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2020 is drawing to a close and the time has come to take stock over International Tourism. With an inside look at Italy, one of the countries hit the hardest by the virus, we’ve conducted a detailed analysis of the digital traces left online over the last 12 months, revealing the ups and downs of an absolutely unpredictable year. 

International Tourism: a further look at Italy

The Internet is a mirror of reality, which no one knows better than The Data Appeal Company, who collects and analytically reads the digital traces left online by users when they travel, buy, eat and experience the world around them.

When compared with official data, the digital traces of 2020, such as online conversations, comments, reviews and social posts, reveal, without uncertainty, that tourism was flipped upside down due to the Covid-19 crisis. Italy, in particular, struggles to see the end of the stalemate they fell into back in February. Let’s take a further look at tourism in the beloved boot-shaped Nation.

Points of Interest active online drop -25%

In Italy, there are over 400,000 points of interest that are active online and have received at least one online review in 2020, including 72,800 accommodations, 190,300 cafes and restaurants and 31,200 attractions.


This is a sharp decline compared to 2019 undoubtedly due to the coronavirus crisis that forced many businesses to remain closed for most of the year and National regulations which severely limited tourists to enter Italy.

Within hospitality, a -23% drop in active POIs online was recorded, which aligns with ISTAT (National Italian Statistic) surveys revealing the total of hospitality accomodations who closed their doors this year. A -5% drop was recorded for cafes and restaurants and -25% for attractions. 

The amount of online content reflects the collapse of tourists 

The online content analyzed this year, 16 million pieces of content in total, is a significant drop when compared to 2019. This goes hand in hand with official data on tourist flows, both in terms of trends and total variation, which currently sits around – 60%.

international tourism

In the graphic above, we see a parallelism that once again confirms that digital traces accurately reflect arrival trends and must be leveraged as an index by those involved in territorial promotion.

In the hospitality sector, there’s a significant discrepancy between the amount of content in 2020 compared to 2019. In today’s Covid-era, the amount of content dwindles -89% compared to the year prior. Most shockingly, during the first lockdown, the amount of content nearly fell to zero. 

international tourism

Foreigners disappear while the domestic market explodes

The new composition of tourists visiting Italy comes as no surprise. What was once a steady flow of US, Chinese, Australian and South American visitors, has been drastically reduced. The share of foreign online content compared to content posted by Italians has decreased from 53.7% in 2019 to 35.4% in 2020. The share of foreign content is now led by Germans, French and Swiss, who visited Italy over the summer months, mostly with their own vehicles, including cars and campers.

international tourism

Flight searches and bookings to Italy are still stalled 

The flight search and booking data shared by our partner, Sojern, confirms that for the most distant travelers, traveling to Italy is still a ways off. The Italian market is far from pre-Covid averages. Italy is surviving thanks to the tourists from neighboring countries and their own domestic travelers. 

sojern data

Food and safety among the most discussed topics

Thanks to our semantic analysis, Data Appeal detected the most discussed topics within online conversations and the relating sentiment.

Food remains one of the most discussed topics, becoming even more relevant in the travel experience: Even for hotels, food is among the most discussed topics, sitting in third place after hospitality and atmosphere, surpassing the the topic of rooms.

travel reviews

The issue of safety also became more widespread in 2020. Unsurprisingly, there’s a lot of online chatter about anti-Covid rules. Our semantic engine detected positivity related to hotel properties respecting the latest measures, while uncovering a high negative sentiment related to the behavior of individuals, especially in relation to maks. 


When analyzing the Covid Safety Index, our proprietary indicator, that measures consumer trust and the effectiveness of actions implemented by businesses across any destination, we see a trend that follows the first and second Italian lockdowns. In April, when Italy was in the eye of the pandemic cyclone, the index reached disheartening results (30-40/100). During the summer period, in particular July and August, a high level of confidence was recorded (80/100 and higher), while today, the indicator has fallen again, aligning with the second lockdown and national restrictions. 

covid safety index

To uncover the data-driven international tourism trends for your destination, contact our team of experts today. 

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