Tourism Crisis In Rome

In a recent piece on La Repubblica‘s web site some alarming statistics were pointed out — tourism in Rome has dropped 10% in the first months of 2008 with respect to those same months in 2007, with a 5 percent drop in foreign visitors.
It’s no secret that the world’s economic troubles have certainly impacted tourism and tourist-related industries (hotels, airlines, cruise lines, etc). A city like Rome relies heavily on tourism to fuel its economy as does most of Italy as a whole with millions of tourists going to places like Rome, Florence, Milan, Venice and many other parts of Italy each year.

In October, I wrote a piece on Romaland, the Rome-themed attraction/park — sort of like an Italian version of Disneyworld or something akin to Plimouth Plantation, Sturbridge Village, or Williamsburg in Virginia — where you can see Rome “recreated”. That initiative is mentioned in the article quoted about as well as bringing Formula One to Rome.

Whether or not authorities are making something out of nothing is debatable, since the article also mentions that Rome’s decline in tourists and tourism income is consistent with the national average in Italy as well as with other European powerhouses, like London and Paris. Will bringing Formula One to Rome do that much for tourism? In my opinion, it seems that the money and effort being put into creating a Romaland might be better spent on the Appian Way, Ostia Antica as well as preserving many other wonderful Roman and Italian treasures. The fact that the “best experts” on Ancient Rome are collaborating in the construction of Romaland astounds me, and, dare I say, seems somewhat unbelievable that archaeologists and art historians of such reknowned would not wish the government to spend more on preserving and maintaining their national treasures.

For the casual traveler, perhaps this decline might mean less lines and less waiting, but considering the millions that go to Rome each year, only time will tell what effect this will have on Italian tourism industry. Something to chew on the next time you go to Rome…

*image: aerial view of Rome; image is protected by Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Unported and is owned by OliverJB