Spending on culture plummets, tourism stalled, but more people read. The Federculture Report 2021

Federculture presented its Annual Report 2021, which photographs a drastic reality for culture: spending is plummeting, attendance is drastically declining, and tourism is virtually at a standstill. There is one positive, however: readership is increasing.

Collapse of Italians’ spending on culture and recreation, de facto freezing of tourism, drastic decreases for museums, theaters, concerts: the reality of 2020 as photographed by the 17th Annual Federculture 2021 Culture Enterprise Report was what we all expected from theyear of the Covid emergency. Today, the world of culture, after the most difficult eighteen months the country can remember since the postwar period, is counting the damage caused by the measures to fight the coronavirus, but it is also ready to plan and restart according to Federculture, which yesterday, in Rome, and to be exact at Palazzo Massimo, presented the 2021 report, produced with the contribution of Fondazione Cariplo and with institutional partners Istituto per il Credito Sportivo and Intesa Sanpaolo

T he 2021 edition of the volume offers a broad representative picture of the new cultural, social and economic scenarios determined by Covid and through essays and in-depth studies, as always accompanied and supported by updated data, addresses aspects related to current events and issues that have emerged strongly in the economic phase, while also pushing reflection to the strategies that will have to guide the new, challenging season of restart that lies ahead for the cultural sector and for the country as a whole.

The data: cultural consumption falls, but readership rises

The 2020 scenario is truly that of theannus horribilis that was already being feared twelve months ago. The indicators, in fact, are all negative: Italian household spending on culture and recreation collapses to 56 billion euros in total (it was more than 73 billion in 2019), a value that takes us back to 2000, twenty years ago, when the same item was precisely the same size. At the level of average monthly spending, the recorded drop is 26 percent, the item of spending on recreation, entertainment, and culture drops from ?127 to ?93 per month, with the sub-items package vacations and recreational and cultural services losing 56.8 percent and 37.3 percent, respectively. At the territorial level, there are the well-known differences between the North and the South of the country where the lowest spending values are found, but as far as 2020 is concerned in the context of a generalized decline that affects all regions. Expenditure decrease values average more than 25 percent, but it is more evident in the South of the peninsula, particularly in Basilicata, Sicily, Apulia, and Sardinia, with some less expected figures, however, such as the 33 percent decrease in Veneto and 32 percent decrease in Tuscany. In 2020, the regions that spent the most on average were Emilia Romagna (134.19), Trentino-Alto Adige (130.07), Lombardy (120.22), Friuli-Venezia Giulia (118.32) and Umbria (111.10), while the lowest rungs of the ranking are occupied by Basilicata (43.37), Puglia (43.88), Calabria (50.78), Sicily (54.01) and Molise (61.90).

Not surprisingly, all indicators related to citizens’ cultural participation and enjoyment in all areas are also negative with double-digit decreases: among the highest are concerts and theater -23 percent, museums -14 percent. Equally evident is the decrease recorded in the performing arts sector, where all indicators (number of performances, attendance, admissions, audience spending) mark negative changes of more than 70 percent. In this stark picture, however, there is one positive element: landfall in the reading data. The months of confinement and the contingency of other activities have probably brought Italians closer to books again after years of continuous declines. In fact, the share of readers (at least one book a year) increased by 3.5 percent in 2020, climbing back to a value not seen in six years. This is an increase that is particularly noticeable among children ages 6-10, and in the adult age groups of 25-44, and affects all types of reading and purchases from traditional paper books to e-books. The increase in readership and purchases is also evidenced by data from the Cepell Report which shows growth particularly for books on electronic media e-books, which in particular between March 2020, the early stages of the lockdown, and October 2020 contributed 2 percent to the overall growth in book purchases.

In the analysis of the reading data, another extremely interesting evaluation element emerges: the correspondence between reading habit and cultural participation in general. It is clear from the table by regions that the territories with the highest percentage of readers also have the highest percentages of citizens who enjoy cultural activities. The regions where people read the most are Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Trentino-Alto Adige, Lombardy, Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna, while at the bottom of the ranking are Sicily, Campania, Calabria, Puglia and Molise.

As with cultural consumption so with tourism, the pandemic and the resulting travel restrictions and confinement have caused a drastic drop in domestic and international flows. Tourist absences, moreover, particularly penalize museums: state sites mark a -75.6 percent. Tourism sees a loss of 27 billion (-61%) in terms of spending by foreign tourists, whose arrivals drop from 65 to 16 million marking -74%. Hand in hand with flows also marks a sharp contraction in tourism spending: that of foreigners in our country was in 2019 44.3 billion euros moreover with a very positive growth trend of at least ten years. In 2020 the figure is just 17.3 billion euros a dry loss of 27 billion equal to a decrease of 61%, decline more pronounced in Central Italy where it reaches -71.6%.

Business supports

A stark picture, then, that Federculture wanted to investigate by surveying, for the second year in a row, cultural institutions and businesses through a field survey aimed at bringing out the impacts of the crisis, but also the expectations and prospects for recovery. And the results speak clearly of a crisis that has hit hard: 62% of companies declare impacts on their budgets of up to 60%, for 12% the impact is even higher than this threshold, with consequent repercussions also on the organization of work, about 70% have resorted to Cig or Fis, and on activities largely converted to digital to maintain at least virtual proximity with the public kept away from closures and restrictions (41% of respondents had a reduction in the public up to 50%, 37% between 50 and 75% and 21% over 75%).

But cultural institutions and companies also acknowledge that measures to support the sector have been implemented: all large companies have used them and more than 80 percent of both small- and medium-sized companies. Among small enterprises, 67% have benefited from the supports. And the judgment on the same is largely positive: 54% considered the measures adequate although only aimed at coping with lemergency, while just over 7% rated them adequate but with complex access criteria and procedures. Twelve percent of respondents considered them sufficient and 26 percent insufficient.

The world of culture, therefore, is ready and already in the process of restarting, but hopes for a new phase of decisive and certain actions to foster recovery and improve the future of the sector: more than 70% of respondents think it would be appropriate to make cultural consumption expenses deductible for citizens; more than half think we should extend the possibility of using theArt bonus and invest in training, professionalism and skills, but investments in technological innovation and digital production and the strengthening of territorial and sectoral collaboration networks are also considered priorities.

The statements

“2020 and, we can say today, also a large part of 2021 have been terrible years for the world of culture, for the whole country and for all of us,” commented Andrea Cancellato, president of Federculture. “The crisis, its effects, and revitalization policies have made us realize that it is no longer time for small steps but for decisive movements and innovative initiatives to promote cultural participation. One among them is that of fiscal leverage, to be used in several directions: Towards cultural consumption, which must be able to be made deductible, with the dual purpose of allowing greater access to culture and encouraging healthy competition to welcome more and more visitors to museums or spectators to theaters and cinemas; again, through the lunification of VAT rates, which must not see differences between books, records, concerts, exhibitions, shows, works of art, etc; towards private financing of culture; towards a new large public commissioning towards contemporary arts, innovatively using the 2% Law on Public Works, which has long been disregarded and for the revival of which we will very soon present an articulated proposal precisely in view of the large public investments in infrastructure envisaged by the Recovery Plan. But there are many other knots that need to be definitively untied such as the completion of the Reform of the Third Sector, especially in the fiscal part, and the commencement of the operativeness of the regulations and provisions in support of creative and cultural enterprises; the issue of ’governance’ and manageriality of culture management, that of the ’single contract for culture workers’. We have envisioned culture as the new ’welfare’ of the country. It will not be an easy undertaking but it concerns everyone. Our commitment will be total.”

Spending on culture plummets, tourism stalled, but more people read. The Federculture Report 2021
Spending on culture plummets, tourism stalled, but more people read. The Federculture Report 2021