Wanted in Rome interviews Antonio Barreca, Managing Director of Federturismo, one of the key figures in the Italian travel and tourism industry.
by Marco Venturini
What is the current tourism situation in Italy?
The health and economic crisis caused by the pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the tourism sector. Although we are aware that the recovery will not be easy, the acceleration of the vaccination campaign, the easing of restrictions and the Italian and European “green pass” allow us to leave room for some optimism for this summer.
A little less than half of Italians will go on vacation, although for the moment we are still seeing bookings concentrated mainly in August, which see Italy as their favorite destination. For the arrival of foreigners, it will be necessary to wait until the second half of July when there will be a greater propensity to travel guaranteed by a resumption of mobility in complete safety.
The sea is the favorite destination of six out of ten Italians, with Puglia, Tuscany, Sicily, Emilia Romagna and Sardinia in the lead. Estimates of flows in the summer months, according to a survey conducted with Demoskopika, nearly 166 million visitors for nearly 39 million arrivals, a recovery of 16 and 11% in 2020. Levels that would still lead to close the year with a deficit of more than 50 percent from the records of 2019.
What are the most worrying elements and the most promising elements for the future of the industry?
Being able to integrate the organization of the structural measures proposed, as well as the digitization of processes and coordination of actors, could make the the tourism sector is taking this decisive step towards growth. The resources provided for in the NRRP (Nnational recovery and resilience plan) are more substantial than those of the past and concentrated in time, but what concerns us is their destination and how to ensure efficient spending.
To properly promote tourism, it is necessary bring together a series of distinct interventions on various fronts, because it is only thanks to their synergy that the plan can succeed in terms of economic development and enhancement of the Italian national heritage. We need to be long-term and work now on far-reaching structural reforms that lay the foundations for an environment that is truly more suited to businesses and workers. Our businesses need to cut red tape and simplify themselves: there is no way we can afford to stay locked in a layering of regulations and bureaucracy.
To what extent do you think international tourism will influence the next summer vacation?
Even though we won’t be able to count on a large number, foreign tourists want to enjoy a completely Italian vacation. Yes Europeans, especially the Austrians, Germans and French are moderately confident, we are confident in the return of Americans who, thanks to a mass vaccination campaign and Covid-tested flights, are starting to reappear, and not only in Ischia. To see Russians and Chinese, we will have to wait since their vaccines are not recognized by the EU.
When do you anticipate a return to normal for the sector?
Although Euromonitor data predicts Italy will return to pre-pandemic levels by 2025, we are more optimistic, hoping for a return to normal from 2024. The recovery will be closely linked to plans to contain the virus with vaccination campaigns and measures to encourage the movement of people.
It is recent news that countries like Germany and France are closing themselves off to tourists from the UK. Do you think there is an equal risk of this happening in Italy?
The high transmissibility of Indian variant led France to adopt a seven-day quarantine for anyone arriving from the UK as of May 31. A decision which was preceded by the movements of Germany and Austria which imposed respectively a two-week quarantine and direct flights prohibited. It cannot be ruled out that Italy is also in a position to have to resort to such an intervention, even if it is hoped that the vaccination campaign has arrived at the right time and that vaccines that are largely effective even in the face of this variant will be able to avoid a measure. which, just at the gates of the summer season, would penalize tourism even more.
So far, what are the entry policies for European and American tourists?
Since mid-May, the tightening of regulations for people arriving in Italy from abroad has been relaxed. American tourists are among the very few non-EU foreigners who, thanks to their vaccination campaign and Covid-tested flights, can now enter Italy without a quarantine requirement (but they must take samples before arrival and return). All this while waiting for July 1 when the green pass will be sufficient.
In your opinion, what 3 measures should be put in place immediately to help the sector?
In this delicate and long-awaited restart phase, a major problem remains, given the summer season, the difficulty for entrepreneurs to find personnel and specific professional figures in the market, due to citizenship income. To remedy this anomaly, which distorts the labor market, an immediate corrective measure would be necessary, such as the overhaul of the taxation on the cost of labor to allow workers to receive a higher net salary and thus make work more attractive than citizenship income, with consequent savings for the state coffers. An even more abnormal scenario if we consider that in 2020, the number of people employed in the sector has dropped dramatically.
It is also necessary support corporate liquidity by all means. In particular, with regard to measures for access to credit and liquidity, we believe that the extension of current measures and the extension of repayment periods for guaranteed loans are positive and should help companies to exit from the crisis. critical phase. Even if the operation of certain provisions is subject to the authorization of the European Commission and the absence of structured intervention for the capitalization of companies remains, as well as the excessive bureaucratization of procedures which has made access to aid very complex, especially for SMEs.
And then there is the question, absolutely central for the competitiveness of our companies, of the upgrading and quality of the tourist offer of our country for which we never stop reaffirming the importance of the extension of the Superbonus by 110% which would bring the Italian tourist offer up to the best international standards An effort that today cannot be asked of companies and entrepreneurs who have not worked for months and whose turnover has been decimated.
Since July 2011 Antonio Barreca was general manager of Federturismo, the Italian National Federation of the Travel and Tourism Industry which is part of Confindustria (the Italian Confederation of Employers). He served in 2014 as Senior Tourism Advisor for Sicily. He has been a member of the Tourism Sustainability Group of the European Commission since February 2011 and Vice-Chairman of the Tourism Committee of the Italian Organization for Standardization (UNI), an association that publishes standards for the industrial, commercial and tertiary sectors.