Italy expects 20 percent increase in summer tourist numbers as restrictions eased

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Italy expects a 20-percent increase in summer tourist numbers this year over 2020 as the country progressively eases Covid-19 restrictions, the Italian tourism federation said Saturday.

“The 2021 summer season is showing the first signs of a sector recovery. Between June and August 33 million arrivals are forecast along with 140 million nights spent in official (tourist) structures -- a 20.8 percent rise on 2020,” Assoturismo said after surveying 2,185 tourism firms.

The federation added that would net the sector around 12.8 billion euros ($15.6 billion) in tourism receipts -- around three-quarters from fellow Italians visiting other regions.

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Even so, Assoturismo said the rise “would not be enough to return to pre-Covid levels” as summer 2019, the last before the pandemic, saw an additional 73.5 million nights spent in the country.

Before the pandemic, tourism accounted for 14 percent of GDP in Italy – the EU’s third-largest economy – and coronavirus fallout helped tip Italy into its worst recession since World War II.

Despite the reopening of numerous air links the sector is pinning its hopes on short-hop tourism this summer as locals eye coastal breaks as well as major city draws Rome, Florence and Venice.

Such shorter trips are expected to rise by a quarter on last year, helped not least by price drops of up to a third.

Italy hopes to welcome 6,7 million more foreign tourists this year than in 2020, but arrivals will still be well down, by around two-thirds, on 2019 when the 100-million mark was passed.

“After 12 terrible months Italian tourism finally can detect concrete signs of recovery. But it is still a slow recovery, above all where foreign demand is concerned which will not be enough to pull back what was lost with the pandemic,” said Assoturismo president Vittorio Messina.

“Our hope is that end of season sales give us better results thanks to the European health passport,” Messina added.

She said she regretted that uncertainty regarding dates for easing restrictions and curfew limitations had turned some foreign visitors to other destinations.

Italian authorities have progressively been lifting restrictions as virus data improves.

The current curfew which previously ran from 11 pm to 5 am will from Monday be pushed back an hour to begin at midnight.

Bars and restaurants will also be allowed to serve indoors at tables limited to a maximum four customers.

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