An analysis of the figures and the concentration of overnight stays shows that beach tourism and tourism linked to “Cities of Art” is extremely seasonalized and in some cases near saturation.
Those who work in the sector and who are aware of the situation have begun investment to encourage so-called 'niche' tourism (environmental tourism, farm tourism, sports tourism).
The sector is well-equipped to deal with both traditional, well-established mass tourism and 'niche' tourism, which is a more recent phenomenon and has excellent growth prospects.
The two forms of tourism are not in direct competition as they are aimed at a different target group. The first attracts the classic 'tourist' and the second the 'explorer or traveller'.
The last few seasons have seen an increase in a preference amongst tourists for top rate or elite tourism.
This trend is changing the face of Sicily and also the map of places traditionally favoured for holidays on the island.
Magnificent, refined resorts, 5* hotels with swimming pools and huge golf courses are becoming increasingly more frequent in an attempt to satisfy those visitors who are not simply looking for fun and relaxation but, above all, a feeling of well-being, luxury and elegance.
Figures for accommodation facilities show that the number of hotels is constantly rising. There is a high growth rate and an active process of establishing small non- hotel businesses all over Sicily, such as B&B, country houses and holiday farms.
These widespread facilities have the added benefit of ensuring accommodation throughout the island, strengthening the presidios (the products and areas selected to be specifically safeguarded) on the island and, at the same time, widening and diversifying the supply of hotels, stimulating competition and improving the quality of accommodation available.
The island's civilization, its cities and small towns, its architectural features, together with social and economic aspects, norms and customs, are becoming ever more distinct. These are all elements which help give the island its identity and without which it would be difficult to understand Sicily and the Sicilians.
There are nearly 400 towns in Sicily, and the small to medium towns are being targeted as they best represent the philosophy of the 'ideal holiday'. The many towns offer a variety of monuments, landscapes and natural environments, and we are convinced that it is these smaller towns, and not the big cities, which can offer the right balance between the past and the present, with respect for tradition and the maxims by which we live, which are unique to Sicily.
This may well be why Sicily is able to offer a cultural identity which uses its differences in order to create a common image for new integrated products under the hallmark Sicily.
Accommodation facilities include hotels, motels, hotel villages, hotel-tourist self- catering complexes, campsites, tourist villages, country tourist accommodation, holiday rooms and houses to rent, vacation houses and youth hostels.
Hotel villages are hotels with centralized services.
A Hotel-tourist self-catering complex is a facility open to the public which provides accommodation and services in furnished flats situated in one or more structures with self-catering facilities.
Country tourist accommodation includes facilities in country buildings provided by businesses whose main activity is agriculture.
Rooms to rent are facilities with up to six rooms in no more than two furnished flats in the same structure. Accommodation and sometimes complementary services are provided.
Holiday houses and flats are rented facilities managed as a business which are rented to tourists over one or more seasons. No centralized services are provided and contracts cannot exceed three consecutive months.
Vacation houses are accommodation facilities which are equipped for individuals or groups. They are run, outside normal commercial channels, by non-profit public bodies, associations or religious organizations for social, cultural, welfare, religious or sports purposes, or by organizations or businesses for their employees and families.
Youth hostels are accommodation facilities equipped for young persons for day and overnight stays. Data relating to the capacity of accommodation facilities in Sicily showed a rise in the total number of beds in both hotel facilities (up 6.4%) and complementary structures (up 20.1%).
The hotel sector on the island is divided in the following way; 15.5% accounts for 4* and 5* hotels, 41.8% for 3* hotels and 42.7% for 1* and 2* hotels.
Hotels in Sicily in 2006, compared to the previous year, expanded in number and in size due to good business sense. Sicilian accommodation businesses have worked well towards achieving the goals set by the Regional Ministry for Tourism (“ART”).
ART works towards diversifying the tourism available, improving the quality of accommodation facilities already in existence, establishing new facilities in those parts of Sicily which have a great deal of tourist potential, and de-seasonalizing tourist numbers (also by increasing international flights to and from Sicily).
Of the total number of businesses on the island in 2005, 1,047 were hotels (32% of the national total) and 1,890 complementary structures, most of which are located in Messina, Palermo and Catania.
For quite a number of years now, the non-hotel sector, especially farm holiday, Bed & Breakfast and country tourism, has been extremely active. This is a sign of a change in tourist preferences, or, rather, a growth in the demand for small, family-run accommodation to satisfy even the most demanding tourist.
In terms of hotels and bed numbers, Messina is the first with 34% of the number of beds in the Region, followed by Palermo with approx. one fifth of hotels on the island. In third place is Trapani with 14%.
Figures for overnight stays in complementary structures per province show that tourists mostly visit Messina, Catania and Trapani.
In recent years, the biggest potential for growth was found in the 'alternative tourism' sector, with growth figures often running into two figures.
It is the Bed & Breakfast figures which boost the overall figures with a high rate of growth in terms of number of beds and number of businesses. The figures for 'Agritourism' (holiday farms) are also highly satisfactory. There are a large number of businesses to the east of the Island, especially in Messina, followed by Catania, Siracusa and Ragusa.
There are also signs of positive growth in the vacation houses, holiday houses, rented
rooms and tourist village sectors, whereas the number of hostels and rifugi
(“retreats”) remained unchanged.
In 2005, in the nautical sector, the above table shows that Sicily, with 10,487 berthings, held 8.2% of the total national number of berthings, and the number of registered leisure craft represented 4.3% of the total at 2,979 craft.
In Sicily, 76 areas have been made Terrestrial Nature Reserves, 6 Protected Marine Areas and 4 Regional Parks. The current areas of protected land cover 270,988 hectares, corresponding to approx. 10.5% of the total regional surface area.
Below is a list of the areas of particular interest
1Alcantara River Park (Ct-Me);
2Madonie Park (Pa);
3Etna Park (Ct);
4Nebrodi Park (Ct-En-Me).
1Alcamo Forest (Tp);
2Cassibile Cavagrande (Sr);
3Siracusa Ciane and Saline Rivers (Sr);
4River Fiumefreddo (Ct);
5Mouth of the River Belice and dunes (Ag-Tp);
6Mouth of the River Platani (Ag);
7Carburangeli Grotto (Pa);
8Santa Ninfa Grotto (Tp);
9Island of Lampedusa (Ag);
10Lake Sfondato (Cl);
11The Fern and Leek Mountains (Le Montagne delle Felci e dei Porri) (Me);
12Aragona Macalube (Ag);
13Forests of the River Irminio (Rg);
14Simeto Oasis (Ct);
15Vendicari Fauna Oasis (Sr);
16Aleppo Pine Forests (Rg);
1Ciclopi Islands Marine Reserve (Ct);
2Ustica Island Marine Reserve (Pa).
1Kolymbetra Gardens (Ag);
2Villa Bellini (Ct);
3Villa Cordova (Cl);
4Villa Giulia (Pa);
5Botanical Gardens (Pa);
6Giardino Inglese (English Gardens) (Pa);
7Le Case del Biviere (Sr).
1Western Sicily (Mozia, Segesta, Selinunte, Solunto, Monte Jato);
2Central Sicily(Agrigento, Piazza Armerina, Camarina, Morgantina, Capo Soprano);
3Eastern Sicily(Pantalica, Megara, Siracusa, Tindari).
1Towns: Cefalù, Noto, Monreale, Taormina, Erice, Caltagirone
2Islands: Egadi, Eolie, Pelagie, Pantelleria, Ustica.
Based on 'bathing suitability' figures, the percentage values for bathing for bathing for 2002-2004 were generally high all over the island. An overall average of bathing coast equal to 95% (of the area subject to controls) puts Sicily in an extremely favourable position compared to the rest of Italy.
The following are some of the events throughout the year which bring in big tourist numbers:
- Festival of the Almond tree in bloom and folklore festival, February in Agrigento;
- Sciacca Carnival, February;
- Pirandello Week, July-August, Agrigento;
- International Pirandello Festival, December in Agrigento;
- The Holy week of Mysteries, Easter in Caltanissetta;
- Inycon-Menfi and its wines, June-July in Menfi;
- Tataratà May Festival in Casteltermini;
- Easter Arches in San Biagio Platani;
- Il Mito (the Myth) from April to October, Agrigento;
- Sant’Agata Festival, February in Catania;
- The Best Carnival in Sicily, February in Acireale;
- The Caltagirone Candlelit staircase, July in Caltagirone;
- The Etnafest from January-September, Catania and the Etna area;
- Pergusa Motorshow at the Pergusa racetrack, April -October, (En);
- Norman Palio, August in Piazza Armerina;
- Holy Week Rites, Easter in Enna;
- Live Nativity Scene, Christmas in Agira;
- Taormina Art in July-August, Taormina;
- La Kore Fashion Oscar in July in Taormina;
- Tindari Festival in July-August;
- Theatre Season at the Vittorio Emanuele Theatre, Messina;
- Theatre Season at the Massimo V. Bellini Theatre, Catania;
- Tindari Youth Theatre, April-May;
- Brolo Medievalia April-September;
- Theatre Festival of Due Mari (Two Seas), May-June, Tindari;
- Un Mare di Cinema – Efesto Golden Awards, July-August, Lipari;
- Womad in Sicily in July 2007 in Taormina;
- Teatro Massimo Theatre Season in Palermo;
- Symphony Orchestra Season O.S.S., Politeama Theatre, Palermo;
- Santa Rosalia Festival, July in Palermo;
- Termini Imerese Carnival, in February;
- Sacred Music Week, November in Monreale;
- International Horse Show for the “Coppa degli Assi”, October in Palermo;
- Sicily International Tennis Championships, September in Palermo;
- International Scuba Diving Event, June and October, Ustica;
- Greek-Byzantine Rites at Easter, Piana degli Albanesi, Contessa Entellina, Palazzo Adriano,Mezzojuso, S. Cristina Gela;
- World Festival on the beach in May in Mondello-Palermo;
- Festival di Morgana in November in Palermo;
- Palermo International Marathon, November;
- Palermo Fest, June;
- Women’s International Tennis Tournament, July, Palermo;
- Cefalù Historical Rally, ‘Florio Trophy’, May in Cefalù and the Madonie;
- Madonie: Country manor and farming traditions, August in Gangi-Geraci Siculo- Petralia Sottana;
- Madonna delle Milizie in May at Scicli;
- Greek drama in May-July, Siracusa;
- International Ancient Theatre Youth Festival in May at Pazzolo Acreide;
- Baroque Spring in May in Noto;
- Lucy of Sweden and Swedish week, November-January, Siracusa;
- Ortigia Festival in July in Siracusa;
- Saint Paul the Apostle Festival, June-July in Palazzolo Acreide;
- Gibellina Orestiadi in July-september;
- Holy Week of Mysteries Procession, Easter in Trapani;
- Custonaci Live Nativity Scene, Christmas in Custonaci;
- Cous Cous Fest in September in San Vito Lo Capo;
- Greek drama in July-August, Segesta;
- Musical July, Trapani
- Uphill Time trial, Mount Erice in May;
- Giro di Sicilia Cycle Tour in June.
Based on successful models from Spain and France, Sicily is also designing 'local tourist districts'. These are groups of public and private organizations working together to develop the whole tourist area by means of promotional activities and the instigation and management of new tourist services. This will undoubtedly have a positive effect on the area's international image as an area highly suited to tourism.
Taking a broad look at all the projects in the region, the most important are those included in the PIR projects and those regarding internationalization of the local tourist structures, such as 'The lands of the Etna-Taormina-Jonio myth' covering Central-Eastern Sicily, 'The two seas' PIR project for Alcamo, local development of the Tyrrhenian, Ibleo development of the Province of Ragusa, the Trapani local tourist structure, the Development of the Nebrodi Mountains, the Province of Siracusa, and Mediterranean Ecotourism in Western Sicily.
Worth a mention is also the opportunity open to foreign investors, (either foreign
businesses or Italian businesses controlled by foreign investors who are interested in
entering the tourist sector in Sicily), which is being offered by Sviluppo Italia, by the
Ministry for Economic Development and by the Finance and Economy Ministry (by use
of a “contratto di localizzazione” investment scheme).
Investors are required to present their project to Invest In Italy - a public office which promotes foreign investment in Italy. This is the office required by new investors and by investors already present on the island, and it will assist throughout the whole of the investment process - pinpointing localization opportunities, help in the settling - in stage and with public administration procedures, and providing continual assistance services. The incentives will take the form of non-repayable grants.
Invest In Italy is able to acquire, temporarily and on request, minority shareholding in the company which is presenting the project to be financed.