A series of funding schemes aimed at improving the quality of services has given a substantial boost to the development of tourism in Sicily. This has led to growth rates which are even higher than the national average. Investment carried out in previous years has led to re-development of Sicily's unique historical-cultural and natural heritage.
Tourism is one of the regional economy's leading sectors. During the period 1995- 2005, there was a growth in the number of arrivals and overnight stays of 46.9% and 43.7% respectively, compared to the previous ten years.
The Regional Tourist Office and the Provincial Tourist Offices (AAPT) recorded 4.56 million arrivals (up 6.1% on 2005) and a little over 14.58 million overnight stays (up 6.3% on 2005) in accommodation structures in 2006, a growth which concerned both hotels and complementary structures. The number of overnight stays by Italian tourists rose by 2.8%, alongside an 11.7% rise in those by foreign tourists. Foreign arrivals rose by 11.7% and Italian arrivals by 3.2%.
Figures show that most hotel visitors were from European countries.
Sicily is one of the most popular Italian destinations accounting for over 50% of the national lowcost-flight market. Airports in Sicily offer a great deal of potential for development and for new operators, following infrastructure investment. The construction of a new air terminal in Catania, the Comiso passenger airport and the planned development for Palermo and Trapani airports will allow for further development in trade and passenger flights to and from Sicily.
The low-cost airlines currently operating in Sicily are Air Berlin, Blu Express, Brussels Airlines, Central Wings, Click Air, Club Air, Easy Jet, Eurofly, Evolavia, Fly Thomas Cook, HLX, Helvetic, Jet and Fly, Meridiana, My Air, Ryan Air, Sky Europe, Transavia and Volare Web, in addition to the airlines which offer standard connections - Air Blue Corporate, Air One, Air Malta, Alitalia, Alpi Eagles, Livingston, Meridiana, Tunis Air and Wind Jet.
The Regional Operational Programme FESR 2007-2013 includes measures to improve competitiveness in the Sicilian tourist sector by expanding, developing and diversifying services and products offered to tourists, and to increase production investment in the tourist sector.
The planned measures include the following:
- support for measures (provided for in specific agreements with carriers) to reduce costs during the start-up phase of new scheduled point to point flights in a medium/long radius, in addition to increases in the frequency of flights already operative to and from destinations within the Mediterranean Basin, giving priority to the de-seasonalization of tourist numbers.
- support for measures (provided for in specific agreements with tour operators and carriers), aimed at improving sea and land transport to meet tourist demand, and reducing costs in an attempt to maintain the Region's overall level of competitiveness during the start-up phase.
The Regione Siciliana is actively involved in a number of international partnership projects aimed at the development of eco-compatible tourism, especially the Operational Programmes 'Italia-Malta' and 'Italia-Tunisia'.