The weaker euro is expected to bring more visitors to Italy this year. Photo: Italy tourist photo: Shutterstock
The drop in value of the euro is expected to bring more visitors to Italy this year, with the owner of a villa complex reporting his busiest ever start to the year for bookings.
By: Angela Giuffrida/The Local
The strength of both sterling and the US dollar against the euro will especially entice more people from the UK and the US to Italy and other eurozone countries, while visitors from China are also benefiting, Paul Rickard, research consultant at the European Tourism Association, told The Local.
The euro has weakened over the past year but fell to its lowest level in nine years after the European Central Bank announced a stimulus package in mid-January.
As of Monday, one euro was worth £0.75 and $1.13.
The devaluation has made holidays in the eurozone about 18 percent cheaper for those coming from the UK, and one fifth cheaper for those from America, Rickard added.
“Countries like Italy and Spain are offering better value for visitors, with the obvious economic response being an uptick in demand,” he said.
“But it also depends on how quickly currency movements shift over time. In time, we’d also expect the lower oil price to be factored into cost, through cheaper flights, for example.”
After a lackluster 2014, David Brenner, who owns VillasFor2, a holiday rental business in Abruzzo, told The Local that January was the best month ever for bookings since the business opened in 2009.
Most of those bookings have come from the UK, although some were also from other European holidaymakers.
The weaker euro means that staying with VillasFor2 costs ten percent less than it did last year.
“I’m not sure whether you’d put the increase [in bookings] down to the highly favorable exchange rate, or more money being available for holidays in the UK and EU than perhaps was the case last year, as the economic situation improves – at least in northern Europe,” he said.
“Although it is true that some of our guests have asked to pay their holiday costs right away – so they can take advantage of the great exchange rate – rather than the usual practice of paying a deposit on booking and the balance a few weeks before they arrive.”
Meanwhile, a flurry of post-Christmas inquiries for holiday villas in Le Marche is yet to turn into bookings.
“Maybe people are waiting until the value reaches €1.45 again, which seems possible after reading some of the reports in the financial press,” said Marina Webster, the owner of Sei Camini, a villa in the region.
“It would be great if people realized how much better value we are than last year, but so far it is not making a difference. I do hope it’s just people booking later than not at all.”
Weaker euro or not, Italy is still one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world, according to a report last week from the United Nations Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
The bel paese welcomed 48 million visitors in 2013, putting it in fifth place among the world’s most visited countries. That year Italy earned $44 billion from tourism, according to the report.
The World Expo, which gets underway in Milan on May 1st, is already proving to be a boon for Italy. Organizers said last week that eight million tickets have been sold, a third of the projected total.
Five million have been bought outside Italy, with China having snapped up a total of one million.
The city also ranked number one in the New York Times’ 2015 list of “52 Places to Go”.