“Stay home and give the money of your overseas trip to the poor of Argentina,” this was the debut of Pope Francis with regards to faith-driven trips from Argentina to the Vatican. Quite scary for the Roman travel sector, wasn’t it?
But things for the Eternal City’s tourism industry are going very well this Easter. It seems Latin American faithful can’t resist the charisma of Jorge Bergoglio and have to come to Rome to see him and listen to his wise, joyful words. ADR spa, the company that manages Rome’s airports, confirmed that the biggest rise in Easter passengers comes from Latin American countries, Argentina and Brazil in particular. Fiumicino and Ciampino airports will host 120,000 travelers on peak days, for a total of 600,000 during the 2013 Easter holidays.
The first booking data collected by ADR and the Rome city government show that Easter visitors should rise by more than 9% compared with last year. It’s true Rome has seen a steady increase in the number of travelers for many years now, even during the most terrible months of the international financial-economic crisis, but these figures are surprising.
POPE FRANCIS FACTOR
Surprising unless you take into account the Pope Francis factor.
You may have read our February post on what pontifical nationality would have boosted Rome’s tourism revenues the most.
Well, we went pretty close to the actual birthplace of the pope. And many of the things we wrote at the time still hold.
First of all, we said, in order to draw a massive number of Catholics from outside Italy it is paramount that the Catholic Church has a new inspiring, charismatic pope. And Bergoglio is perfect from this point of view.
PROFILE OF ARGENTINE TRAVELERS
Argentines do not need a tourism visa to go to Italy. And this makes things so much easier than, say, China, Russia or India.
There is a huge community of Italian immigrants, as half of the country has Italian origins (including Pope Francis).
And there is a well established air connection between Rome and Buenos Aires with ten weekly flights operated by Alitalia and Aerolineas Argentinas.
Furthermore, most Argentines have their holidays in January and February, which are low-season months here because of the bad weather.
The prospects for the Rome tourism sector are therefore good. We just need to adjust to this kind of travelers, to their needs and expectations.
It is true that faith-driven tourists are not big spenders but in any case the last few years have seen a rise in low budget travel (see the increase of B&Bs in Rome) as the crisis has been hitting everyone, nearly everywhere.
TRAVEL GUEST TIP
Interested to go to the US? Getting a visa is not easy, especially if you are based in some parts of Europe, as there are good options to get a ‘ESTA USA‘ online.