According to this analysis by Travel Supermarket, Italy is is the most searched for destination for vacation travelers around the globe. Italy had nearly twice as many mentions as runner-up Spain, with Australia, Greece and France rounding out the top five. As Joey Tyson, Travel Editor at TravelSupermarket noted:
“As an iconic destination for art, architecture, gastronomy and history, it’s no surprise to see travellers from as far afield as Argentina, New Zealand and Canada looking to holiday in Italy.”
Here’s the thing: Italy’s economy is a mess. Youth unemployment is high, the politics is dysfunctional and the country is rapidly aging. Rural towns are selling home for €1 in the hopes of attracting residents. In popular destinations there has been a backlash against overtourism and crowding. The rise of Airbnb has taken central city apartments off the market are pricing locals out of the market.
The influx of tourists has not moved the needle much on the Italian economy. Bianca Giacbone in Planet Money writes:
“The Italian economy is not growing,” says Carlo Cottarelli, an Italian economist and former director of the International Monetary Fund. “The Italian per capita income is the same as it was 20 years ago. In terms of economic growth, this past decade has been the worst since 1861.”
Which is why it isn’t all that surprising that young Italians, like Giacbone, have been immigrating in search of opportunity. She writes:
“Some 2 million young Italians – many of them educated and skilled – have left Italy since 2008,” says Nicola Nobile, an economist at the research and analytics consultancy Oxford Economics. That’s a lot in a country with a population of about 60 million.”
Simply put, the contrast between the world’s overwhelming desire to visit Italy, and the population’s desire to look elsewhere for opportunities is fascinating.