According to the Ente Bilaterale Turismo della Regione Lazio, there will be 201,500 visitors to the capital during the Christmas period (23-28 Dec), a downturn of 19.56 per cent compared to 2007. Estimates for the New Year period (29 Dec-3 Jan) are around 298,000, down 17.48 per cent from 2007. In 2007, 117,903 hotel rooms were booked over the Christmas period, while this year the number stands at 95,000. Things are looking a little better for the New Year, with 140,300 rooms reserved, compared to 166,830 in 2007.

However, some experts believe these statistics may be pessimistic given that travellers' habits have changed over the past few years as many now book flights and rooms at the last minute.

American and Japanese tourists traditionally account for around 60 per cent of the tourism market in Rome, but their numbers are starting to dwindle.

The Regione Lazio aims to compensate this slump by spending