Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Not When in Rome, but IF!!!

According to NYTimes, the current economic crisis is having its effect on tourism in Rome and in Italy more broadly. There is a traditional stereotype, which is not really entirely wrong, that Germans travel more than any other national group but are stingy, whereas Americans rarely travel internationally (per capita, that is), but when they do, they spend big. This, however, is no longer proving true. In the current economic environment, those Americans who do make it to Rome spent all the money on the plane and hotel, and, therefore, are not spending on frills. Romans are saying that the only big spenders left are the Russians, Arabs, and Japanese.

Overall, while numbers of tourists are down a bit, how much those tourists are spending is decreasing far more rapidly. They are coming, but they aren't spending! The article blames the strength of the Euro for non-Europeans traveling (or failure to do so):

The strong euro and worsening economic crisis have taken their toll on tourism — even in Rome, where tourists are as reliable as death and taxes, and probably more reliable than people who pay taxes.

The number of foreign tourists to Rome and the surrounding Lazio region was off 12 percent in November, compared with the previous November. In the first 11 months of the year, the total number of tourists, from Italy and elsewhere, dropped 5 percent.

Returns are not in yet for December, but they are not expected to be stellar, thanks to the poor economy, frequent cancellations and strikes by Alitalia, not to mention the rainy deluge before Christmas that almost put the Tiber out of its banks in the city’s historic center. Visits by Americans are expected to be off by 15 percent for December.

This is leading to layoffs in jobs related to tourism. But, because of this, retailers and very expensive hotels are slashing prices to survive. For those who can go to Rome, now is the time to go:

But amid crisis comes opportunity. The Excelsior and Danieli are offering rooms for as low as $335 a night.

Indeed, for those who have money, this is the time to come to Rome. Crowds are more manageable, airfare is cheaper, and shops are offering major sales.


Like retailers elsewhere, Italian shops slash prices every January, but this year they are doing so more aggressively than ever. On the upscale Via Condotti near the Spanish Steps, shops like Gucci and Prada are offering discounts as high as 50 percent.

At Gucci on a recent rainy weekday morning, the customers eyeing such items as a leather bomber jacket with a fur collar, reduced 50 percent from the initial price of $4,500, were almost entirely Russian and Japanese.

I was in Rome the summer of 2007. I really loved the city. And I hope to be back soon...but don't know how soon.

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