This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.
Italy is the United States’ 12th largest overall inbound market and Europe’s 4th after the United Kingdom, Germany, and France. The market has been affected by COVID-19 and the restrictions on tourism travel from the Schengen Area to the United States. The data from January to April in 2021 shows a decrease of 88.1% compared to the same period in 2020. Despite this difficult time, the United States remains a traditional favorite long-haul destination for Italians.
Three U.S. carriers (American Airlines, Delta, and United) offer daily non-stop services between the United States and Italy. An Italian carrier, ITA (taking the place of the former Alitalia) initially will offer non-stop service a few days a week. Direct flights are offered from major Italian cities (e.g., Milan, Rome) and seasonally (spring/summer) from Venice, Bologna, and Naples. Historically, during the spring/summer months, there have been more than thirty non-stop flights between Italy and the United States, with most of them offering daily departures, totaling over 180 direct flights weekly. Some of these direct flights were suspended due to the decline in travel resulting from COVID-19 travel restrictions but are coming back online as demand grows.
The Italian Tourist Profile
Italians increasingly search for more active and cultural trips and beach trips and tropical destinations are becoming less attractive. Vacation trips are heavily centered around discovery rather than just relaxation. The typical Italian tourist has one or more of the following characteristics:
- Travelers between the age of 35 and 54 are generally last-minute bookers.
- Seniors with high purchasing power will travel during any period of the year.
- Travelers are coming from urban areas with medium-high social and cultural profiles;
- Italians are seeking organized tours with Italian speaking guides.
- Travelers are focused on security, quality of accommodation, and food.
The Italian Travel Industry in Summary
Tour Operators: In Italy there are more than 280 tour operators, but only four of them have annual revenues exceeding EUR 100 million. Small/medium sized companies are the real engine of the market.
Travel Agencies Networks: Of the 8,500 travel agencies in Italy, 7,000 are associated with a travel network. The top five Italian networks are Welcome/Geo, Bluvacanze, Gattinoni Mondo di Vacanze, UVET, and Robintour.
Travel Agencies: Of travel agents’ sales, 54% are from tour operators’ products while 46% originate from “self-tour operating” where the travel agency direct negotiates the inbound travel and/or hotel in the United States.
OTA (Online Travel Agencies): Online booking is becoming more popular. Direct booking through OTAs is increasing with a total of seven online travel agencies (Expedia, TripAdvisor, Volagratis, Trivago, eDreams, Booking, and SecretEscape).
The Italian tourism market continues to be dominated by the steady growth of e-commerce and mobile sales with 15.7 billion online transactions registered in 2019. From 2014-2019, tourist transactions made via computer, desktop, laptop, or tablet produced the highest value of online tourist transactions. The number of transactions made via smartphone increased with an estimated 23% of online tourist transactions in 2019, which were mainly for accommodations, tour packages, and train and air tickets.
COVID-19 hit the travel industry hard as countries implemented travel bans and lockdowns to contain the virus. As a result, in 2020, online tourist transactions in Italy decreased by more than half from 2019. Online tourist transactions in Italy amounted to roughly EUR 6 billion in 2020.
According to Google, the most popular day for booking travel is Monday while Saturday is the least popular. The same survey showed that most bookings happen around 10 am, while the smallest number happen at 6 am.
In 2018, Brand USA, the public-private partnership to promote the United States as a premier travel destination through a globally coordinated marketing strategy, named Hills Balfour as the European market representative firm. Due to decreased funds from ESTA income, Brand USA in 2020 temporarily suspended its Italian partnership with Milan-based Interface Tourism, a marketing and public relations agency that operates exclusively in travel and tourism.
The Visit USA Association is a non-profit association that connects Italian and U.S. companies, associations, and entities with a view to promoting travel to the United States.
The partnership between the U.S. Commercial Service in Italy with the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA) started in 2015 and has resulted in an increased interest in Native American destinations. AIANTA and the U.S. Commercial Service, with the sponsorship of Brand USA, co-organized annually a Familiarization tour (FAM) focused on Native American communities. Every year three Italian tour operators and two journalists are hosted in a Native American destination to experience an authentic Native American community or communities, allowing them to better promote Native American destinations in the Italian market.
TTG Travel Experience: October 13-15, 2021, Rimini, Italy h
BIT Milan: February 13-15, 2022, Milan Italy h
Showcase USA-Italy: March 5-8, 2022 (just before ITB in Berlin) TBD, Italy. Showcase is the only marketing event exclusively dedicated to promoting Italian tourism towards the United States. U.S. exhibitors can meet with high-quality Italian companies that focus on promoting tourism to the United States. The event has an all-inclusive program of matchmaking appointments with Italian companies and media, logistical assistance, on-site business counseling and support, as well as a pre-event briefing. https://www.trade.gov/italy
U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration, Office of Travel and Tourism Industries: https://www.trade.gov/national-travel-and-tourism-office
Travel Trade & Destination Marketing Associations:
- U.S. Travel Association
- Italian Tourism Agency
- Visit USA Association Italy
U.S. Commercial Service Contact:
Ms. Luisa Salomoni, Travel & Tourism Commercial Specialist
U.S. Commercial Service, U.S. Consulate Milan
Tel: +39 02 626 88 525