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Foreign tourist numbers in Italy head towards new record

by Vincenzo Chierchia

Foreign tourism in Italy is heading toward a new record this year, with annual spending by foreigners approaching €40 billion, a report from the Bank of Italy shows.

The study will be presented today in Venice during the annual conference organised with the Ciset research center of the Cà Foscari University.

Between 2013 and 2015, the total moved from little more than €33 billion to €36.7 billion, and 2017 has begun with a further increase of around 1%, but estimates for the full year foresee that a new historical peak is within reach.

Last year, tourism generated €14.3 billion in monetary income. Overall the Bank of Italy did a census of 52.7 million foreign tourists who stayed overnight in Italy in 2016 and in January 2017 there was a further 8.7% increase in arrivals.

Overnight stays last year totaled 341 million, in January there was a further 9.1% increase. The most amount of spending - €5.7 billion - was done by Germans, followed by Americans (€4.5 billion) and the French (€3.6 billion). The spending of Germans and Americans is growing strongly (about 5%).

If we look at the overnight stays of foreigners, the Veneto region (Venice) stands out with 52.7 million, followed by Lombardy with 49.3 million and Lazio with 43.9 million. Lombardy surpassed Lazio for second place. Overall, between 2013 and last year the Bank of Italy noted an increase of about 20 million overnight stays.

The province with the greatest number of overnight stays by foreigners in 2016 was Rome, with 41.6 million, followed by Venice with 33.3 million, Milan with about 26.4 million, and Florence (24.8 million). Regarding spending, the top province remains Rome with €5.2 billion (it loses €1 billion however compared to 2015), compared to Venice with €3.8 billion, Milan (€3.3 billion), and Florence (€3.1 billion).

Analysis by Ciset highlighted that 82% of foreigners say they use the Internet to gather information, 58% book their lodging online, of which 57% opt for online agencies and other platforms, while 39% use the site or the email of the supplier of the services.

Going on holiday is the main motivation, while 12% move around for business reasons. Booking engines are used mainly by foreigners who are on their first visit to Italy, while those who have already stayed in the country often contact an accommodation provider directly, after choosing it on the Internet. The average per capita spending for lodging, regardless of the channel used, is around €52 a night. There is clearly a favorable underlying scenario that has been confirmed by the results of this first part of the year.

“This year the calendar gifted us a fortunate start of spring, with a series of weekends and long weekends that came in succession, starting from the Easter festivities, which seem to point toward a positive launch of the season,” said Giorgio Palmucci, president of Italian employers association Confindustria's hotel arm.

“The presence of foreigners has confirmed that it is on the ascent, the cities of art including Rome, Florence and Venice confirm their ability to attract, as does the Amalfi Coast, Sicily and Liguria,” he said. “All the ingredients are there for a 2017 in the pursuit of a recovery.”