 American tourists visiting Italy in 2020. In 2021, the number was just under 1.3 million.

That relegates the US to fourth place as of 2021, after France (2.5 million) and Switzerland (2.2 million).

Visitors from Germany made up around 33 percent of all foreign tourists coming to Italy in 2021, according to official data; while US visitors made up 4.8 percent.

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A US rebound in 2023?

While it's still too early to know whether the US will reclaim the second spot in 2023, the signs look good: in a widely-cited survey made at the end of last year, 75 percent of Americans who said they planned to go on holiday to Europe this summer listed Italy as their number one destination.

"At the end of July we recorded a traditional, massive US presence," Giuseppe Guida, mayor of the popular tourist town of Positano on the Amalfi Coast, told reporters.

"From April 1st to the end of July, 90 percent of the tourists in our facilities were foreigners, said Amalfi mayor Daniele Milano, adding that "the largest portion of this 90 percent is represented by Americans."

Holidaymakers sunbathe on the Amalfi coast in southern Italy. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP.

Correction: The original version of this article said that Germans spent 8.2 million euros and Americans 4.7 million euros in 2022; the article was updated on September 6th to reflect the true figures of 8.2 billion euros and 4.7 billion euros.

By Elaine Allaby and Clare Speak

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Kermit Lovelace 2023/09/05 22:25
This article says that German tourists spent a total of €8.2 million in 2022, a 114.8% increase over 2021. So this means that they spent around €3.9M in 2021. You also say that, in 2021, 8.9 million German tourists visited Italy. So each German tourist spent €0.44? Also, the total spending from foreign tourist in Italy was €21 billion ( and 42.3 billion in 2022 according to Statistica.com). But the article says that Germany made up 18.5% of the total foreign tourist spending. I'm confused.

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