Most Italians want American tourists to stay away this summer: poll

Nearly two-thirds of people in Italy don't want US tourists returning this summer, according to a new poll.

Most Italians want American tourists to stay away this summer: poll
The Amalfi Coast is one of Italy's most popular destinations for American visitors. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Even if the rules were changed to allow Americans to return without a quarantine, 61 percent of respondents in Italy told market research firm YouGov that they would oppose tourism resuming from the US.

That makes Americans less welcome in Italy this year than Chinese tourists (57 percent against), Brits (44 percent opposed), or visitors from other European countries.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Should people avoid travel to Italy this summer?

Similar patterns were seen in France, Spain, Germany, Denmark, Norway and Finland.

Overall between 61-79 percent of people surveyed in each country opposed allowing American tourists back in this summer, compared to 57-77 percent for tourists from China.

Graphic by YouGov based on interviews conducted between June 29-July 5th 2020. 

Meanwhile only 17 percent of American respondents said they'd be willing to consider a vacation in Italy this summer, roughly the same percentage that said they'd travel to France, Spain or Germany.

Americans were more open to a trip to Sweden or the UK (both 20 percent), two countries where the infection rate is higher than Italy's.

Just 9 percent of respondents in Italy said they would consider holidaying in the US this summer, and 6 percent for China. The countries that Italians surveyed considered most appealing were Spain (23 percent, despite a higher number of coronavirus cases than Italy), Finland (22 percent) and Norway (20 percent).

But most people in Italy won't be going anywhere this year: just one in two respondents said they had holiday plans in 2020, according to one recent survey by Italian public opinion research institute Demoskopika, and more than 90 percent said they'd be staying in Italy.

Nearly a quarter said they were afraid to travel, while around 15 percent said they couldn't afford it.


Italy's economy is expected to be hit hardest in Europe by its long Covid-19 shutdown and ongoing travel restrictions that continue to impact its crucial tourism industry, with the EU forecasting this week that tourism would be one of the slowest sectors to recover

Around 60 percent of Italy's hotels and restaurants are in danger of going out of business within a year, national statistics office Istat warns, risking some 800,000 jobs.

While Italy has been open to tourists from the EU, Schengen Zone and UK since early June, many flight routes have yet to resume, many hotels still haven't reopened, and most countries outside Europe – including the US and China – currently have travel bans in place.

Some 5.6 billion Americans visited Italy in 2019, making them the second-biggest group behind Germans (12.1 million). Visitors from the US account for an estimated €2.8 billion of Italy's €42 billion annual revenues from tourism, with July typically the most popular time to come.

For its survey YouGov interviewed around 1,000 people in Italy between June 29th-July 5th, as well as equivalent samples in nine other countries.

We want to know what you think: should Italy welcome tourists back this summer, or is it wiser to for everyone to stay home? Let us know by filling in this survey and we'll write an article about our readers' views.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


OPINION: Why Italy should let the rich pay for ‘private moments’ at tourist hotspots

Instead of criticizing actor Jason Momoa over his VIP visit to the Sistine Chapel, Italy should encourage wealthy visitors to pay large sums for such experiences, says Silvia Marchetti.

OPINION: Why Italy should let the rich pay for ‘private moments’ at tourist hotspots

Signing a generous cheque in order to enjoy a private, exclusive moment – without crowds – at the Colosseum, the Pantheon, or sitting on the Spanish Steps should not be seen as scandalous nor outrageous.

Imagine taking in the view of the Trevi Fountain at sunset, by yourself in a deserted Rome, after having splashed out ten or hundreds of thousands of euros, just to see the sun go down and relax for an hour.

READ ALSO: ‘I love Italy’: Jason Momoa apologises over Sistine Chapel photos

The big fuss over American actor Jason Momoa taking pictures of the Sistine Chapel recently during his Roman stay while shooting his next movie has raised eyebrows worldwide and caused much ado about nothing. It even made global headlines.

The main complaint was that the actor had been granted the privilege of taking photos. in spite of the ‘no-photo’ ban, which many said apparently applied only to ‘ordinary people’.

Personally, I don’t see what the big deal is about Momoa’s not-so intimate moment in the Sistine Chapel.

We Italians tend to look down on tourists who are constantly grabbing their camera to take pictures. We consider our artistic heritage untouchable, or in a way, non-reproducible through photography. 

But Momoa was not committing a crime. 

He later apologized, and explained that he had paid for an exclusive “private moment” by giving the Vatican Museums a large donation.

I think this is something positive: a ‘mechanism’ that could be exploited to raise cash for city coffers and urban projects – instead of raising local taxes that weigh on Italian families.

Rome, and all other Italian cities, should rent out such locations for events – even for just one night, or one hour – in exchange for a high fee.

The rich and famous would be more than happy to pay for such an opportunity to enjoy Italy’s grandeur. As would ordinary people who may decide they can afford it for a special occasion.

These are solo, one-in-a-lifetime experiences in top sites, and must be adequately paid for. 

Rome’s Colosseum in February 2021. Lower visitor numbers amid the Covid-19 pandemic meant Italian residents were able to see the country’s major attractions without the crowds. Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

Italy is packed with historical, artistic and archeological gems that the entire world envies, people flock here just for a selfie in front of the Looming Tower of Pisa.

So why not make a leap forward and raise the bar for ‘private moments’; something Momoa, despite the unknown sum of money he paid, did not even actually get.

I’m not suggesting Italian cities lease monuments for weeks or months, for they belong to all humanity and everyone has a right to enjoy them. But allowing exclusive, short private experiences at Pompeii, or Verona’s arena, or just time to stare at Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus or Michelangelo’s The Last Judgement, should be seen as a source of extra revenue, not a taboo.

Italy should economically exploit its infinite artistic treasures as a powerful money maker, unleashing the full potential of it. 

If offered the chance, I think Elon Musk would not mind paying hundreds of thousands of euros, or even millions, for a private corporate cocktail party at the Colosseum.

OPINION: Italy must update its image if it wants a new kind of tourism

Of course, you’d need rules: a strict contract with specific clauses in case of damage or guest misbehavior; a detailed price list; and surveillance to safeguard the site during the private event. And extremely high fines if any clause is breached.

It’s a matter of looking at a city from a business and marketing perspective, not just a touristic one.

Today you can already take a private tour of the Vatican Museums for a higher ticket price, but it’s mostly for groups of 10 people, and there’s always a guide with you. You’re never really ‘still’ in your favorite room, so forget having a completely ‘private moment’.  

Taking photos inside the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel is usually forbidden, except for members of the media with special permission and, apparently, celebrities. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

One model city to take as reference is Florence, which in the past few years has done a good job of promoting the city brand.

The mayor’s office has set up a special committee that rents out Renaissance piazzas for private wedding celebrations and birthday parties, as well as several key historical spots like the Giardino delle Rose, and Palazzo Vecchio, the historical headquarters of the town hall.

There is an online menu with all the locations available for weddings and other private events, depending on the number of guests and type of celebration. 

Those interested should contact the town hall’s special ‘wedding task force’ if they want to book frescoed rooms in ancient palazzos or other buildings owned by local authorities. Last time I enquired, some elegant rooms are available to hire for as little as €5,000.

Would you pay big money to have major attractions, such as Rome’s Colosseum, all to yourself? Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

Venice, too, has attempted to raise cash by renting the façades of public buildings overlooking the Canal Grande to global fashion brands for advertisements, but the move raised eyebrows among locals. 

Even in Florence, residents weren’t so pleased to see huge, lavish billionaire Indian weddings celebrated in front of their palazzi, blocking access to their homes.

Italians need to reset their mentality. If anyone is willing to pay big money to enjoy the solo thrill of a site or location, we should be more than happy to allow it. 

As a result, we might end up paying lower city taxes for waste removal, water and other services. Every day, for free, we share the Trevi Fountain and Piazza Navona with masses of noisy, coin-throwing, gelato-slurping tourists; why not occasionally accept a generous donation from a VIP or philanthropist eager to pay for a moment alone in the company of Bramante and Brunelleschi? 

We would only be helping our cities to maintain their artistic heritage, which fills us with pride.