1. Trade and tourism

2. Tourism: accommodation establishments

3. Tourism: arrivals of tourists

4. Tourism balance

5. Traders registered with INPS

6. Trade fairs

7. Enterprises registered in the Business Register (ATECO section G)


1. Trade and tourism

Data on distributive trade outlets are provided by the Ministry of Economic Development, through its National Observatory on Trade.

There are two types of information in the Observatory:

  • regulations and legislation issues, which enables to obtain information on the implementation of the legislation and its objectives, such as market transparency, improvement of commercial services in poor areas, modernization of trade activities, technological development of the services supplied.


  • statistical, which enables to analyse the evolution of the distributive system both  from a structural point of view (size, composition, characteristics) and from an economic one (performance of the sector). The primary source of the statistics included in the Observatory is the Business Register of the Chambers of Commerce.


Distributive trade activities comprise the following three categories (divisions of the NACE or ATECO classifications):

  • Motor trade (retailing, wholesaling and repair)
  • Wholesale trade (excluding motor trade)
  • Retail trade (excluding motor trade)

Retail trade activities can take place through large-scale distribution outlets (specialised and non-specialised) or through specialised retailing (stores, stalls and markets, or not in store retailing).

Large-scale distribution outlets can be grouped into the following broad categories:

  • Department stores
  • Supermarkets
  • Minimarkets
  • Hypermarkets



Retail trade not in stores and not via stalls and markets comprises:

  • Retail sale via mail order houses or via Internet
  • Door to door sale
  • Vending machines
  • Retail sale only via the Internet


The classification of economic activities  ATECO 2007 and revision of the system

As mentioned above, the statistical information contained in the Observatory on Trade is based on data available in the Business Registers of the Chambers of Commerce, where economic activities are coded according to the classification of economic activities adopted by Istat. In 2009 the data in the Business Registers were re-organised on the basis of Istat’s new classification (ATECO 2007); this entailed changes not only in the codes, but also in the number of businesses ascribed to each code.

Following this re-organisation, also the system used for the Observatory was revised. The main result is a greater number of commodity categories within the entire distributive sector, which enables more detailed analyses. However, year 2009 is the first year of a new time series, and the data are no longer fully comparable with those relating to previous years.



As regards the data onsupermarkets and department stores, since January 2004 establishments having at the same time the characteristics of the two categories are no longer surveyed. Such establishments are included in one of the two categories, according to their prevalent activity. Data on persons employed, when missing, are estimated on the basis of the provincial average.

Data on wholesale trade include wholesalers and trade intermediaries.

Moto tradeincludes retail and wholesale sale of vehicles, motorcycles, pasts and accessories, as well as repair and maintenance activities. Data on sale of fuel are excluded from motor trade (although, according to the classification ATECO they should be included) and are included in retail trade. Also excluded from motor trade are data on the intermediation of vehicles, which are included in trade intermediaries (classified as “intermediaries of vehicles and motorcycles, including parts and accessories”).

For what concerns retail sale not in stores, the categories defined in the ATECO classification do not fully correspond to the ones set in the Law Decree114/1998: electronic commerce in fact included in the broader category “sale via mail order houses”, while retail sale within producing enterprise cannot be identified or counted.

In the categories “stalls and markets “ and “vending machines” the data refer to the number of enterprises that carry out such type of activity (registered in the Business Register) and not to single outlets establishments or vending  machines.


2. Tourism: accommodation establishments

Hotels and other accommodation establishments

Data on hotels and other accommodation establishments are collected by Istat through the census survey “Capacity of accommodation establishments” which is conducted every year. Accommodation establishments are classified into three broad categories:

  1. Hotels: comprise hotels and tourist residences;
  2. Establishments of supplementary accommodation: includes campground, tourist villages, private houses for rent run as enterprises, farm-tourism accommodation, youth hostels, holiday homes, mountain refuges;
  3. Private houses for rent; comprise bed & breakfast and other private houses.

The survey unit is represented by the accommodation establishments present on the national territory; the data are collected at the municipal level.

The following variables are surveyed: number of establishments; number of beds, of rooms, of bathrooms in hotels; number of bed-places in supplementary accommodation establishments and private houses for rent. Since 2008 data by size class (number of rooms) are also available.

“Capacity” of accommodation establishments corresponds to the “gross capacity”, i.e. it refers to the number of establishments open during the year, even if for a very short time.

Data on the capacity are measured in compliance with the EU Directive 1995/57/CE on tourism statistics.

Farm-holiday accommodation

In Italy Farm holiday accommodation (agri-tourism) is defined as “accommodation activity provided by farmers” (article 2135 of the Civil Code).

According to the legislation, agri-tourism activities comprise:

  • accommodation;
  • provision of food and beverages, made mainly by products of the farm or form farms located in the surroundings;
  • tasting of products of the farm, including wine;
  • organisation of recreational, cultural or sport activities, also in collaboration with local Agencies, aimed at promoting the territory and the agricultural activities.


Each Region and Province defines and characterises the agri-tourism activity on its territory, and introduces specific legislation on the issue. However, agri-tourism is always include in the agricultural sector.

Data on the number of establishments and their characteristics are collected by Istat on the basis of administrative data managed by the Regions and Autonomous provinces (or other public administrations).


3. Tourism: arrivals of tourists

The survey: “Arrivals of tourists in accommodation establishments”

Istat collects data on arrivals of tourists through the monthly census-survey “Arrivals of tourists in accommodation establishments”, which is conducted on a monthly basis.

As in the case of the survey on the Capacity of accommodation establishments, also for this survey the survey unit is the represented by the accommodation establishments, grouped into the three broad  categories (hotels, establishments of supplementary accommodation, private houses for rent).

For each month and in each municipality, the survey collects information on arrivals and nights spent by tourists (Italian and foreign). Information on the characteristics of the establishments and on the tourists (country of residence of foreigners and region/province of residence of Italian tourists) is also collected.

It is underlined that the data on arrivals and night spent by tourists refer only to those tourists who stayed in accommodation establishments and therefore may not always cover the total arrivals of tourists.


The survey “Trips and holidays”

Every years Istat conducts the survey “Trips and holidays”, which is part of the system of social surveys “Multi- purpose surveys on households”,whose results are disaggregated t the regional level.

The survey collects information on trips of at least one overnight stay made by the resident population living in households. The aim of the survey is to detect the number of trips and their main characteristics (destination, type of accommodation, means of transport, duration) as well as the socio-demographic characteristics of tourists. The survey, thus, provides a complete picture of the national tourism demand, quantifying the number of trips (and nights) both to Italy and abroad made for business and personal purposes.

At the EU level, tourism is defined as the set of activities of persons travelling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes.. However, some non-voluntary purposes of trips are excluded by convention: non-voluntary stays in hospital and other medical institutions providing clinical/medical treatment, which is prescribed by a doctor, are excluded. Other non-voluntary exclusions include stays in prison and stays in military service (note that vacations from the institutions may be normally included in tourism).

In relation to a given country, three forms of tourism can be distinguished:

(i) Domestic tourism comprises the activities of residents of a given country travelling to and staying in places only within that country but outside their usual environment.

(ii) Inbound tourism comprises the activities of non-residents of a given country travelling to and staying in places in that country and outside their usual environment.

(iii) Outbound tourism comprises the activities of residents of a given country travelling to and staying in places outside that country and outside their usual environment.

More specifically, the survey excludes from tourist flows the trips usually made t a same place with a weekly frequency (or more often).

Also excluded are stays of more than 12 consecutive months and stays for work purposes.

The information provided in the survey refers to the number of trips undertaken and their characteristics (reason, destination, starting data, duration, organisation, type of accommodation, expenditure).

The data are collected every quarter via CATI (Computer assisted telephone interview) from an annual sample 14,000 households (3,500 every quarter). The survey is conducted in the months of April, July, October and January.


4. Tourism balance

The tourism balance is the part of the balance of payments where international transactions in goods and services relating to tourism are recorded. In the standard scheme set by the IMF (International Monetary Fund) it is represented by the item "Travel”: for Italy, credits correspond to the expenditure by non-resident tourist travelling in Italy; debts correspond to the expenditure by resident tourists travelling abroad.

The information used to calculate the tourism balance are collected through the survey on “International tourism in Italy”, which is a sample survey launched in 1996. Since 2007 it was conducted by the Italian Office of Exchange (Ufficio Italiano Cambi), which on 1 January  2008 became part of the Bank of Italy

Objectives of the survey

The survey pursues the following main objectives:

  • to improve the quality of statistics on the tourism balance and a better adherence to the international standards.
  • to release information relating to various characteristics of the tourism market, addressed to government bodies, operator in the tourism sector, and researchers.

The survey methodology

Data for the tourism balance are collected using the inbound-outbound frontier survey technique. It consists in interviewing a sample of travellers (resident and non-resident) at the Italian frontiers and calculating the number and the nationality of the travellers, in transit.

The sampling is made independently for each type of border (roads, railways, airports and international ports). Data are collected via fate to face interviews.

The main information collected – at various levels of detail – is:

  1. Gender, age and occupation
  2. Place of residence
  3. Means of transport used
  4. Reason for the trip (if “holiday”, the type of holiday)
  5. Place visited (foreign country for residents in Italy, Italian municipality for residents abroad)
  6. Number of nights spent during the trip
  7. Type of accommodation establishment used
  8. Trip organisation (inclusive or non-inclusive)
  9. Total expenditure, broken down by type of good purchased (transportation, accommodation, restaurant, purchases in shops, other services)
  10. Means of payment
  11. Evaluation (opinion) on various aspects of the place visited

In 2008 around 145,000 interviews were carried out (around 1.1 every thousand travellers at the borders).


5. Traders registered with INPS

Data on this theme relate to traders registered in the pension fund managed by INPS (National Institute of Social Security). The persons registered in such fund can be:

  • proprietors of commercial enterprises, i.e. persons who work in the enterprises on a regular basis and also run it;
  • family workers, who work in the enterprise on a regular basis and as prevalent activity. Members of the family include: the spouse, relatives within the third degree (parents, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, uncles and aunts), and relatives-in-law within the second degree ( fathers in law, brothers in-law, etc.).

A business is a commercial enterprises when one of the following activities is carried out:

  • trading and tourism services;
  • work as trade auxiliary;
  • trade intermediation or agency;
  • air or sea agency;
  • agent in bookshops in stations;
  • broker registered in the rolls of the Chamber of Commerce;
  • business agents;
  • trade commissioner;
  • owner of information institute;

The data provided by INPS are taken from the Administrative Register.

The survey unit is the person who results to be registered during the reference year (even if for a fraction of the year).

The classification variables are:

  • reference year
  • geographical area – region – province (where the enterprise is located)
  • gender
  • age group
  • professional status (proprietor or family worker).
  • year of first registration

The analysis variables are

  • total number of persons registered or insured
  • annual average number of persons registered.

The data are updated on a yearly basis.


6. Trade fairs

Data on trade fairs presented in this section are released by Regione Lombardia, whose policy for the promotion of the competitiveness of Lombardy’s exhibition centres in the national and international markets plays an important role for the regional production system.

Through its General Directorate for Trade, Fairs and Markets, Region Lombardia produces every year a report analysing the trade fair activity. This report is produced in collaboration with Cermes Bocconi and receives a contribution from Fondazione Fiera Milano)

This report analyses the key values and trends of the trade fair sector, taking into consideration a variety of aspects, such as:

  • the number of events
  • the area rented
  • the number of exhibitors (broken down into national and foreign)
  • the number of visitors (broken down into national and foreign)


In the reports, trade fair events are classified into four broad categories:

1) national trade events: characterised by a low proportion of international exhibitor and visitors. Typical of this category are events dedicated to the consumer segment;

2) international trade events: characterised by a low proportion of international exhibitor and visitors. This denotes a “hub function”, meaning that the event does not depend on the import or export functions of the area where it takes place. This category refers to events addressed to the business segment;

3) import events: characterised by a low proportion of foreign visitors and a high proportion of foreign exhibitors.

4) import events: characterised by a high proportion of foreign visitors and a relative low proportion of foreign exhibitors.


7. Enterprises registered in the Business Register (ATECO section G)

The data relating to enterprises registered in the Business Register of the Chambers of Commerce, are provided by InfoCamere, a company that belongs to the Chambers of Commerce and manages and disseminates all their data.

InfoCamere provides the data on the number of:

  • “operating” enterprises, i.e. enterprises that are active at the end of the reference period; and
  • “registered” enterprises, which include, in addition to the active enterprises, the inactive, suspended, closed-down or bankrupt ones. These enterprises may become active again without the need of a new registration.

Besides the above “stock” data, InfoCamere releases “flow” data, which relate to new registrations and cancellations from the registers that took place during the reference period.

Further information on the Business Register can be found in note to Section 9 – Enterprises.

Data aggiornamento: 
November, 2010