By: Monica Pascoli
In the modern era, Italy was a primary destination for tourists attracted by the cultural heritage of the country: the pilgrims headed to Rome or to the sanctuaries situated in different regions are the first tourists, thou it is with the Grand Tour (XVI-XIX century) that Italy became a primary destination. The Grand Tour was a fundamental part in the education of the young aristocrats of Norther Europe and used to last three to four years, involving not only the youngster but also educators and tutors both in the country of origin and in Italy. The evolution of this travel experience included an increasingly diffusion of this practice among the bourgeoisie and a reduction of the time spent travelling. The Tour had its southern borders in Naples, with its Roman ruins (discovered from mid XVIII century) and its Gulf, while the South of Italy was not interested by tourism mainly because of the lack of road links and services for tourists.
Together with cultural tourism, other tourist typologies developed: during winter time seaside resorts (Sanremo and Versilia, but also Capri, Palermo and Lido di Venezia) attracted medical and health tourists; mountain tourism developed from the second half of XIX century especially in Valle d’Aosta and Piedmont, while thermal tourism became a significant economic activity at the end of XIX century (before it was just a facility for locals) with Tuscany as most active region in developing it.
In the early XX century, the importance of the tourist industry was not fully recognized and only between the two wars the fundamental role of the sector within the national economy had been acknowledged. The founding of Enit (Ente Nazionale Industrie Turistiche) in 1919 gave an impulse to the promotion of Italy as tourist destination; in the same period, mountain tourism and thermal tourism developed.
Internal tourism was supported thanks to the introduction of social tourism to the benefit of some categories, mainly children and workers. In general, between the two wars tourism, both internal and international, grew significantly (in 1934 Italy occupied the third position in a ranking of tourism revenue) and this trend was confirmed during the second postwar period.
Starting from the beginning of the Sixties, the growth of international tourism slowed down: as regards sea tourism (between 1966 and 1974 Italy passed from 42% to the 32% of the market in the Mediterranean Basin), new competitors (Spain and Yugoslavia first, Greece and Turkey later) started to attract tourists, while a general improvement of the economic conditions facilitated the expansion of internal tourism, both in seaside and mountain resorts. Among the different typologies, cultural tourism was far from being the most important one, due also to a policy focused on the preservation of the cultural heritage rather than on its promotion through tourism; but it is also the typology that has undergone a constant increase over la last twenty years, and nowadays is one of the most significant types of tourism.
From 2004 until 2007 arrivals and overnight stays grew continuously. With the onset of the crisis, the years 2008-2009 witnessed a decrease of flows but the following biennium (2010-2011) recorded a new growth both in arrivals and overnight stays. Since 2011 the arrivals have been growing steadily and have reached 106 million in 2014 (almost half of them are foreign tourists), with national arrivals in decline and foreign arrivals in constant improvement. Cultural tourism (27,4%) and sea tourism (30%) represent the two most important tourist typologies, followed by mountain tourism (12,2%).
The governance system is extremely complex and has undergone deep and significant changes over the past thirty years. The most recent reform of tourism sector attributes territorial competence both to the central level (State and ENIT – as represented in the image below) and to the local ones (regions, Apt, provinces, municipalities, mountain communities).
MiBACT (Ministero dei Beni, delle Attività Culturali e del Turismo) is the Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities, which in 2013 absorbed the Office for Tourism Policies; it sets the national agenda for tourism and defines the national strategic plan. Tourism has been merged to the cultural sector and this decision represented a deliberate policy aimed at enhancing the link between culture and tourism. The reorganization and restructuring of MIBACT has represented the will to integrate culture and tourism (with initiatives that have deep impact both on the cultural (i.e. the management of museums) and tourism sectors. Since 2015, ENIT (the National Tourism Agency) has been transformed from non- economic public body into a public economic entity, under the supervision of the Minister Cultural Heritage, Activities and Tourism.
The body transformation is performed in order to ensure savings in public expenditure and to improve the promotion and marketing of the tourist offer. Its mission is the promotion (especially through investment in digital media) of tourist attractions and products, in primis food and wine, and the development of tourism services, such as the Tourist Card. The strategic plan for tourism development, elaborated in 2016 (for the years 2016-2021), recognizes that Italy’s competitive ability in the international tourism market is largely below its potential, being penalized by several factors, among which low degree of innovation (both in terms of technology and organization), difficulty to respond to market changes, skills obsolescence, unfavorable conditions for business operation.
The constitutional reform (Constitutional Law no. 3/2001) has made tourism a subject of regional “exclusive” competence: regions are no longer subject to the limits of the fundamental principles established by state laws. Nevertheless, the reference to State legislation still appears fundamental for many important discipline profiles, such as protection of competition, international relations and with the EU, environmental protection and preservation of cultural heritage. The competencies are concurrent are regards professions, government of the territory (including town planning and construction), large transport networks.
The administrative functions maintained to the Regions are:
- Programming, through the adoption of three-year plans for tourism development;
- Promotion of the regional image to Italy and abroad;
- Financing the territorial development projects and incentives to the industry;
- Coordinating the collection, processing and dissemination of data on regional tourist demand and offer.
To carry out these responsibilities regions make use of their direct administration (Regional Department for Tourism) and of a network of other institutions: provinces, municipalities, that have a central role in the promotion of the integrated systems of tourism and creation of public-private cooperation networks, chambers of commerce and trade associations, pro-loco associations (private-law bodies that promote tourism at a very local level).