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In the black year of tourism, Italy remains the most coveted in Europe
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Reference: La Repubblica, 15 May 2020

Complex numbers for a sector that is among the driving forces of Italy. But also certificates of interest and affection from abroad. On the eve of the reopening, the Agency photographs what has been and what is to be. It will be different holidays, but there will still be.

"If you ask me if this summer holidays will take place, I say yes, this summer holidays will be taken: they will be different, we will have to observe the measures that are prescribed for all the activities (the spacing, in some cases the masks and the sanitization, all measures that we now know very well). Holidays will be different, but they can be done". This is how the Minister of Tourism, Dario Franceschini, recently said, recalling that in this moment of emergency it is not only politics to decide, because it must "listen to the indications of the Scientific Technical Committee, which must take into consideration the prevention of contagion and avoid the return of the epidemiological risk".

Apparently, we're going to have the long-awaited holidays, even if the bonuses and tax discounts haven't convinced everyone. Almost certainly, we will have to "be satisfied" with local tourism - one of the many definitions we have learned to live with in these endless weeks. But with the beautiful country at our disposal, it could have been much worst.

There are still many uncertainties, but some small positive signals are coming from too far away. Reopening of beaches, closer and closer to us, even the restoration of the high-speed train from Milan to Paris, even if for a few elected ones. There are signs from different regions that, in the next two to three weeks, somehow the bathing season will start. The 2020 blue flags that have photographed growing excellence on the shores of Italy, and the common desire to restart.

The bi-weekly bulletin of the National Tourist Board takes perfect pictures of this double trend. On one side, the losses of this first glimpse of 2020, which unfortunately will be consolidated; on the other flashes of light at the end of the tunnel. And the very strong desire to guarantee a summer of holiday and tourism to users and operators in the sector.

On the downside, the study reconfirms the current state of affairs in all its dramatic aspects. The drop in arrivals from abroad is estimated to be between 44 and 72 percent less than the 2019 volumes: in numbers, we are talking about a reduction of between 28 and 46 million people, with a base scenario of minus 31 million. The loss in revenue results in a value of 21 billion less. On the internal market front, we are in a range of 25-45%, or 13-23 million fewer guests: base projection -> 16 million fewer arrivals, a reduction of 46 million compared to last year.

Needless to say, that on the foreign airport arrivals side, the situation does not change. Between January and April, 64.8 per cent fewer international visitors landed at Italian airports and - due to the early start of the lockdown - the share is well above that of France (-54.3 per cent) and Spain (-54.5 per cent).

All this means that Italy will not be able to recover its tourism movement for 2-3 years. According to the estimates provided by the international agency, Italian tourism will not recover the 2019 figures before 2023, with national arrivals leading the way (+9 per cent compared to 4 years earlier) and international arrivals substantially on par.

The picture of carnage is offset by the observations that photograph the image of Italy in the world. Despite the covid-19 and the shutdown, researches on tourism and holidays are very intensive on socials. The peninsula, in the period March 18 to April 20 has reached 617.4 thousand mentions (including 32.6 thousand on the web and 584.8 thousand on social media), generating 186 million interactions. All this amounts - estimates Enit - to a promotional campaign of 331 million euros. The proportion of the tourism topic in the mentions, has grown in percentage incidence in the last weeks and the reactions of the last week show the prevalence of approval (20,800); empathic sadness (3,700), affection (1,400) and astonishment (1,300). If it is true that the borders are not open, and it is not known when they will reopen, it is not even certain that the status quo will remain unchanged for months or years.

"We are asking Europe to adopt common safety rules that will allow the reopening of European tourism. Under the same rules, a citizen can travel without risk to himself or others. It is important that they are European rules and not bilateral agreements” said Minister Franceschini, in the following briefing to the Chamber. In June, Italy recorded the highest drop in airport bookings compared to competing neighboring countries, with 68.5% less than in 2019, compared to 63.7% less in France and 66.3% less in Spain; but in absolute terms, Italy is still ahead, with 407 thousand, compared to 403 thousand and 358 thousand respectively. Confirming not exactly zero interest, the average price of the rooms sold by the agencies on the network, after a general decline between February and March, is recovering throughout Italy, particularly in the Centre-South, but also in the North, where February is normally a 'rich' month due to the high snow season. There are comforting signs, despite what is happening in these days, about the birth of intra-EU channels that provide partial reopenings, and that exclude, at the moment, Italy.

In a worldwide scenario where tourism will fall, according to estimates by the World Tourism Organization, between 60% and 80%, it is useful, as far as possible, to know that Europe is uniformly an area where tourism employs 12% of the workforce and produces over 400 billion in revenue, making it the fourth largest export category. The EU has already activated some instruments to support operators. Others are beginning to arrive at national and local level, not counting the contribution for families. As long as we all follow the rules of social distancing until the last second before the arrival of a reliable vaccine, we will be able to take a holiday. Perhaps, the pleasure of the small luxury found will make up for the deficit of extremism and distant worlds to which many had become accustomed. And the slow fruition of the Italian heritage - incomparable - but also of the beaches themselves - will do the rest.

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