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Is the US dollar saving Rome's tourist industry?

Italy is hot right now for Americans, and the proof is in the numbers.

As the US dollar continues to surge and easing pandemic border restrictions boost travel confidence, US tourists continue to flock to Rome. This is helping the city enjoy a late-season tourist boom.One dollar currently buys just over one euro, about 17 per cent more than it did a year ago. This is the strongest dollar to euro exchange rate for over 20 years. For Americans visiting Italy, this is a boon – holiday budgets are stretching further and there is more money for splurging on food and shopping while they are here.

How the strong dollar is helping to draw US tourists back to Rome after the pandemic.

For Madison, a student from Georgia in the US, the favourable fluctuation in currencies is helping reduce some of the more unfavourable expenses of student travelling, such as the price of hostel rooms and eating-out.At the end of the summer, she withdrew a large batch of euro from her bank in the US before leaving to study as an exchange student at Reading University in the UK. This has helped her lock in a good deal for her weekend travels in Europe during the semester.“It’s been very favourable" - she says - "I’ve not had to worry so much and I’ve saved money, especially in restaurants in Rome where it seems like prices have gotten much higher since I last visited.”The dollar began to rally earlier this year as the Federal Reserve in the United States raised interest rates faster than other major countries in an effort to rein in inflation. At the same time, Americans were quick to see the value in travelling across the Atlantic.US to Europe travel sales went up by 113 per cent between May and July, according to Skift, a travel industry news site, in contrast to Europe to US bookings which increased only by 43 per cent.Laura Capitani is a luxury travel consultant at Protravel International, based in Beverly Hills, California. She helps her clients book high-end holidays and experiences around the world, from adventures in Patagonia, to week-long stays in Renaissance villas in Tuscany.“We've never been busier than this year and we’re gearing up for a repeat next year,” she says. “Italy alongside France is at the top of our clients’ lists.”

The surge comes as Americans are looking to reconnect, explore new destinations, and just escape the confines of their homes after the pandemic.

Nevertheless, Capitani sees that once her clients arrive in Italy, they are benefitting from the favourable exchange rate by splurging on designer goods and high-end restaurants.  A report published in August by Italian retailers’ association Comfcommercio predicted that American tourists would bring €2.1 billion to Italy between July and September – 20 per cent more than over the same period in 2019. For the tourism and hospitality sector this is welcome news. The pandemic left these industries in tatters in 2020. However this October, hotel occupancies were at 90 per cent the whole month, above the national average and pushing profitability past levels seen in 2019, according to a recent speech by Rome tourism councillor Alessandro Onorato.This is no doubt reassuring news for those businesses facing rising energy bills and the prospect of more economic gloom this winter.In what seems like a further vote of confidence for the sector, a number of luxury hotels in Rome plan to open their doors in the capital in the near future. Bulgari Hotel Roma will open in 2023 in the Campo Marzio neighbourhood, and they will be joined by other high-end international brands, such as the Six Senses and Nobu Hotels.The Four Seasons will come in 2024. These hotels are expected to bring in more than 4,000 new jobs to the capital. It seems that Rome’s hospitality and tourism sector is once again on the up.

Currency fluctuations are famously hard to predict and as interest rates begin to rise in Europe too, the deals may not last forever.

Nevertheless, with hotels offering prepaid rate options for 2023, for those with dollars to spare it’s not too early to pre-book and take advantage of today’s exchange rate for next year's Roman holidays.

In the intervening time, the capital's tourist-dependent businesses will breathe a sigh of relief as the late-season tourist boom brings in some welcome extra income ahead of what will be a difficult winter.Charles Seymour
Marymount - International School Rome
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