Tourism is the gold of Italy. The numbers say it

Never have so many tourists in Italy! 134 million arrivals in 2023, in a country of 60 million inhabitants. It means more than double, it means over 11 million per month if we spread it over 12 months. The Istat data referring to last year are clear: 2023 was the record year for tourism in Italy. The best ever, even looking at pre-pandemic. And with these numbers the next step is obvious: we need to invest in the country's locomotive, tourism, which represents 13% of the national GDP. City of art, mountains, sea, food and wine, culture. These are our raw materials, our economic wealth.

In 2019, before the stop dictated by Covid, Italy was the fifth most visited country in the world with 65 million foreign arrivals and the third in terms of number of overnight stays. A success. Yet, today the numbers are even better. In 2023 there were 134 million arrivals and 451 million presences. Compared to 2019, there are 3 million more arrivals and 14.5 million more presences. The ISTAT photograph tells us that the North-East is at the top of the preferences, with 177 million visitors, 39.2% of the national total. This is followed by the Center (24%) and then the North-West (17.7%). Looking at the Regions, the winner is Veneto (15.9% of national attendance). Second place for Trentino-Alto Adige (12.4%) and then Tuscany, Lombardy and Lazio (over 10%). In the South the most visited region is Campania, with 20 million attendees (4.5% of the national teams). Compared to 2019, the biggest jump in numbers was made by Lazio, Lombardy and Sicily. However, the numbers in Molise (-2%), Emilia-Romagna (-2.9%), Piedmont (-3.2%), Tuscany (-4.3%), Campania (-8) remain lower than pre-pandemic .7%), Basilicata (-15.1%) and Calabria (-18.3%). The division of Italy in two is interesting. In the Center and North, foreigners are the driving force. They represent 52.4% of customers, especially in the province of Bolzano (even 70.6%), in Veneto (almost 70%), Lazio and Lombardy (over 60%). In the South, however, and in Emilia-Romagna, more than two out of three tourists are Italian.

The record numbers push us to work on the quality of the offer, also, as many say, to avoid the boomerang of overtourism. In recent months, measures have been taken in various places to “stop” the onslaught of tourists (the entry ticket to Venice, the landing tax in Capri, maxi-ZTL in Florence and tourist taxes increase almost everywhere), but 134 million arrivals in a year ask to be managed and increased. We are faced with an “industry” that has 2.7 million employees (11% of the workforce), which brings 255 billion euros to the country (13% of the GDP). Italy is thus in seventh place in Europe in terms of the sector's impact on national GDP, ahead of France and Germany. Services are the Italian locomotive. The data has been saying this for some time (including those for the first quarter of 2024 with that GDP at +0.3% above all thanks to the tourism boom). The sector compensates for the contraction of large industry and small and medium-sized enterprises. Tourism is not just the hospitality industry, but also retail, transportation and more. And these are also activities that require a lot of manpower, therefore employment, therefore work.

Tourism has changed after Covid and a country with these numbers is naturally pushed to work on this. First of all, deseasonalize, to be a national and international tourism destination 365 days a year. We then need to expand the offer, also to repopulate the hospitality market after the inevitable hospitality “death” of the pandemic period. Investing in Italian tourism also means enriching and broadening the proposal. Not just cities of art and the most famous sea and mountains, but all the hidden villages, experiential tourism, the less touristy areas of the big cities but which visitors are looking for, food and wine. A long-range “industrial” vision of tourism would be needed. In short, recognize the greatest Italian resource and focus on that to grow.