At a cross­roads

Ital­ian cities try­ing to find bal­ance be­tween tourism and qual­ity of life

Global Times - Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - Xin­hua

Ital­ian cities are in­creas­ingly faced with the dilemma of de­vel­op­ing tourism for rev­enues or of­fer­ing its residents a high qual­ity of life. Data shows that they can­not have both. Tourism is a ma­jor in­dus­try in Italy, which con­trib­utes to a steady growth in an oth­er­wise slow econ­omy. Italy is the world’s fifth most vis­ited coun­try. Ac­cord­ing to an­a­lyt­ics firm Sta­tis­tica, tourism to­day ac­counts for around 11 per­cent of Italy’s econ­omy, a fig­ure ex­pected to rise to around 15 per­cent within a decade. It is there­fore a much­needed source of tax rev­enue for a peren­ni­ally cash strapped Ital­ian govern­ment. But the im­pact is not al­ways pos­i­tive. The lat­est rat­ings of Ital­ian cities and towns on the ba­sis of qual­ity of life con­tinue to il­lus­trate a trend, that the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties with the best re­sults are small and wealthy, with few tourists. Mean­while, the coun­try’s main tourist cen­ters, led by Florence, Rome and Venice, fare poorly. The rank­ings are based on 84 dif­fer­ent cri­te­ria, in­clud­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal health, cul­tural of­fer­ings, in­fra­struc­ture, crime and cor­rup­tion, em­ploy­ment rates, traf­fic and health ser­vices. Com­plied by news out­let Italia Oggi along with La Sapienza Univer­sity in Rome, the rank­ings show that Florence fell 17 places from last year to 54th, Rome slipped 18 places to 85th and Venice re­treated 21 places to 62nd. Those cities are the three most im­por­tant des­ti­na­tions in Italy’s 200 bil­lion euro ($230 bil­lion) an­nual tourism in­dus­try, one of the big­gest in the world. And the top cities on the in­dex for qual­ity of life turned out to be Trentino and Bel­luno, both in north­east­ern Italy. Nei­ther is a pop­u­lar choice for tourist guide books. “Once the num­ber of tourists grow to a cer­tain point, there isn’t a way to cater to them and pro­vide qual­ity ser­vices to residents,” Mari­arita Sig­norini, pres­i­dent of Italia Nos­tra, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that fo­cuses on pro­tect­ing Italy’s artis­tic and cul­tural her­itage, told the Xin­hua News Agency. “Tourists pro­duce garbage and add to traf­fic, but don’t pay for the in­fra­struc­ture to con­front those is­sues,” she went on. “They force gov­ern­ments to

fo­cus on the parts of the city that at­tract tourists at the ex­pense of the pe­riph­ery of the cities or on ar­eas like health care or air qual­ity.” Sig­norini comes from the north­ern city of Cre­mona, one of the high­est-ranked Ital­ian cities in terms of qual­ity of life, but now lives and works in Florence, a city strain­ing un­der the stress of too many tourists. “Florence is a city of 350,000 residents that at­tracts an un­sus­tain­able 20 mil­lion tourists a year,” she said. “The gap in the qual­ity of life where I’m from and where I live grows ev­ery year. All of the so-called ‘cities of art’ in Italy are in steep de­cline. here is no easy so­lu­tion.” Gi­u­liano Nu­volati, a so­ci­ol­o­gist spe­cial­iz­ing in en­vi­ron­men­tal and ur­ban is­sues at Mi­lano Bic­occa Univer­sity, noted that cities that fo­cus on the needs of tourists over their residents risk be­com­ing open-air mu­se­ums. “As busi­nesses fo­cus on high profit ser­vices for tourists, it raises the cost of liv­ing and cre­ates in­cen­tives for residents to rent their apart­ments to tourists and move some­where with a bet­ter qual­ity of life,” Nu­volati said in an in­ter­view. The Ital­ian city that has done the best job at manag­ing the needs of visi­tors and residents is prob­a­bly Mi­lan, the coun­try’s cap­i­tal of finance and fash­ion, sec­ond in pop­u­la­tion only to the po­lit­i­cal and tourist cap­i­tal of Rome. Though Mi­lan, where Nu­volati works, is still ranked in the mid­dle, it dif­fers from Florence, Rome and Venice in that it has climbed up slightly in the lat­est rank­ings, mov­ing up two spots to 55th. Though Mi­lan is not much of a tourist at­trac­tion like the other cities, it does draw mil­lions of visi­tors a year, many for busi­ness rea­sons. With a high tax base, it has been able to af­ford in­vest­ments in waste dis­posal and in­fra­struc­ture, while main­tain­ing green ar­eas – un­af­ford­able op­tions for many other large cities. But even Mi­lan is strug­gling to main­tain qual­ity of life “Ev­ery city that seeks to at­tract tourists will even­tu­aly face the same chal­lenges,” Nu­volati said.. “Some may de­lay a cri­sis through good man­age­ment. But none can avoid the prob­lems.”

Left: Venice, Italy Right: Pil­grims and tourists walk in front of the church of Santa Maria della Salute in Venice.

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