Attractive or vulnerable? Geography of tourism is changing in Italy and in Europe

Attractive or vulnerable? Geography of tourism is changing in Italy and in Europe

September 21, 2017

Spanish regions and Adriatic Croatia excel, while Île de France falls back. Among the Italian regions, Veneto and Emilia Romagna perform well although the latter should accelerate on international tourism. Southern Italy still holds potential to exploit, but the trend is positive


Tourism in Italy is speeding up this year. Sector associations, indeed, signal brilliant results either in the first half of 2017 or, mostly, in summer, and uphold good expectations for this autumn. 

Homogeneous and comparable data at local level are still unavailable, but Eurostat has recently published its regional statistics on occupancy of tourist accommodation establishments referred to 2016. 

Among the European regions with the highest number of nights spent, the Spanish ones outperformed in 2016. Their success in attractiveness is associated with high accessibility, good tourism service infrastructure and effective Country-brand strategy. Yet, all that glitters is not gold, even for the Spanish stars. Some destinations, Cataluña and Balears in primis, have to face problems with overcrowding, typical of mass tourism (environmental degradation, worsening in residents’ quality of life, loss of cultural identity, etc.).

Adriatic Croatia (Jadranska Hrvatska) stands along with the top performer regions, thanks to a 2016 increase in nights spent only lower than those of Comunidad Valenciana and Canarias.

Nights spent by tourists in 2016
Source: Eurostat

Although not at the top, Veneto and Emilia Romagna performed well, showing a similar growth in tourism, but a different relevance of international flows, whose share is 65% in the former, just 27% in the latter.

International attractiveness, indeed, is crucial: regions with mainly domestic touristic flows will be largely affected by domestic demand shocks. At the opposite areas that attract tourists from many parts of the world will be less vulnerable to domestic and foreign demand shocks. Thanks to Rome, international share in tourism is large in Lazio, but total nights spent grew weakly in 2016 and international ones decreased. Probably due to post-Expo 2015 effect, nights spent diminished in Lombardia, but limited to the Italian component, while the international one still improved.

Going back to the European comparison, Île de France and Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur markedly fell in 2016, maybe also as a consequence of terroristic attacks.

International share (nights spent by non-residents over total nights spent) of touristic flows in 2016 (%)
Source: Eurostat

Great performance in Sardinia, Campania and Apulia

Southern Italy is not included among the most touristic European regions notwithstanding its natural and artistic heritage, in addition to climatic conditions favourable to mitigate seasonality. However, the trend is positive: nights spent grew more than elsewhere in Italy last year, with great performance in Sardinia, Campania and Apulia. Moreover, provisional indications over 2017 do confirm in the South an increase in touristic flows, driven by the summer season.

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