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Forum Confcommercio. Villa D'Este

What is the tourism situation in Italy?

Annually in late March, Confcommercio (Association of Italian businessmen, which includes owners of shops, hotels, restaurants and other services) holds the Forum on Lake Como in the prestigious Villa D'Este 5-star hotel of the small resort town Chernobbio. This association was Silvio Berlusconi’s main electoral base, and he loved visiting the Forum. Despite the fact that left-wing politics didn’t exactly favor this event, relevant ministers were always present.

This year the forum was visited by Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni (the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Matteo Renzi government); he closed the forum session on Saturday, April 1. Naturally, Minister of Culture and Tourism Dario Franceschini also spoke at the Forum. The president of Confcommercio Carlo Sangalli opened the Forum, dubbing this year "the period of uncertaint".

President of Concommercio Carlo Sangalli and Italian Prime Minister Paolo GentiloniPresident of Concommercio Carlo Sangalli and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, foto © Evgeny Utkin

Although there are some weak hopes for positive growth (+ 1.1% GDP anticipated in 2017), as soon as 2018 it may drop to 0.8% along with an increase in the tax burden to 43.1 %. The business wants the taxes (especially VAT) slashed or at least left at the same level but the government has to balance the budget, so Italy is likely to get higher taxes. Hence the 2018 forecast claiming the raise of the tax burden to 43.1% (from 43% in 2017). Sangalli's main appeal to the government was "political stability and tax burden reduction."

President of the European Parliament Antonio TaianiPresident of the European Parliament Antonio Taiani, foto © Evgeny Utkin

It is not entirely clear what the head of Confcommercio had in mind when he spoke of political stability. After all, since the end of the last year Italy has been under the "interim" government, appointed after Rentsi's resignation. Initially, almost all the political parties called for early elections come spring but then the date was shifted to autumn, and now they say that the Gentiloni government should be left intact, at least until the natural date of parliamentary elections comes in 2018. According to Sangalli, "stability" is either an active government or ratherthe elections held as early as possible to appoint an actually elected government.

Particular attention was paid to the complex banking situation in Italy. It turned out that in Italy banks hesitate to loan money to private investors and companies while in other countries, such as France and Germany, lending has increased. The lack of loans hinders the development of Italian economy, especially when it comes to small and medium-sized businesses.
Regarding Russia, Italy maintains quite positive relations: for example, Italian President Sergio Mattarella will visit Moscow on April 10-13, Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni is expected to follow.

The president of Confturismo (Italian tourism confederation) Luca Patane told about the development of national tourism. He noted that tourists have finally begun to visit smaller towns (not only recognized tourist centers like Rome, Venice, Florence, Milan) and cities of Southern Italy (from 2009 to 2015, the number of such visits rose by 40% ), however, they tend to stay in the country for shorter periods of time. If in 2001 an average foreign tourist stayed in Italy for 4.1 days. This figure gradually decreased every subsequent year, falling to as low as 3.5 days in 2015; only in 2016 there was a 0.1 increase in the trend (to 3.6 days). And this small increase is not to be neglected ― one tenth of the day translates into additional 600 million Euros for Italy.On the other hand, the number of foreign tourists is growing every year. For instance, in 2016 almost 56 million foreigners arrived in Italy, with an increase of 1% compared to 2015.

One yar worth mentioning is 2015, the year of the World Expo in Milan and the Jubilee in Rome, when the influx of foreigners grew by 7% compared to the previous year. Anyway, the number of foreign tourists grew by 55% from 2001 to 2016. And that would have been an excellent result, but foreigners began to spend less money. For example, if in 2001 a foreigner spent 1034 Euros during his stay in the country, in 2016 it was only 661 Euros. In terms of the number of tourists arriving to Italy, the most significant countries are Germany, the United States and France, retaining their positions since 2001, and China (in 2001 it was only in the 10th place). This year Russia was excluded from the list of top 10 countries providing visitors for Italy, while Japan assumed its place. It is noted that over the past 3 years the number of tourists from Russia has decreased by half. Maybe that's why no one from Russia attended the recent Forum. Last year, Ekaterina Bashkirtseva, the head of the Tris Travel agency, spoke here. Italians are very unhappy about Russian tourists because ― as they say ― Russians used to spend more than any other nation.

Gennaro Sanjuliano, author of the bestselling "Putin"Gennaro Sanjuliano, author of the bestselling "Putin" , foto © Evgeny Utkin

As for the general political picture of the world, they spoke about Russia and about Putin. Perhaps the biggest supporter of Russia at the Forum was Gennaro Sanjuliano, vice director of the news program Tg1 at the first national television channel RAI. He is the author of the book "Putin", which has already been published nine times in Italy. He spoke not only about Putin, but also recalled that Russia is the world's treasury of culture and science. Everyone knows and loves Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov in Italy. Therefore, the negative "cold war" style tone of the past few years is to be stopped as soon as possible.

Evgeny Utkin, Italy, Como