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Italy shows consistent strength for European tax-free spending

Alongside Spain, Italy is showing consistent strength as a key European Tax Free Shopping (TFS) destination, bucking the growth decline seen in other countries in the region towards the end of 2015 and so far in 2016.

TFS sales in Italy rose by +12% in February year-on-year (YoY) compared to the January performance of +7%, while transactions increased by +13% vs +3% in January, continuing the positive growth trend recorded towards the end of 2015, when Q4 performance was +25%.


As visitor numbers to Italy increased significantly during Expo Milano in summer 2015 (especially the Chinese, with a +23% spike for the overall year according to 24 Ore), a legacy effect is still apparent.  Year-end figures saw hotel accommodation sales increase by 5.9% finds industry association Federalberghi, that also reported hotels outperformed the average of the overall segment of tourist services by +4.3%.


FX trends are driving Italy’s increased TFS spending, with the continued weak euro relative to the Chinese yuan and US dollar a central driver of the country’s strong inbound tourist market with regard to Chinese visitors. Over January and February, Chinese TFS spending increased by +10% YoY. A growing travel trend where ‘last-chance-to-see’ resorts are limiting inbound visitor numbers is likely to drive an earlier tourist season to locations such as Italy’s coastal Cinque Terre in the Liguria region, according to a report in the Guardian.


The trend for Chinese globe shoppers to visit Europe for authentic brand experiences and seek out luxury brands to buy in their origin country is being played out in Italy. According to a recent Italian Fashion Sector report by financial consulting group R&S Mediobanca, the ‘Made in Italy’ name still drives demand for luxury in Europe, where tax-free travel retail is expected to increase by +26% and +19% in Europe and Italy respectively, says the report.


Earlier this month, luxury group Tod’s reported a +5% rise in annual profit further to increased sales in Europe (and America) that offset weak sales in China. European sales for the company were up +9% vs a decline of -12% in China, according to a report in The Times.


Prada has had a tough year, especially in Asia. However, reports suggest that thanks to price adjustments and a healthy global appetite for its iconic accessories, the Italian luxury house should see better sales in 2016, according to industry blog Trendwalk, which cites analyst commentary by Morningstar.


The European Tourism 2015 report from the European Trade Commission (ETC) highlights Italy’s consistent global appeal for tourists. International arrivals between January and October were up by a healthy +4.8% compared with a Europe-wide rise of +5%. Overnight stays in Italy rose +2.4% during the same period.


Global Blue takeouts:

• Italy has shown its resilience as one of Europe’s top three TFS destinations. In the wake of the Paris terror attacks, which affected visitor numbers to France, Italy has benefitted. 

• As a key authentic luxury brand experience destination, Italy continues to see consistent numbers of Chinese visitors searching for the ‘Made in Italy’ name associated with many of the country’s luxury brand names.


Global Blue corporate data reporting includes Tax Free Shopping (TFS) transactions from our key TFS destination markets across EMEA and Asia, where more than 24 months of back data is available. Global Blue data points referenced within our corporate content may vary from other third party reports that publish our data, due to different parameters set by these third parties.