Tourism in Rome was up by 0.53 per cent last year over the previous year. Of the more than 16 million tourists who visited the city and province in 2003, 6.4 million were Italians, an increase of 4.56 per cent over the year before. The 10.3 million non-Italians who visited Rome last year showed a decrease of almost three per cent.

The biggest loss was of visitors from the United States and Japan, countries that have traditionally supplied wealthier tourists to the city. About 2.5 million travellers from the US visited Rome in 2003, accounting for a drop of 7.43 per cent. Tourists from Japan fell by 5.68 per cent last year to about 932,000.

However, people from other parts of Italy and the rest of Europe flocked to Rome. Visits by Hungarians were up by 25 per cent. About 143,000 Russians visited Rome, an increase of 14 per cent from the year before. German tourists increased by 12.8 per cent; French by 11.7 per cent. Slightly over one million English tourists came to Rome, an increase of 4.14 per cent. Spanish visitors were up by three per cent. The average tourist stays in Rome for 2.6 days.

Even with the slight increase in tourism last year, Romes hotels have reported that they are going through hard times with the occupancy rates falling from 63 to about 50 per cent in 2003. Tourism accounts for some 85,000 jobs in Rome, and according to city officials, even slight changes in the tourist figures can have a significant impact on the local economy. Tourism in Italy brings in about 40 billion each year, half of which is generated in Rome, Florence and Venice.