The Impact of COVID-19 on International Tourism Flows to Italy: Evidence from Mobile Phone Data
29 Pages Posted: 1 Sep 2021
Date Written: August 31, 2021
This paper analyses the response to the COVID-19 pandemic of inbound tourism to Italy looking at variation across countries and across provinces. To this end, it uses weekly data on the number of foreign visitors in Italy from January 2019 until February 2021, as provided by a primary mobile phone operator. We document a very robust negative relation at province level between local epidemiological conditions and the inflow of foreign travellers. Moreover, provinces with a historically higher share of art tourism, and those that used to be ‘hotel intensive’ were hit the most during the pandemic, while provinces with a more prevalent orientation towards business tourism proved to be more resilient. Entry restrictions with varying degrees of strictness played a key role in explaining cross-country patterns. After controlling for these restrictions, we observed that the travellers that could arrive by their own, private, means of transportation decreased proportionally less. Overall, this evidence emphasises that contagion risk considerations played a significant role in shaping international tourism patterns during the pandemic.
Keywords: International tourism, travel restrictions, COVID-19
JEL Classification: I15; L83; F14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation