Record tourism arrivals in Puglia: region hosts 13% more international travelers in 2016

Credit expanded international airline service, a larger portfolio of luxury accommodations, publicity surrounding high-profile visitors or an influx of travelers from new source markets; whatever the reason, Puglia is attracting more foreign visitors than ever before.

A report from the Osservatorio del Turismo (Observatory of Regional Tourism) states that international tourism to Puglia is booming, with arrivals of overseas visitors up 13% for the first 10 months of 2016, with stays of at least one night growing 8.4% compared to 2015, as reported in La Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno. Vacations in Puglia by Italians from other regions also increased. Gargano and Salento remain the most popular tourist areas, together accounting for 68% of overnight stays, the reports states.

And that’s despite fears expressed earlier this year that refugees from the Middle East would flood Puglia after a route between Greece and northern Europe was closed. At the time, it was feared that as many as 150,000 refugees would find their way to Puglia this year and adversely impact the region’s tourism industry.

When I began promoting tourism to Puglia more than 15 years ago, few Americans had ever heard of the region. Even some Italian Americans who knew that their family roots were “Barese” did not realize that they were referring to the city or province by the same name within the Region of Puglia. I was even kidded for devoting so much attention to such an obscure place. Well, times have changed.

Pierangelo Argentieri, president of Federalberghi Brindisi and regional vice president, tells La Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno, “It is clear that these data are the result of the increase in flight connections that in the last two years have grown exponentially. Certainly, also contributing were the arrival of big international stars like Madonna or the story of the dream weddings celebrated in the most exclusive farmhouses of Savelletri.” Also, he says, it is no coincidence that the range of accommodations “has increased by 9.7%” in the first 10 months of 2016, particularly in the luxury segment of the market. Also increasing was the number of agriturismo properties (farms that accommodate visitors), vacation homes and apartments and bed-and-breakfast inns.

The Osservatorio del Turismo identifies the “strategic foreign markets” for Puglia as mainly Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Switzerland, but the region is also seeing an influx of vacationers from the United States, Poland and the Netherlands, as well as China, South Korea, Australia and Argentina. While much of the growth in intercontinental travel is attributed an increase in direct flights to Puglia, Argentieri says the increase in U.S. visitors is also a “stimulated phenomenon from the fallout of (Puglia’s) image in the major international journals.” Also, he says, “It is not to be underestimated that even the settlement of large U.S. companies such as Boeing in Grottaglie which in recent years has resulted in an enormous number of managers who have become the best testimonial of Puglia in their country.”

Even the major tour operators are taking notice. A decade ago, few if any of them offered Puglia packages, citing a lack of interest among travelers and unavailability of quality accommodations and services. Now, for example, the U.S.-based tour operator Tauck sells out its “A Week in Puglia” itinerary priced from $3,990 per person. A variety of other tour operators host trips to Puglia, many of them focused on specialty activities such as bicycling, hiking, history and food and wine. And the region’s official tourism bureau, Pugliapromozione, provides plenty of information to educate travelers about Puglia’s vacation possibilities.

Leave a Reply