Italy – A market of some potential

  • Although nudged out into 5th position in order of visitor numbers in 2007, Italy remains a market with good growth potential for Ireland.  265,000 Italians are estimated to have come here in 2007, a record, and 50% up on the numbers that visited five years ago.
  • Italy is a fascinating country with a rich history; it has been home to many European cultures such as the Etruscans and the Romans.  It was the birthplace of Universities and movement of the Renaissance that began in Tuscany and spread all over Europe.  Italy possessed a colonial empire from the mid 19th to the mid 20th century.


  • Italy became a nation-state in 1861 when the regional states of the peninsula, along with Sardinia and Sicily, were united under King Victor Emmanuel II.  An era of parliamentary government came to a close in the early 1920’s when Benito Mussolini established a Fascist dictatorship.  His alliance with Nazi Germany led to Italy’s defeat in World War II.  A democratic republic replaced the monarchy in 1946 and economic revival followed.  It has been at the forefront of European economic and political unification, joining the Economic and Monetary Union in 1999.
  • Italy has a diversified industrial economy with roughly the same total and per capita output as France and the UK.  This capitalistic economy remains divided into a developed industrial north, dominated by private companies, and a less-developed, welfare-dependent, agricultural south, with 20% unemployment.  Most raw materials needed by industry and more than 75% of energy requirements are imported.  Over the past decade, Italy has pursued a tight fiscal policy in order to meet the requirements of the Economic and Monetary Union and has benefited from lower interest and inflation rates.
  • The current government has enacted numerous short-term reforms aimed at improving competitiveness and long-term growth.  Italy has moved slowly, however, on implementing needed structural reforms, such as lightening the high tax burden and overhauling Italy’s rigid labour market and over-generous pension system, because of the current economic slowdown and opposition from labour unions.  But the leadership faces a severe economic constraint: Italy’s official debt remains above 100% of GDP, and the government has found it difficult to bring the budget deficit down to a level that would allow a rapid decrease in that debt.  The economy continues to grow by less than the euro-zone average.


  • Italy has a population of 59 million, and Italians make just over 20 million trips abroad each year, of which 15 million are for holiday purposes.  The 265,000 trips to Ireland are estimated to have generated over €110 million.
  • The major metropolitan areas are Milan pop. 7.4 million, Rome pop. 3.8 million, Naples pop. 3.1 million, and Turin pop. 2.4 million.
  • Increased low cost access has helped the market to grow in recent years, though the length of stay has reduced from 11 nights in 2000 to just over 7 nights last year.
  • Dublin, the West and the South West are the most popular destinations in Ireland for Italians.  Though not quite so “peaked” as in the past, over 40% of Italian visitors arrive in July and August.  Dublin city breaks have shown tremendous growth in recent years from the Italian market.
  • Britain received 1.6 million Italian visitors in 2007 which is 6 times the amount that came to Ireland.  With continued good low cost access it should be possible to build on the terrific growth rates of the last 3 years.  Italian visitors are good spenders too, with a mean spend of almost €1,000 per holiday trip.  However, travel growth is likely to be determined by economic conditions in Italy, and real challenges lie ahead for Italy in that regard.
  • For much more information on this important market, click here to visit the Tourism Ireland website.
  • Next up – Poland.
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