Italy returns to pre-pandemic glory

Aussie visitation to Italy gets a roll-on after the damage of the COVID shutdown.

With confidence and airlift slowly returning to pre-pandemic standards, 2023 has proved to be a “bumper year” for Aussies travelling to Italy so far, the Italian National Tourist Board’s (INTB) Country Manager, ANZ Emanuele Attanasio has confirmed.

Speaking with travelBulletin this week, Attanasio enthused that the market has been experiencing one of its best summer seasons in years, both in terms of visitor numbers and forward bookings.

“Italy is well and truly back on the radar [for Aussies],” he said, adding that recent ramp-ups from Etihad and Qantas to Rome will form part of the bigger picture of getting more Australians to visit.

“We know that onward connectivity from the major hubs in the Middle East and Asia is crucial, as well as Qantas’ seasonal direct services to Rome from Perth,” he said.

“Rome and Milan are typically the two key gateways for Australians, and both are relatively well-connected to hubs in Asia and the Middle East, so more frequency between Italy and Asia and the Middle East, as well as increased onward connectivity from these hubs to Italy – particularly to
southern Italy – will really help with our desire to encourage greater dispersal of visitors across the country”.

In terms of new tourism shifts, Attanasio said agritourism, snow sports, and exploring more of Italy’s islands are all becoming more popular.

“It’s no longer about hitting Rome, Florence and Venice and saying that you’ve ‘done’ Italy,” Attanasio explained, adding that changes in luxury appeal has also seen lesser-known regions like Friuli-Venezia Giulia on the Adriatic coast rise in popularity – especially when attached to luxury cruise itineraries.

“Puglia Region, Emilia Romagna’s art cities and historic spa towns, or the lakes in northern Italy are proving popular, with travellers able to embrace the history, culture and food of each distinctly different region,” Attanasio added.

Having said that, more traditional sties in Italy for Aussies also remain strong, with first-time visitors being encouraged to visit the “hero” destinations of Rome, Florence, Venice and everything in between.

INTB recently bolstered its Italy Training Academy for agents, adding new modules on skiing in Italy (HERE), which Attanasio confirmed is “a growing area of interest” that require advisors to help educate travellers.

“We know that agents will have clients that have never been to Italy before and want to incorporate the destination into they’re first Europe trip, but they will also have clients who are already Italy enthusiasts and are on the lookout for new Italian experiences,” Attanasio said.

“We have just run an agent familiarisation in partnership with the ETC and Rail Europe and we are hoping for more opportunities this year.

“Working with our European counterparts has worked so well on these programs to show how Italy fits into a broader European adventure.”

According to the most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, Italy has seen a five-fold increase in the number of Aussies visiting Italy year-on-year between April 2022 to April 2023.

“While this rapid and remarkable bounce-back is fantastic news, we’re even more pleased to see that visitation to Italy from Australia now finally resembles pre-pandemic levels,” Attanasio concluded.

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