Figures released by Italy's federation of hoteliers and tourist agencies and by the confederation of small businesses show a drop of 800 million in spending on tourism and 15 per cent fewer foreigners visiting the country over the past three months compared to 2003. Over the same period the major artistic cities, Rome, Venice and Florence have shown a small increase in the number of tourists, with Rome boasting a six per cent increase during the month of August compared to last year.

Income from tourism makes up 10 per cent of Italy's gross national product and the government is taking the decrease in tourism seriously. The increase in the cost of living in Italy is probably the reason for the fall in tourism along with a decline in the quality of service. Italy is no longer a cheap place and there are several Mediterranean countries such as Turkey and Tunisia which offer more economical seaside holidays.