ROME, Feb. 11 (Xinhua) -- Italy's tourism industry is in good health, Federturismo business association said in a statement on Monday.
The association, based on a latest annual report on the state of the tourism in Italy by the Research Institute for Innovation and Development Services (IRiSS), a division of the National Research Center (CNR), said in 2017, international visitors to Italy outstripped domestic tourists for the first time: there were almost 211 million arrivals from overseas compared to 210 million domestic visitors.
The 22nd CNR-ISiSS Italian Tourism Report covers 2017 and part of 2018.
Based on data from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), international arrivals to Italy grew by 5.4 percent in the first nine months of 2018, after adding 6.8 percent overall in 2017.
"We estimate arrivals will increase by 4 percent in 2019," IRiSS Director Alfonso Morvillo said in a statement.
"International visitors choose Destination Italy for its great appeal," Confindustria Alberghi hotels association president, Giorgio Palmucci, said in a statement. "Italy is the most desirable destination for global tourists, followed by the U.S. and Australia."
Italy's landscapes, art, wine, food, and the Made-in-Italy brand are the main attractions, according to Palmucci.
The overall picture was also positive in terms of the hospitality industry, with 425 million hotel stays recorded in 2018, breaking a new record compared to 420.6 million stays in 2017, according to ISTAT national statistics institute.
Visitors stayed on average for 3.6 days in 2018, compared to 2.95 days the previous year, according to the CNR-IRiSS report.
As well, tourist spending generated turnover of 108.3 billion euros (122 billion U.S. dollars) in 2017, equal to 7 percent of all added value produced in Italy, four times the added value generated by the food and agriculture sector and 4.5 times the added value generated by the textile, fashion, and apparel sector, the CNR-IRiSS report said.
The tourism sector contributed 13 percent to Italian gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017, according to the report.
On the downside, over half, or 54.3 percent, of overall tourist spending in 2018 was concentrated in just five of Italy's 20 regions, all of them located in the country's central and northern areas: Lombardy, Lazio, Tuscany, Veneto, and Emilia Romagna, the CNR-IRiSS report pointed out.
Italy's most famous so-called "cities of art", all of them located in the country's central and northern regions, saw significant increases in foreign tourist arrivals in 2017 compared to the previous year: these included Venice (+86.5 percent), Florence (+73.9 percent), Rome (+70.1 percent), Milan (+64.9 percent) and Verona (+57.5 percent), according to the report.
Farms and Tourism Minister Gian Marco Centinaio said in a statement that the way to fix this problem is to lengthen the tourist season, cut tourist taxes, and "seize the opportunities of digital transformation in a more decisive manner".
Tourism generates 10.4 percent of global GDP and provides 313 million jobs around the world, according to the CNR-IRiSS report.