Could tourism save Italy? – Carola Bertone, Italy

“A man who has not been in Italy, is always conscious of an inferiority, from his not having seen what it is expected a man should see.” – Samuel Johnson

Noto_Cattedrale

Source: siracusaturismo.net

 

While searching for a travel summer destination on a world map, your gaze might linger a second longer as it falls on Italy. What comes to mind is the warm weather, the delicious food, the nice beaches and the lovely small towns. Italy was the birthplace of civilization, where the Roman Empire set its roots, and where intellectuals, philosophers, and writers left a part of their heart. In 1660, Italy became a refined destination included in “The Grand Tour”, a traditional trip around Europe where upper-class Europeans visited the richest countries in history.

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Tourism is today one of Italy’s most significant economic sectors and its long-term development potential is important, especially in these years, when crisis is taking over and youth unemployment increases year by year, a phenomenon mostly noticed in the southern regions. Italy has a record-breaking 51World Heritage Sites, more than 47 million tourists per year (2014) and is the fifth most visited country in the world. Tourism is one of Italy’s most profitable sector, with an estimated revenue of 136.1 billion euros per year. The  “spiaggia dei conigli” in Lampedusa (Sicily) was voted as the best beach in the world by Tripadvisor 2014 and is one of the most famous in Italy. Nevertheless, the island lives mostly on the fishing industry (around 70 per cent) and only 20 per cent on tourism. To explain why, the current migration situation should be taken into account. Lampedusa is just 70 miles from the Tunisian coast and a very short way from Malta. It is one of the main port destination of migrants coming from the Middle East and Africa who flee their countries due to war and bad political-economical situations.

 

Spiaggia dei Conigli, Lampedusa (Source: agrigentonotizie.it)

Italy is also the 9th most expensive destination for tourists, just after Sweden; the accommodation and the fact that it is difficult to find discounts for families with children makes it very pricey. For that reason, in the last few years, families have started looking overseas for low-cost holiday packages in the Balkans, where there are less cultural heritage sites and beaches but you can spend less than half of what you might spend in Italy, according to some. It seems that Italy is not a travel destination for all pockets, but is this the right mindset for a country that was on the brink just a few years ago? The tourism potentials are enormous; this is well known by everyone who lives here. Luckily, some parts of the country understand this and are trying to promote their lands. For instance, the photo at the beginning of the page is of the Dome in Noto, a Baroque town in Sicily, that collapsed and then was restored in 1996. It attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists from all over the world each year and the number of foreign tourists is much higher than the number of Italian ones.

Another example to take into consideration is Costa Smeralda, a coastal tourist destination in northern Sardinia, which is now one of the most known areas for exclusive hotels and wealthy celebrities having houses there. What is surprising is that in 1961, this part of the island was bare, until Prince Karim Aga Khan financed the development of the coast. If this rich man had not  come, this part of the island would still be the same, with people living on agriculture and breeding.

There are still a large number of things to improve on, starting with education, university courses, and schools, for those who want to have a career in the tourism industry. What’s more, languages should be taught in a better way, which is a clear flaw in the country’s schooling system.

Luckily, new opportunities are arising for the unemployed youth in this country of tourism, and many new laws and financial bursaries for youth tourism entrepreneurs have been created. Hopefully, one day soon, it will help this land live again.

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