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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

2.4 - The Emilia-Romagna law on Bed & Breakfasts

The first law governing the B&B sector in this region dates back to 1999 (Regional Law n. 170 repealed and replaced by Regional Law no. 29 of the 2nd of August 2001). Today’s law is the following:

Regional Law n. 16/2004

Art. 13

Occasional activity of accommodation and breakfast

  1. It is intended for occasional operation of accommodation and breakfast and can take the bed and breakfast identification the activity of hosting and serving breakfast in the house of residence or ordinary residence, maintaining one’s normal family habits and guaranteeing the coexistence/simultaneous presence with the guests, without the provision of additional services, and in any case with a non- entrepreneurial organization form, in no more than 3 rooms and with a maximum of 6 beds, plus one additional bed per room in case of children under twelve years old. Hospitality can be provided for up to 120 days within the period of availability or, alternatively, for a maximum of 500 nights during the calendar year. The identification mark B&B, on the basis of the model approved by the Region, can be posted up outside the house.
  2. The structural and hygienic characteristics of the guests’ spaces referred to in paragraph 1 shall be those of the municipal regulations for residential premises.
  3. Any further binding characteristics are indicated in the act of the Regional Council in Article 3, paragraph 2.
  4. The activity referred to in paragraph 1 is undertaken after the starting- of-activity statement (in accordance with Article 19, paragraph 2, of Law n. 241 of 1990) to the Municipality in which the dwelling is located, and is exercised in compliance with existing building rules, town planning rules, public security rules, health and hygiene rules. The activity is subject to the checks on non-hotel facilities (specified in Article 18, paragraph 2) during open periods, and to the penalties described in Article 36, paragraph 2, in the case of non-declaration of the starting of the activity, as well as to the provisions in the event of unlawful activities (Article 36, paragraph 9, and articles 23 and 26).
  5. Those who perform the activity are required to communicate to the municipality and to the Province (before the 1st of October of each year) the periods of hosting availability during the upcoming year and the maximum prices charged valid from the 1st of January of the subsequent year. Prices shall be exposed in the room/s dedicated to hospitality. The same subjects also communicate to the Province the data on the movement of customers in the manner specified by ISTAT.

As you may have noticed the Emilia-Romagna legislation does not mention any form of classification for B&Bs. The ugly truth is that most Italian Regions do not provide a rating scale for B&Bs; the only ones that include it in their legislations are: Piemonte (RL 20/2000), Friuli-Venezia Giulia (RL 17/1997), Basilicata (RL 8/2008), and Sicily (RL 32/2000). The classification issue is of great importance, as it is a major cause of the fragmented vision that tourists (both foreign and domestic) have of Italy.

Emilia-Romagna, according to the regulation, admits only one form of B&B, the family-run. Let us now consider the case of the Puglia Region, which instead includes the entrepreneurial form too (together with Piemonte, they are the only two Regions of Italy that contemplate the double formula). In Puglia, the Regional Law concerning Bed & Breakfasts is RL n. 27 of August 2013; after explaining the characteristics and minimum standards of the family-run form of B&B, in Art. 3 it defines the entrepreneurial one:

"The entrepreneurial Bed & Breakfast is a receptive activity carried out continuously and professionally by a person who, in his/her own house, provides accommodation and breakfast in no more than 6 rooms and 18 beds, including through the collaboration of qualified staff. [...] The activity of Bed & Breakfast in entrepreneurial form requires the enrollment in the register of companies and benefits from the tax relief provided by the current law."

What emerges immediately is the high number of rooms and beds allowed by the Puglia Region in case of B&B in entrepreneurial form. The correspondent receptive form in Emilia-Romagna is the affittacamere, which allows up to 6 rooms without any specifications for the number of beds. Now, if we go and check the number of rooms and beds allowed in Puglia in case of the normal family-run form, the result is 3 rooms and 9 beds. Therefore, the number of rooms is the same as in Emilia-Romagna, while the number of beds increases (from 6 to 9). This discrepancy is frequently observed (Table 2) and it is very likely the second major reason why tourists are confused about the Italian touristic offer.

Moreover, another issue arises: an operator in Emilia-Romagna is almost unable to reach foreign tourists with his/her promotional activities due to the “Delibera regionale” n. 2149 of the 2nd of November 2004, where it is stated that: “Signs, arrows and directions, as well as private websites, are considered as regular promotion activities, but it is forbidden to be present on booking circuits with features that go beyond mere information, indication of visibility or contact details such as address, telephone, fax and e-mail”.

Operators in Emilia-Romagna are “forced” to act outside the law, for example by publicizing their own structure on Booking.com, or by offering more beds (and sometimes even more rooms) than those allowed, and the truth is it is not difficult to "skip" the regulations, since the law does not require these facilities to release a fiscal receipt. In the absence of constant controls, illegal development and unfair competition are widespread, while regional laws seem to work against quality, as it is highlighted by the Anbba.

"The problem - explains Stefano Calandra, president of the association - is the jungle of local regulations that not only limit the opening days (in some Regions the activity can operate only 120 days a year) and the number of rooms but also, in many cases, prohibit the use of a VAT number." Regions justify themselves claiming that the risk is to incur in unfair competition with hotels. "The result - continues Calandra - will be the discouragement of investment. The fiscal subject, besides, is a State competence and Regions in theory are not entitled to intervene. As for the limit of three rooms, it is contrary to the European spirit of the B&B, which permits up to six."