The new tourism boom in Italy and real estate investment opportunities
Il nuovo boom del turismo in Italia e le opportunità di investimento immobiliare

Tourism is back and already in these early months of 2023 there is a real boom in arrivals, presences and overnight stays. All industry surveys are in agreement, already talking about a record 2023.

According to the Demoskopika institute, presences in Italy in 2023 will be over 442 million (+ 12.2% over 2022) with 127 million arrivals (+ 11.2% over 2022, close to 128 in 2018 and the record 131 in 2019), of which 61 million foreigners for 215 million overnight stays.

Similar data are those found by AllTours and Making Science about bookings and requests for quotations, which grew by +43% compared to the same period in 2022 and with an average expenditure expected to rise by 14% to almost 2000 euros.

Tourism expenditure and profitability of facilities in Italy

Tourism expenditure in Italy in 2023 is therefore expected to touch the EUR 89 billion mark, with an estimated growth of 22.8% compared to 2022 but above all a profitability that has surpassed pre-pandemic levels with a double-digit increase in ADR (the average daily rate per room).

A trend that has already been confirmed in the first months of 2023 with the improved performance of both occupancy rates and average rates, as emerged during the ‘Tourism to come: a reading through hospitality in Italy‘ conference held on 22 March at Milan’s Bocconi University and promoted by Confidustria Alberghi, Assolombarda and the university’s Master in Tourism Economics.

The choices of foreign tourists

Among foreign tourists, at least 20% of those who have been to Italy in the last five years claim to have been there at least three times, a ‘hard core’ attracted by Italian style (43.4% of cases), natural beauty (38.9%), cultural heritage (32.8%) and luxury. And precisely that of the high-end, according to data from an ENIT survey, is a fast-growing niche that does not suffer the repercussions generated by geopolitical tensions, health emergencies or economic crises.

What tourists are looking for when they choose Italy

Traditionally, the most popular destinations are by far the seaside resorts (36.8%) and cities of art (31.7%), for both Italians and foreign travellers, but according to the ENIT survey there is a growing interest in natural heritage (the first holiday motivation for 18.1% of Italians and 22.4% of foreigners) and in the small excellences of the territory, discovering villages and inland areas of the country. This is an important trend towards the goal of extending the tourist season and the deseasonalisation and decongestion of flows.

However, there is no shortage of criticalities in the Italian tourism system, as was also highlighted during the conference at Milan’s Bocconi University. In particular, despite the presence of chains, which account for 5.6% in Italy and are on the rise in the luxury segment, it is the quality of the facilities that leaves something to be desired, as they do not always meet customers’ expectations in terms of maintenance, service and connectivity.

A reputation warning not to be underestimated if tourism operators are to be guided towards investments that meet the needs of an increasingly demanding clientele.

In this regard, 700 million euro from Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP) is already available to support the renovation of hotels, with the prospect of up to 1.1 billion euro to support national operators in the development and consolidation of their business.

This is a historic opportunity particularly in those regions whose percentage change in overnight stays is below or close to the Italian average, such as Campania (+12.3% in overnight stays for 20.8 million and +13.1% arrivals with 5.7 million) or Umbria (+10.0% in overnight stays for 6.4 million and +13.5% in arrivals with 2.6 million).

Because if 50 per cent of tourists return to their holiday destination and 1 in 10 do so to stay in the structure they trust (Isnart data), it means that it is the companies that focus on quality services, innovation and environmental sustainability that are most rewarded by customers’ market choices.

Real estate investments in the hospitality segment

Thanks to the gradual recovery of hotel performance compared to pre-pandemic results, the interest of real estate investors in the hotel segment is growing in Italy.

In the area of value-add transactions, investors are showing particular interest in the capital, aiming at the repositioning of existing structures and the conversion of office buildings in the city’s historic centre, especially in the luxury and extra-luxury segment. Examples of this are the recent openings in Rome of Six Senses and the forthcoming openings of Bulgari and Four Seasons.

In Milan, on the other hand, flows were directed towards the upper-upscale segment with rebranding operations of existing hotels or the purchase of income hotels by core investors.

Thanks to the NRP funds, there is also growing interest in secondary Italian cities and southern regions, with Puglia, Sicily and Campania leading the way.