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Questionable Numbers For Tourism In Rome

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June 15, 2010 News & Oddities, Travel News No Comments

Anyone wandering around Rome in these days can see that it is a busy place. It seems as though the city has just woken up from a long slumber. Tourists and locals out and about and spending money. The good old days are back.

Or are they? Certainly the sheer numbers have grown significantly in the last few weeks. But the composition of those people needs to be questioned in terms of value to the economies of Rome and Italy. Ignoring the local spend (which is not to say it isn’t important. It is fundamental to the economy of the city. But that gets measured directly from consumption and consumer confidence surveys) the make up of tourists and the numbers need to be broken down to see who is benefiting.

Govt numbers are totally unreliable, and company numbers are as bad, if not worse. They are fudged. Add in the fact that there is no public analysis of whether the tourist come through religious groups or general tour groups or private/independent travel, and a lot of information has to be inferred from some analysis and observation.

For a start, there are a lot of groups in Rome. Most of these are religious tour groups. They are generally booked through the Vatican tour company (which has been on a major expansion drive over the last few years, converting many private apartments to tourist apartments, and many convents to B&B convents – for a little backgroud, the Wall Street Journal has an extensive article on their activity. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125322692959421111.html

This benefits very few of the local businesses. They stay in Vatican chosen accommodation (either their own or at incredible discounts for large regular groups) and are herded from Vatican preferred restaurant to Vatican preferred souvenir shop, after taking a Vatican approved tour.

ADR (Roma Airport Company) have stated their first quarter figures are 7.4% higher than last year. But last year (Jan-Mar) was a few months after the financial meltdown and asset markets (including sharemarkets) were heading for 12-20 year lows – nobody knew were the bottom was and confidence was at an all time low. Tourists were thin on the ground in that period. So 7.4% increase is very poor indeed.

Numbers and statistics will be very unreliable for some years due to the recent turmoil. But the one bright spot that anybody on the street will tell you is that at least the Americans are coming back – their absence has been extensive – not just because of the financial crisis but years of having a horrible exchange rate.

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