Italy is back with its tourist Easter… but without the Russians


©Reuters. Italy is back with its tourist Easter… but without the Russians

Gonzalo Sanchez

Rome, April 13 (.).- With the arrival of Easter, foreign tourists, almost all European, return to a pre-pandemic Italy and, although the Russians are absent this year due to the sanctions against the Ukrainian invasion , their absence will overshadow but will not spoil the season, a real “trial period” for the summer.

The Easter holidays in Italy have a different tone this year: while in 2021 the holiday was safe from the virus, declaring the whole country in a “red zone”, today there are practically no no restrictions in effect and until spring it seems here to stay.

As a result, the tides of tourists have returned to the “Bel Paese” and from the sector they watch the figures of arrivals and overnight stays with the desire to glimpse a summer that underpins the recovery once and for all.

In terms of the national market, 14 million Italians are expected to pack their bags at Easter – only next Monday is a public holiday – and almost all of them, 89.5% of the total, will stay in their country, generating an income of 7,000 million euros, according to figures from the hotel federation Federalberghi.

While waiting to know the definitive data, its president, Bernabò Bocca, recognizes that it is “a good sign”, but asks “not to cry victory” because “a cloud has appeared on the horizon”: the invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin Russia.

“HAPPENED” TO THE RUSSIANS

European restrictions in retaliation for the war will prevent the arrival of Russians in Italy, who to date accounted for around 1.5% of the total number of foreign visitors who pass through the Mediterranean country each year.

His absence will lead to the loss of 180,000 overnight stays, or 20 million euros until April 25, the day of Orthodox Easter, they explain to the Efe of the “Assoturismo” union.

This is a stumbling block in a relationship that has only grown in recent decades, as statistics from the National Tourism Entity (ENIT) show: At the start of the historical series, 1997, 280,000 Russians arrived in Italy, while in the last virus-free year, 2019, they exceeded one million (1,043,000).

But it was at other times. Just three years ago, no one imagined or feared “lockdown” or wore a mask and Russians were spending some 984 million euros in Italian bars, restaurants, hotels or other places of leisure, a sum who will be missed again this year.

The five favorite destinations were ancient Rome, cosmopolitan Milan, the Venice of the canals, Renaissance Florence or the beaches of Rimini, but also other places as paradisiacal as they are exclusive, such as the island of Capri, especially in spring and summer.

Now Capri and nearby Ischia, a traditional destination for some ‘big Russian spenders’, have seen ‘numerous’ cancellations at their hotels, as regional governor Vincenzo De Luca recently admitted, downplaying the problem .

“The lack of Russian tourists will obviously be noticeable, especially in some places, but although they represented a significant part of our visitors, it was not the most relevant”, explains the president of Assoturismo Confesercenti, Vittorio Messina.

This year will also not see the famous oligarchs, who have chosen the luxury of Sardinia or the Amalfi Coast for their rest and who have seen how the government of Mario Draghi seized their mansions and yachts for their collusion with the regime of Putin.

MAINLY EUROPEAN TOURISM

At present, those who come to Italy to spend a few days between art, culture and gastronomy are mainly European citizens, as well as many Spaniards, so frequent in cities like Rome.

Missing, according to tour operators, are “large groups” outside the EU, such as the Chinese, Japanese or Koreans (in 2019, 2.1 million travelers arrived from Asia who left 2,857 million euros, according to the ENIT data).

Carla y Marina disfrutan de una soleada jornada a los pies del imponente Panteón de Roma: “Queríamos visitar la ciudad por su historia, pero no hemos viajado hasta que no se ha relajado el tema Covid. Veo la ciudad bastante llena”, sostiene a Efe the first one.

Aurore, also Spanish, waited for Holy Week to visit the Eternal City, a destination she had dreamed of so much. “Tourism is reactivating quite a bit,” he celebrates at the microphones of Efe, a stone’s throw from a lively Saint Peter’s Square in the Vatican.

“This Easter, visitors from Western Europe and especially Italians are on the move. International demand is expected to strengthen in the face of summer, since foreigners represent the equivalent of half of summer tourists” , points out Messina.

Everything will depend, yes, on controlling the virus, but also on other factors such as inflation or the rise in energy prices, which are important for the tourist’s pocket, but also on the unpredictable war in Ukraine.

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