March will see the election of the new pope as the key event of the month. We want to examine this crucial moment for the Catholic Church from a travel perspective. We asked ourselves and some Rome-based travel companies what nationality would mostly boost tourism in Rome.
Even if in theory all Christian males can become pope, in the last 7 centuries only Cardinals were awarded the title.
Of the 117 who are going to cast the ballot for the next pontiff, only a few do actually have chances to lead the Catholic Church. We cut down the list to a dozen countries. You may hope in a British, Russian or Chinese pope but there are no chances for that to happen.
Country list: Italy, Austria, Hungary, French speaking Canada (Quebec), USA, Mexico, Brazil, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Philippines.
We didn’t mention any specific name because this is not the purpose of this article. We don’t want to tell you who will be the next pope, but how much his nationality will affect the travel industry here in Rome.
First of all there is a foreword to make: the pope has to be an inspiring, charismatic person, no matter where he is from. Second he should come from a country/region with a very strong and alive catholic community to have an impact in terms of visitors to the city of Rome.
We think that Brazil is the country that could bring more people to Rome if it gets one of its cardinals elected as pope. Why Brazil? These are the reasons we found.
First – Brazilians are already the fastest growing nationality among Rome tourists.
Second – Brazilians spend a lot of money.
Third – even if they seldom speak English (let alone Italian), they communicate and get along well with Italians and Romans as we have a lot in common and we love their music, their soccer players etc…
Fourth – they are open minded and keen to know the city from many different points of view.
Fifth – they are an emerging country, their economic growth rates are not skyrocketing but they have been growing steadily in the last 15/20 years, achieving impressive results in fighting poverty.
Sixth – there are already good air connections (considered Rome’s airports average with other extra-European countries). Rome has direct flights to 3 different Brazilian cities, all operated by Alitalia: Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Fortaleza.
Seventh – there is a big community of Italian immigrants there who might find new reasons to go back to Italy: visit their towns of origin and spend a few days in Rome to see/meet the pope.
Eigth – Brazilians mostly go on holiday in January and February, when it is low season here. Perfect timing!
Ninth – Brazilians don’t need any visa to visit Italy as tourists.
Tenth – most Brazilians are Catholic and they believe with passion and enthusiasm.
Eleventh – Rio de Janeiro will host the World Youth Day this July. Many young Italians will go there and we think that this kind of events has a positive spillover effect in terms of new friendships, human relationships, desire to know each other more and therefore travel etc….
COMMENTS AND OTHER OPTIONS
Most of the travel operators that we surveyed also agreed that a Brazilian pope would be the best option for them and/or their clients.
Fabrizio Zezza, ceo of Easy Consulting, a company that manages dozens of hotel and B&B websites in the Rome area, said that Brazil has a strong Catholic tradition, that its economy is expanding fast and that cultures have a lot in common.
Another Fabrizio, Trillini, founder of AllTransfersinRome, a private transportation company in Rome and Lazio, mentioned their high spending habits, their curiosity to go off the beaten track and their growing numbers in terms of Rome visitors in the last few years.
David Colin, owner of Spanish Steps Apartment, in the very heart of Rome, noticed that Brazilians tend to spend a long time in the Eternal City, a week on average, as they make long, costly, intercontinental trips.
Paola Rossi, head of the incoming luxury travel company Italian Glamorous Services, not only says that Brazilians are the ideal tourists as they are joyful, happy people but also hopes that they can instil their enthusiasm into the Catholic Church.
Linda Martinez, owner of the Beehive hotel & café, near Rome’s main train station, said that, if any, an Asian pope would bode well for her business since tourists from Korea, Taiwan and India have been recently increasing. We agree with her that a pope from the Philippines or Sri Lanka would also bring a lot of new people to Rome.
Finally, we think that a Spanish-speaking pope from Latin America would also be very beneficial to our city in terms of travel revenues. The biggest Spanish speaking country of Latin America is Mexico, and Mexico was the last of the (and one of the very few) extra-European countries Benedict XVI visited. And this is our overall forecast (regardless of tourism interests): the next pope will be Mexican, even if there are no strong candidates at the moment.
For the Rome travel sector a Brazilian would be the best. There is no need to say that on average an Italian pope would be the least influential on the tourism industry here.