Cultural Tourism as a Driver of Made in Italy

In Italy, cultural tourism represents an increasingly important segment that is registering a strong expansion linked to the growth in art consumption, which is mainly observed during travel and holidays.   

New market signals point to cultural motivation as the main driver of international demand for the ‘Italian product’, endowed with an immense historical and artistic heritage. In fact, from the point of view of the cultural heritage offer with 58 of the 1,154 Unesco sites, Italy is the first country for places recognised as World Heritage.

Assoturismo Cst study

According to a study conducted by Cst for Assoturismo Confesercenti, presented on 15 June 2022 in Rome in the presence of, among others, Tourism Minister Massimo Garavaglia and Enit CEO Roberta Garibaldi, cultural tourism this summer will restart faster than all other segments with an increase of 24.6% compared to 2021.

Driving its recovery is above all foreign demand, which is +34.6%, although Italian demand is also strengthening with +10.2%, for a total of over 5.5 million more presences than in 2021.  

This renewed vitality will translate into an increase in consumption of approximately 9 billion in the first eight months of the year, from which the entire cultural tourism chain will benefit: from museums to cultural and archaeological sites, from tour guides to catering, from rental and transport services to commercial activities. 

Moreover, the sector’s multiplier effect on the economy is well known: for every euro produced by culture, about 1.8 euros are activated in other sectors, with a positive impact on the entire GDP. 

We wanted to explore this issue in more detail by talking to Alexandra Solea, Program Director del Master in Arts and Culture Management and of the Executive Master in Gestione dell’Arte e dei beni culturali.

at Rome Business School: 

“The picture that emerges is one of an acceleration of tourist presences in Italy, also facilitated by the end of restrictions after the emergency situation from covid 19. However, we are still far from the numbers that represented the flows in 2018 and 2019. Cultural tourism is a very important component of Italian tourism and must be helped. We are talking about an immense wealth that must be preserved, nurtured and bequeathed for future generations.   

As the MIC Minister Dario Franceschini has repeatedly stated, ‘Italy is a great widespread museum, an open-air museum’, which must be supported with targeted investments and projects precisely to facilitate the restart of the cultural sector as a whole.”

Performing Arts

Live music, performing arts, festivals, cinema and museums, and more generally sectors related to events and physical venues, have been the most affected by the social distancing measures due to Covid 19. In Europe, according to recent estimates, the sector has lost more than 30 % of its turnover – from around 650bn in 2019 to just over 440bn in 2020 – with segments such as music and the performing arts shrinking by 75% and 90 % respectively.   

With respect to 2019, the data recently published by the SIAE and the MIC show that the pandemic in Italy, as in the rest of the world, has had a real tsunami effect on the performing arts sector.  European and US research points out that with the 2020 lockdowns, this segment has suffered a vertical collapse with enormous damage for workers as well as for companies, which often operate at the limits of financial sustainability. 

An attempt has been made to remedy this, with a great deal of online activism, by moving ‘the stages into our homes’, but obviously concerts, operas or theatrical performances in streaming mode cannot be compared to live performances that create a close, symbiotic relationship with the audience, generating the sublime, an aesthetic concept that dates back to ancient Greece, being further developed by Kant and Schopenhauer. Between the performers on stage and the audience, a communicational alchemy is created in the enjoyment of the act, which we all need.” 

Support Initiatives 

The dissemination of Covid 19 came at a time when the cultural tourism sector was experiencing a phase of important growth.  

In order to emerge from the crisis, especially for the performing arts sector, support measures are needed that have found a valid ally in the European Union with the allocation of Recovery Found resources, funds that are even more important considering the moment of great uncertainty and the strong economic recession we are experiencing. 

But this is not enough: it will be necessary for the next European programming 2021-27 to include specific instruments for the support of live performances.  

In Italy, the PNRR has made it possible to allocate more than EUR 7 billion to the cultural sectors as a whole: for the cinema and art and performing arts sector, the minimum annual amount of the investment fund will now start from EUR 750 million.  Furthermore, the MIC, in order to support and attract the private sector, including foreigners, has put in place tax relief instruments such as the cinema tax credit, which has risen to 40%, and the art bonus, which, on the model of the ecobonus, encourages private donations with a tax credit of 65% over three years. 

In Italy, where there is not yet a strong fundraising culture, this is an important signal to revolutionise the relationship between the public and private sectors in the world of culture. In addition, a fund for workers in the performing arts will start in 2022: ‘temporary economic support’ EUR 20 million, which will double in 2023.

Audience development

All cultural associations and organisations, in the broadest sense, have always needed to reach, increase and diversify their audience. It is therefore of utmost importance to study marketing and communication strategies and to adopt programming tools to retain the occasional audience but also and above all to reach new segments. 

Even the European Union with ‘Creative Europe’, the framework programme to support culture and creativity in 2020, has emphasised the importance of audience development to overcome the fragmentation of audiences and to experiment with new forms of involvement through digital media.


“A lot of attention has to be paid to audience development. There are performances and commercial shows that attract a lot of participants and others that are niche, such as opera, ballet or classical music. This is where action must be taken, because the subject of music must be approached very consistently and with a long-term strategy.  

In this context, schools, starting with primary classes, can be a driver to educate and bring children closer to the world of opera.

In Italy, there were two significant examples of this at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma: the Fabrica Young Artist Programme, and the Opera Camion. The Fabrica was a training and recruitment platform offering young artists the opportunity to develop a career in operathe Opera Camion, represented a cultural operation to popularise opera through a policy of urban regeneration by reaching outlying districts of the city with a truck, with a positive impact on the community. The New York Times also spoke about this innovative initiative.”


Culture is also increasingly conveyed on digital platforms. The health emergency has shown the need to expand online access to cultural heritage with a focus on the use of innovative and augmented reality technologies.  

Within the framework of the NRP, the MIC has launched a wide-ranging and long-term project that will accompany the digital transformation of cultural institutions from 2021 to 2026 by creating the Digital Library.

“Digitalisation is changing scenarios, it is changing the world of work, education and of course the cultural world.   It is a work in progress and as such the way of enjoying culture will integrate with technological tools and augmented reality, as is happening with the metaverse. It is very likely that hybrid domains, disciplinary and operational, will be created that will change perspectives, traditional conceptions and sensory perceptions. I know of start-ups that have initiated projects using digital components by integrating them into the cultural sector. 

The digital world could help young people develop new business models and seize new job opportunities for their future. We are talking about cultural managers, new professions, with developed digital skills, who have to manage and control cultural organisations, foundations and enterprises. Culture has the power and capacity to create economic value and regenerate the economy as a whole.”


She is an international relations and cultural business professional with more than 16 years of work experience in the culture and creativity sector. She has held high-profile positions that complemented her experience in arts administration, enabling collaborations with international institutions in the field of arts management and cultural affairs, including: TRG Arts, Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, Global Leaders Program, Teatro Olimpico, Teatro dell’Opera ‘La Fenice’, Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Youth Music of the World, BOZAR (Brussels), Sadler’s Wells (UK), US State Department. Furthermore, Alexandra Solea is an Alumna of the European Music Council (Bonn), Stiftung Mercator (Essen), TÜSİAD (Istanbul). In addition, she has been a Resident Fellow of the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the Romanian Academy in Rome, and has been awarded several scholarships for study and research by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Festivals Association (Brussels), Asia-Europe Foundation – ASEF (Singapore), Fondazione Terzo Pilastro – Internazionale, Fondazione Roma etc.

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