Italian vacationers feel squeeze, so does industry

Long-running recession puts damper on summer plans

Italian vacationers feel squeeze, so does industry

(By Kate Carlisle) Rome, June 10 - Holiday fun for Italians in and out of the country is buckling under the heavy yoke of the country's continuing economic crisis, said several reports released on Monday. Foreign tourist spending in Italy took a drop in March, down 3.2% to some five million euros, a report by the Bank of Italy said on Monday. Travellers from European Union countries dished out 8.2% less while non-Europeans spent slightly more, 3.2%, than the previous year. Italians abroad in general spent approximately 3.9 million euros, down 5.1% compared to the same time last year. Specifically, Italian tourists in EU countries spent 9% less and those in non-EU countries 1.9% less. Overall, Italy's balance of payments for tourism was in the red in March compared to the previous year, down to 513 million euros in respect to 561 million euros during the same time period 2012. Some two-thirds of Italians will be giving up the traditional summer holiday as the country's longest recession in 20 years drags on, consumer association Federconsumatori said on Monday. According to the association's report, only 32%, or 19.2 million Italians, will take off for a week or more. The same crisis that is causing Italians to cut back on vacation time has people looking more towards low-cost options like house swaps, low-season holidays and staying with friends or family to save hotel expenses. Prices that have remained at previous year's levels are not enough to help raise tourism figures, the report said. "A sector as vital as tourism is an opportunity for an economic turnaround," the report said. "That is why it is urgent to kick off an economic revival with targeted actions, to strengthen the purchasing power of families by not raising the VAT and to resume investments in modernization and improvement of quality standards in the tourism sector," the report said. The country's VAT is set to rise in July by one percent, however Premier Enrico Letta's government has said it will try to avoid raising the tax. The decline in Italians leaving town on their valued days off has been long-running. In April, fewer Italians took advantage of the long weekend for the national holiday marking the Italian WWII Liberation Day on the 25th, hoteliers' association Federalberghi noted. Only a little more than 4 million Italians travelled, approximately 11% less than in 2012, for the bank holiday that is traditionally used to get away for a short vacation, Federalberghi President Bernabo' Bocca said in April. That means that approximately 56 million Italians stayed at home, causing a drop in spending somewhere in the area of 12.5% compared to 2012 to 1.4 billion euros, sounding another "alarm bell for the tourism industry," Bocca said.

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