Romes city council has decided that the hot air balloon operating from the Villa Borghese park cannot be used as an advertising billboard, either now or in the future, thwarting the balloon operators hopes of opening up a much needed source of revenue.

The council may grant advertising concessions on public spaces if it is considered to be in the public interest, such as when it pays for the renovation of historical buildings. In this case, it is not considered applicable; on the contrary, says the council, the Villa Borgheses natural and aesthetic beauty, its main resource, would be compromised by this kind of advertising.

The balloon operators, whose lease on the spot in Villa Borghese ends this July, now fear for their survival as they are failing to cover their considerable fixed costs with ticket sales. The Campidoglio has said it will try to help them with special offers for schools and reduced ground rents.

The balloon has become a fixture of the Roman skyline since its first airborne journey in summer 2003.