Italian tourism experiences renaissance
The country tops the list for German travelers for the first time in two decades.
Berlin -- Italian tourism is experiencing a renaissance, shown by the number of Germans heading south across the Alps to spend their 2007 vacation.
The Mediterranean country returned to the top of the holiday list for the world's most enthusiastic travelers for the first time in almost 20 years, with more than 9 million German visitors last year.
"Italy At The Top" is the upbeat slogan adopted by Italian Tourist Board officials attending the ITB, the world's largest travel fair, being held in Berlin until March 9.
Around 180 countries and regions fly the flag at the city's spacious Funkturm trade fair grounds.
Numerous marketing and promotional campaigns in 2007 helped focus attention on Italy as a tourist destination.
Italian Tourist Board officials told an ITB press conference that the board had spent 4 million euros (6 million dollars) last year on a series of tourism initiatives in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.
This year 2 million euros were earmarked for further promotional activity under the slogan "Italy Lives."
Germany's major travel organizations again report favorable advance season bookings for Italy, particularly for Lake Garda and northern Adriatic resorts, as well as Sardinia.
"This gives us grounds for optimism that the positive trends are set to continue," said a spokesman.
He also pointed out that the music world would this year be celebrating the 150th anniversary of Giacomo Puccini's birth in Lucca, where numerous cultural events are planned.
Italy's most renowned music theatres, such as the Carlo Fenice in Genoa, La Scala in Milan, and the Teatro San Carlo in Naples will all be featuring Puccini operas in their 2008 programs.
The festivities will be highlighted at Torre del Lago where, from July to August on the banks of the Lake Massaciuccoli, there will be performances of Turandot, Tosca, Madame Butterfly and Edgar at a new open-air theatre to be inaugurated for the Puccini celebrations.
Concerts at the Accademia Santa Cecilia in Rome and the Gala Lirico, starring Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon in Torre del Lago, will be further musical highlights of the Puccini festival.
The ITB in 2008 is a barometer for the boom in the global travel industry. With sales of over 5 billion euros generated every year at the fair, experts this time round are saying auspices for further growth in the travel industry are "very favorable."
The World Tourism Barometer, published by the UN World Tourism Organization, puts the number of international tourist arrivals at 898 million in 2007 -- up 6 percent on the previous year.
This year the Micronesian islands of Palau and Yap, in addition to the African island of Zanzibar are using the ITB Berlin for the first time as a platform.
The boom countries of the Arab region, Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe are all prominently represented at the ITB, with Abu Dhabi, Egypt, Thailand, Vietnam and Macau boasting significantly larger stands.
Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Montenegro, the Czech Republic and Russia, have increased their exhibition space by up to 40 percent.
The Emirates Airlines is in Berlin with a spectacular new trade show.
The Dubai-based airline, which aspires to be the world's biggest, has doubled the size of its presence at the ITB, showcasing itself in a three-storey, fully-glazed globe, that rotates around its own axis.
Expatica with DPA