The strong euro continues to drive Italian outbound tourism, especially to those areas where the U.S. dollar is used as the primary foreign currency. The favorable rate of exchange makes traveling abroad very attractive for Europeans, including Italians.
The past two years showed a growth in the number of vacations taken by Italians. Trips totaled 112 million and travel nights totaled 687 million at the end of 2007. Leisure travel represented 87 percent, while business travel accounted for the remaining 13 percent. As far as destination is concerned, 83 percent remained in Italy, and the rest traveled abroad, totaling over 19 million trips. In general, one out of six adult Italians travels abroad every year.
2007 was a record year for U.S.-bound tourism from Italy, with over 634,000 visitors, a 19% increase over the previous year, representing the highest number of arrivals ever. Italian spending in the U.S. hit $2.65 billion: $1.9 billion for miscellaneous travel expenses and $732 million for passenger airfare - an increase of 28% over 2007. As compared to the other top EU markets (U.K., Germany and France), Italy showed the highest percentage of travelers choosing “package travel” (23% of the total) and the greatest percentage traveling primarily for leisure (68%). During their stay in the U.S., 78% of Italians stayed in a hotel/motel and 27% took a domestic in-country flight. 34% of Italian visitors were making their first trip to the U.S.
The most recent figures suggest 2008 continued to be a record year with an estimated 700,000 Italians visiting the U.S. As of September 2008, the 598,500 Italian visitors to the U.S. represented a year-on-year increase of almost 29% and the highest increase among the top four EU markets. The month of August, when most Italians take their summer vacations, registered a record 36.5% increase, with over 146,000 arrivals in the U.S. Despite the global economic slowdown, the Italian travel industry predicts a stable year for 2009.
Five U.S. airlines – American, Continental, Delta, United Airlines and US Airways – and three Italian carriers – Air One, Alitalia and Eurofly – offer daily direct flights between major Italian cities (like Milan, Rome and Venice) as well as smaller cities (like Bologna, Naples, Pisa and Palermo) to a number of American destinations. This past summer, thirty-six non-stop flights connected Italy to the U.S., most of them with a daily schedule. Although Alitalia closed most of its flights from Milan’s Malpensa airport to the U.S., new direct flights opened this past summer: Milan/New York operated by American Airlines and Milan/Boston and Milan/Chicago operated by Air One. Moreover, adding in over 70 direct flights to the U.S. operated by other European carries (British, Lufthansa, Swiss, Air France, KLM and Iberia), many Italians go through a European gateway city (Frankfurt, London, Paris, Zurich, etc.) before reaching their final destination.
Best prospect destinations in the Italian market include the following areas: New York City; San Francisco, Los Angeles and the state of California; Miami, Orlando, the Florida Keys and the state of Florida; Las Vegas and Nevada; Boston, Massachusetts and New England; Chicago and Illinois; U.S. National Parks and surrounding areas (i.e. Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado); Rocky Mountain Region (Idaho, Montana, Oregon, South Dakota, Wyoming); Philadelphia and Pennsylvania; Dallas and the state of Texas; Hawaii.
Best prospect activities for Italians visiting the U.S. for leisure and business are: dining in restaurants; shopping; sightseeing in cities; visiting historical places, museums; visiting small towns; visiting theme/amusement parks and national parks.
All major players in the “travel to the U.S. sector” indicate stable growth prospects from the Italian market, and America is expected to remain at the top of preferred long-haul destinations. The most visited city is New York City which captured 57% of all Italian visitors. The strong Euro is a significant incentive to visit this city for shopping, one of the preferred activities of Italians when traveling. New York is the only long-haul destination that is also perceived as a “city break” type of vacation where Italians can even spend long-weekends, as they do in European capitals.
The states of California and Florida also perform very well in the Italian market, with increasing opportunities for attracting Italian visitors. However, there are several other destinations that attract a good number of visitors, such as New England, the Rocky Mountain Region and the National Parks. The success of the latter destinations is directly related to very active and targeted marketing and promotional efforts that the tourism authorities of those states have devoted to the Italian market.
The U.S. Commercial Service promotes a U.S. Pavilion at "BIT", the leading Italian travel & tourism trade show, and organizes a major stand alone tourism event, Showcase USA-Italy, that takes place in November, after World Travel Mart in London. The goal is to promote more travel to the U.S. by facilitating the participation of U.S. tourism promoters and destinations in the events.