Natural disasters taking toll on Italy's tourism sector: analysts

2019-11-20 22:21

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ROME, Nov. 20 (Xinhua) -- The floods that have inundated much of the canal city of Venice, a very popular tourist destination, for the last 10 days are just the latest in a series of natural disasters in Italy which have taken a toll on the country's tourism sector.

Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has voiced the hope for accelerated recovery efforts to minimize the impact on tourist arrivals, one of the city's main revenue streams.

There are similar stories in other parts of Italy.

The summer of 2019, for example, set record high temperatures across Italy, forcing dozens of cities to take steps to deal with the impacts of hot weather, including handing out bottled water on the streets, and issuing warnings for tourists to stay inside, hydrate more, and avoid strenuous activities.

Last winter, unusually high temperatures affected ski slopes in the country's mountainous regions. In some areas, temperatures were even too high for resorts to use artificial snow machines to improve the situation.

Italy is also perennially at risk of earthquakes. According to data from the European Mediterranean Seismological Centre, Italy typically suffers from dozens of earthquakes every year. In the last decade, Italy has suffered at least 11 major earthquakes that resulted in nearly 700 deaths and caused billions in property damage.

All of these events are taking a toll on the tourism sector, analysts told Xinhua.

According to Massimiliano Vavassori, head of the research and analysis department for the Touring Club Italiano, these disasters have double impact on tourism.

"There is the actual damage to infrastructure and system breakdowns that cause problems. But there is also the question of the country's image as a tourist destination," Vavassori explained in a recent interview.

With more than 62 million arrivals last year, Italy is the world's fifth most popular destination, behind France, Spain, the United States, and China, according to data from the World Tourism Organization.

But even a small reduction in the number of arrivals would be a blow to Italy's slow-growing economy. According to information from Italy's National Statistics Institute, the tourism sector has long been one of Italy's most reliable economic drivers.

According to Francesco Pastorelli from the International Commission for the Protection of the Alps, it is impossible to figure out the impact natural disasters have on tourism. But he said it's clear that there's an impact.

"I know that natural disasters can give a potential tourist a second thought," Pastorelli told Xinhua.

"I would like to see tourists have a more flexible attitude when these things come up and to look into the actual impact on the destination, and perhaps make adjustments rather than change their plans altogether," Pastorelli added.
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