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Bed & Breakfasts in Italy: The case of the Emilia-Romagna Region

Di Teresa Branzaglia

Alma Mater Studiorum
Università di Bologna
School of Economics Management and Statistics
Campus Rimini
Second Cycle Degree Programme in Tourism Economics and Management
Relatore: Manuela Presutti
Anno Accademico: 2015/2016

4 - Conclusion

Bed & Breakfasts were born in the ‘20s and arrived in Italy only in the late ‘90s. Since then the phenomenon has been growing rapidly, but the regional legislations on the matter failed to keep the pace.

If, on one hand, it is true that the Bed & Breakfast was born as a second source of income, thus excluding any effort for the operator apart from making a bed and preparing breakfast for a couple of people more, it is also true that today’s tourists are more demanding than they have ever been before. Increasingly dissatisfied with the “5 S” (Sun, Sand, Sea, Shopping, Sex), they are looking for the “3 L”: Landscape (they go to a city not to visit every single monument but to live it, to find something different from their everyday life), Leisure (they want to "feel good"), and Learning.

Probably, the most important task nowadays for destination marketing managers is the planning of the tourism destination with accommodation facilities that integrate perfectly with the culture and nature of the place thanks to networks of relationship between public and private entities, associations, citizens, and tourists. To this end, the Bed & Breakfast is considered as the most suitable option for the development of a territory. In fact, it is an activity that is in line with a destination sustainable development under all points of view: economic, social, and environmental.

The problem is that the Bed & Breakfast legislation in Italy is in the exclusive hands of the Regions, which since 2001 have been operating by themselves without coordinating. The result is the current situation, where some Regions allow B&Bs to have a maximum of six beds at guests’ disposal (this is the case of Emilia- Romagna), while others like Sicily allow up to twenty beds; some Regions contemplate an entrepreneurial form (Puglia), many others don’t; some have a form of classification like hotel stars, others distinguish between standard and superior, while the majority does not have any rating scheme.

All in all, the owners of Bed & Breakfasts in Emilia-Romagna are probably the unluckiest of Italy; indeed, they have the lowest number of days to be open in a year, the lowest number of rooms to put at guests’ disposal, the lowest number of beds, and they cannot promote their receptive structures on Booking.com. This discourages many operators (like me and my mother) to even start. Leaving aside the fact that any form of additional service is not allowed, there is a much heavier problem represented by the huge difference in the level of freedom of the two receptive forms. Emilia-Romagna bed & breakfasts can open four months per year, while affittacamere can operate without interruptions, promote without limitations, and offer numerous services (e.g. other meals besides breakfast). The criteria established by the Ministry of Finance for businesses to be considered non- entrepreneurial are the occasional character and the absence of a complex organization. Clearly, increasing the number of opening days per year would not damage the occasional character and promoting on platforms like Booking.com does not imply a complex type of organization.

In order to experience a real revitalization of the Italian tourism that will effectively respond to the needs of operators in the sector (who too often face a fragmented market), it is crucial to identify the factors that might make an important difference especially in terms of process (governance). Very likely the problem lies in the institutional uncertainty and dispute between State and Regions. The Italian magistrate Raffaele Cantone, in an interview61 with the journalist Sergio Rizzo, claimed: “With the 2001 reform, we have created a deadly institutional confusion. Now we need to restore the correct order of priorities according to the national unity principle”. The State should probably take some power back and give guidelines to Regions, at least some sort of general “template” to follow. This would help the consumer (tourist) in the choice of the accommodation structure, setting him free from the great confusion caused by all the different classification methods, just to mention one of the issues.

To conclude, the Bed & Breakfast phenomenon is growing in Italy and it has to be given more importance than the one it is given now. There is a perceived general need for a unique normative, but reaching a situation where there are some common key traits in the regional legislations would still be a substantial improvement that could bring immediate benefits. The most urgent issue to be addressed is the widespread wrong, old concept of Bed & Breakfast. In fact, running a B&B today, even if part-time, means investing time and money, so it needs to be given more freedom of action. My mother and I, for example, decided to wait until the law will hopefully be updated, because opening a hospitality structure under these restrictions would be too limiting for the mission we have in mind.