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Letter from... Milan

27 July 2020

This year’s Italian summer calls for proximity tourism

By Paola Lazzarotto, Supervisor, SEC Newgate Milan

It’s less than a week to go to the start of August, traditionally the month in Italy dedicated to holidays and tourism. Given the unprecedented impact COVID-19 has had on one of the country’s most economically important sectors, worth 6% of Italy’s GDP and 15% with the inclusion of indirect revenues, we are now seeing what changes can be made to support the holiday season during these unusual times.

The lockdown erased the spring holiday market, burning around €10bn for Italy’s hospitality industry, the largest in Europe. Since its easing, all operators, trade associations and authorities have been taking significant steps and working extra hours to help revitalise the demand which had initially been slow in May and June. 

Whilst the fear of contagion and the desire to stay close to home may have prevented international visitors coming, a strong sense of patriotism has paradoxically created an opportunity to relaunch Italian tourism to the home market, encouraging Italians to rediscover the gems within their own country. Expectations have changed, and while traditionally summer holidays were planned and managed several months in advance of the peak season, most bookings are now left to the last-minute.

Tourists have also turned from being sun seekers to safety seekers. In July, the Revenue Management Team panel saw 79% of occupation rate in mountain destinations versus an occupancy ratio of 61% at the seaside. This trend has also continued in August and September with mountain locations hitting a 69% and 21% rate of reservations in the two months respectively while seaside destinations have seen 49% and 19% occupation rates. 

The mantra for this season has been that of relaxation and peace rather than fun, as seen in the boost for the second home sector. A significant share of the nearly 7 million homes in Italy that are traditionally let to summer tourist have this year been unavailable as they’ve been used by their owners. There has also been a shift in the type of places visitors have been looking to stay in, with a preference for farms or guest houses, rather than hotels. 

As Italians rediscover their own country Italy is still waiting for the return of foreign travellers. These tourists have always been a crucial part of Italy's tourism income and ENIT, the national tourism promotion agency, is leveraging a huge budget to launch a global campaign to support the Italian brand internationally and increase its appeal as a unique, strong and secure tourist destination.