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Italy’s beauty is worth €240 billion, 16.5% of GDP

by Lorenzo Zanini

Does Italy’s beauty have an economic value? According to a study from Fondazione Italia Patria della Bellezza in collaboration with Prometeia think tank, the answer is “yes.” In Italy the “beauty economy” (consumer goods, inventive technologies, creativity and tourism) is worth €240 billion, equivalent to 16.5% of Italy’s annual GDP.

It's a significant figure that could increase by an additional €130 billion if Italian firms achieve the performance of the European leaders, adds the report.

“This study for the first time transforms beauty into a concrete and measurable dimension, values its strength and defines it as a new economic category that can significantly contribute to the country’s GDP,” said Maurizio di Robilant, president of Fondazione Italia Patria della Bellezza, which commissioned the research.

Let’s take a look in detail: The sector of quality consumer goods, which includes categories such as fashion, food, and home and interior design, is worth €44 billion. The sector of inventive technologies (such as electronics, mechanics, and means of transport) produces wealth valued at €32 billion. At €61 billion, the creative industry (such as design, publishing, museums, and shows) makes a significant contribution. Finally, the tourism sector “produces” beauty-related revenue worth €39 billion.

Research shows that two influential factors also contribute to the economic value of beauty, and as they grow, they have a significant effect on the production sectors mentioned: public investments, with an estimated value of €60 billion, along with “altruism and patronage,” which, in the form of volunteer activities and donations, generate a value of €3 billion.

Using this data, study had a second phase to provide an idea of the potential growth of the “beauty economy,” comparing Italy with the most positive European experiences.

The study set out two growth scenarios. The first is a scenario of bold growth, in which all undertakings in the sector align with the best Italian firms; the second is a scenario of even greater growth, which we have defined as ambitious but still plausible, in which all Italian firms in every sector achieve the performance of the best firms in Europe.

The analysis led to an estimated potential growth of €52 billion in the first scenario to €130 billion in the second, with a total estimated value of between €292 and €370 billion: respectively 19.5% and 25.4% of GDP.

In terms of methodology, a benchmark country was initially identified for each sector, with an analysis of its strong points. Once the key actions that produced the success of the model country were identified, the compatibility of these measures with Italy's country system was assessed and possible actions were identified.

Going into detail on the individual sectors, with regard to quality consumer goods there is a potential for growth of €4.6 to €7.5 billion. Following the example of France, one of the fundamental actions to be taken is a significant development of e-commerce and a more widespread brand culture, both at the level of the individual undertaking and at the level of the country. According to the report, a national trading company should also be established to encourage access to foreign markets by small and medium-sized quality Italian firms.

The study shows that there is a very high margin of growth for technological goods (€20-€61 billion), due to a certain backwardness of the country in this area. More developed technical-scientific progress and a polytechnical culture, reorganization of the system of public research centers so that they are concentrated into specialized hubs of excellence, and a strengthening of fintech instruments and patent incentives, would bring Italy closer to the German model.

There is also ample possible growth for the creative industry, where actions inspired by the British model, such as the digitalization of creative trades, creation of multidisciplinary creativity hubs, and construction of a rating system to assess the ideas and business plans of young businesses, would lead the sector to growth of between €15 and €42 billion.

Finally, tourism plays a key role in Italy’s growth. Promotion of Italy’s hidden beauties by developing tourism paths to lesser-known destinations, strengthening the country’s brand through storytelling, and identification of appealing events that can enhance the country’s historic and natural heritage are some of the elements that would allow Italy’s sales revenues to grow by another €20 billion.

“Improved education, brand culture, and more technology. These are the cornerstones revealed by the research,” added Alessandra Lanza, Partner at Prometeia, Manager for Industrial and Local Strategies, who heads the research project. “Based on these elements, the beauty of our country can truly transform from a historic heritage to an engine for the future.”

If we are talking about beauty, the distance between past and future perhaps isn’t so far.