Italy added vaccine passports, and domestic tourism is as high as ever

Image: Reuters/Manuel Silvestri
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No one really expected it, but Italy had a pretty good tourism season this year.

More than 23 million Italians booked hotel rooms and vacation rentals in their country in the months of July and August, according to data from the Confederazione Nazionale dell’Artigianato (CNA), a trade association of small and medium businesses.  That was far more than the 17 million Italian tourists who booked holidays in the same period of 2020, the pandemic year, but it even surpassed the 19 million who traveled in 2019, before the Covid-19 emergency.

Especially surprising to the CNA was that vaccine mandates helped increase the flow of tourists.

Since July, Italy has required Italians to show a so-called Green Pass to attend any indoor activity, including museums, hotels, restaurants, as well as to travel on trains or planes. Foreigners traveling in Italy need proof of vaccination in order to access indoor activities as well.

How the Green Pass helped tourism in Italy

The Green Pass is a digital receipt released by the Ministry of Health that can be obtained after getting two vaccine doses, or having proof of recovery from Covid-19. People who aren’t vaccinated can also get the pass if they have a negative Covid-19 test, but in that case, it is only valid for 48 hours. The pass is recognized as proof of vaccine all over the European Union.

So far, 40 million Italians—or 70% of the adult population—have completed both doses, and at least 41 million have downloaded the pass. This week, Italy has extended the green pass requirement for adults in schools and universities, and nursing home staff.

When the idea of introducing a mandatory pass was first introduced, some of the more vocal objections came from far-right parties. Along with describing it as an infraction of personal freedom, they claimed the mandate would deter Italians from vacationing at home, pushing them to cancel their reservations or choose other destinations in Europe.

It turns out the opposite was true. Not only, did Italian tourists keep their reservations, but more decided to travel within their country, reassured by the safety provided by the vaccine mandate. Prior to the mandating of the Green Pass, the expectation was that there was going to be a drop in Italian tourists compared to 2020.

The mandate didn’t deter foreign tourists either: About 6 million traveled to the country in July and August—a far cry from the pre-pandemic levels , when at least twice as many visited Italy, but still higher than predictions from earlier in the summer.

In the US, Biden has approved a sweeping vaccine mandate for businesses. Italy’s case study shows Americans might be more willing to get vaccinated in order to be able to avail themselves of services and get back to some kind of normality. In Italy, the Green Pass mandate led to a boom of vaccines, as people rushed to get their shots in order to go on holiday.