Italy strives to strike a balance to make tourism more sustainable after pandemic


A couple takes a selfie in front of the Fontana di Trevi in ​​Rome, Italy, June 28, 2021 (Photo: Xinhua)

Tourists visit the Colosseum in Rome, Italy, June 28, 2021 (Photo: Xinhua)

Tourists visit the Colosseum in Rome, Italy, June 28, 2021 (Photo: Xinhua)

People admire the scenery from an observation deck in Rome, Italy, May 15, 2021. (Photo: Xinhua)

People admire the scenery from an observation deck in Rome, Italy, May 15, 2021. (Photo: Xinhua)

Over the past couple of years, Italy’s massive tourism sector has been a mixed study: first too many tourists invading the country’s most popular places, then almost none. Now the industry is trying to find the right balance between the two extremes.

Before the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic in Italy, the big worry about tourism was overcrowding: the impact on infrastructure, the environment and the quality of life of residents of the several million tourists who gathered in a handful of places, like Florence, Rome, and Venice.

Then, with the pandemic, tourism was all but halted amid coronavirus closures and travel restrictions. The tourism sector, which was responsible for spending 236.4 billion euros ($ 280.6 billion) in 2019 before the pandemic, produced only 115.8 billion euros in the year last, according to data firm Statista.

By most estimates, the industry is not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until late 2023 or early 2024. But political leaders and many workers in the industry are now taking action to ensure that as the sector grows stronger, it avoids overpopulation. problems that marked the pre-pandemic period.

“The aim is to reform the sector so that it offers a higher and more personalized level of service, and less centralized options than before”, Gianfranco Lorenzo, head of the research department of the Florence Tourist Studies Center (CST-Firenze), told Xinhua.

“Italy should put less emphasis on reliance on large tourist buses which all stop in parking lots and overwhelm a small town for a few hours, (but promote) higher quality tourism that shows visitors the wonders. of the country beyond the few dozen places that everyone knows about, ”said Lorenzo.

Valeria Minghetti, chief researcher at the Center for International Studies on Tourism Economics at Ca ‘Foscari University in Venice, said the problem of overtourism is not unique to Italy.

She noted that popular tourist destinations in Europe like Amsterdam, Barcelona and Paris have similar problems. She said these cities should share information and good practices to help change the mindset of the average tourist.

“There is no reason for people to queue to see a famous site when there are many that are equally important and impressive that too few people know,” Minghetti told Xinhua.

These strategies are already under development.

This summer, for example, many cities are trying to draw visitors’ attention to outdoor attractions such as sprawling gardens and architectural ruins, where visitors can stay scattered to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection. .

The Uffizi Galleries in Florence, one of the most visited museums in Italy, has launched the “Uffizi Diffusi” initiative – the name roughly translates to “Uffizi Scattered” – which includes the exhibition of part of the gallery’s collection in museums in small towns in Tuscany. to help attract tourists who would otherwise have spent their time in the overcrowded city of Florence.

Uffizi director Eike Schmidt told Xinhua he believed the gallery’s plan could serve as a model for other parts of Italy and even other countries.

Before the pandemic, Italy attracted an average of nearly 100 million tourists each year, according to calculations by the Italian Government’s Tourism Office (ENIT). Lorenzo, from CST-Firenze, said reducing the impact of tourists does not mean the country will have to accommodate fewer tourists in the future.

“In a few years we may even have more tourists than before the pandemic,” he said. “But to make it durable, you just need to distribute them more evenly.”

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