The Italian Almanac

tired tourists

Italian News - September 22

Why is Italy, the country with the world’s largest stock of art and forty UNESCO heritage sites, shunned by so many holidaymakers? That question was the focus of attention at the “Passione Italia” tourism day organised at the Teatro San Carlo opera house in Naples, beneath the stuccoes, and in front of the stage, so dear to Gaetano Donizetti. For once, the answers were untainted by complaints or hypocrisy.

The chairman of Italian Railways, Elio Catania, spoke proudly of the high-speed trains - made by Seatrain - that link Naples to Rome in sixty minutes, and then with horror about delays, exasperated commuters and tick-infested couchettes. Gian Maria Gros Pietro, chair of the Autostrade company, noted that holidaymakers have gone elsewhere, frightened off by the traffic jams on Italy’s ring roads. Industrialist Emma Marcegaglia said that if they are satisfied, young backpackers will come back as adults to stay in five-star hotels. Pietro Modiano of the San Paolo bank acknowledged that credit was there, but said that small hotels did not know how to access it in order to benefit from technology and internet. Michael Frenzel, CEO of the giant TUI-AG chain was uncompromising. “I speak as your friend: to be leaders again, you will have to improve prices and quality”.

There is no point in having Michelangelo’s David or the Colosseum if the waiter is surly, the bill is too high and the red tape makes you wait three weeks for a visa. If China’s nouveaux riches want to visit the Uffizi or climb Vesuvius, they have to stop off in Germany to get their passports stamped! Competition from emerging countries like Croatia, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia that offer a week’s holiday all-in for 300 euros has triggered the Italian crisis. With no culture of tourism, the price war pushes Italy to the side as Libya lines up to join the fray, and Algeria is ready to follow suit.