By Gianluca Rossoni

The most comprehensive framework law regulating tourism in Italy was Law n. 135 of 29 March 2001. Following the Constitutional amendments, with Law n. 181 of 18 May 2006, the overall responsibility for coordination was conferred to the Prime Minister's Office, where the Department of Tourism was set up through Law n. 286 of 24 November 2006. Notwithstanding, at regional level, the Constitution itself (art. 117) entitles Regions and autonomous Provinces (Trento and Bolzano) with exclusive legislative powers. Therefore, each one of the 20 Italian Regions has its own laws and regulations in the field of the tourism, while according to the basic principle of subsidiarity, all of them follow the principles set out by the EU and national Italian legislation. In particular, the Government Decree of 13 September 2002, adopted the agreement signed between the central state and the Regions and autonomous Provinces on the harmonisation, promotion and development on tourism sector, reaffirmed the principle that Regions should comply with commitments undertaken by the central Government.

On 5 May 2011, the Italian Council of Ministries has approved the Decree issuing the “Code of Tourism” (1). The Code aimes to regulate the tourism sector at state level with the intent to adequate the existing obligations under international and EU law. The Decree makes a revision of the public system of the holiday organisation in order to ensure national regulation in accordance with Directive 2006/123/EC on services in internal market, with the overall objective to remove unjustified or disproportionate legal and administrative barriers to the setting up of a business.  Moreover, the Code favors competent institutions to promote the quality of services and to strengthen the rights of users of services. The Decree provides also incentives and support for small and medium enterprises in the tourism sector. The annex II of the Code contains the rules of Directive 2008/122/EC on the protection of consumers in respect of certain aspects of timeshare, long-term holiday product, resale and exchange contracts, which adoption inside the Code is to strengthen the rights of consumers through raising the deadline for exercising the withdrawal right, facilitating the information and regulating the termination of agreements.

Notwithstanding the objective of the Code of Tourism was to be the comprehensive text of tourism law of Italy, this scope was not completely reached for two main reasons. Firstly, the Code contains the regulation mainly in regard to the protection of consumers (particularly Directive 90/314/EEC on package travel, package holidays and package tours), which legislative competence is at state level. Other relevant tourism laws can be found out of the Code, particularly Law n. 1084, 27 December 2005 which ratified the International Convention on Travel Contracts (Brussels, April 23, 1970) and Government Decree of 21 October 2008 on definition of services provided by tourism industry under the harmonisation process of classification of accommodation structures. Secondly, the Code of Tourism was invested in the “tug of war” between state and Regions which began since the Constitutional reform of 2001.

Particularly, the Constitutional Court (2) stated that the Code of Tourism as legislative act issued at state level infringed the Italian Constitution by overcoming the exclusive powers on tourism sector assigned to Regions. The consequence is that currently in Italy the are still 20 regional laws which regulate how to set-up a travel agency and the developing of tourism and marketing promotion. On the other hand, in consideration that professions are shared competence between state and Regions, the Constitutional Court reiterated that the regulation of tourist guides and other tourism-related professions are under the principles established at national and EU level.

The recent legislative developments of tourism sector are aimed to return specific competences at state level with the aim to strengthen the role of National Tourism Board (3) for the marketing and promotion of Italy as destination, which activity will include also regional events (4) with international relevance.

On this regard, the competences of Department of Tourism at state level are currently to be transferred under the Ministry of Culture with the scope to favor the integration of tourism and cultural heritage sectors, the latter considered strategic for Italy. Consequently, at institutional level, the Department of Tourism will elaborate national tourism policy and adopt measures for the tourism sector, as well as for planning and management of structural funds. The relative decrees of implementation will have binding force for Regions.

To reach this scope, is expected in the near future a new reform at Constitutional level to reallocate  to the state some exclusive competences on tourism sector.

The transferring of powers will mainly include:

l  Discipline of how to establish a travel agency, including on line agencies

l  Principles of promotion and marketing at national and international level

l  Regulation of tourism profession, in accordance with Directive 2006/123/EC

l  Airports and other transportation means which are currently under regional competence

l  Classification of hotels and other accommodation structures

l  Public fees for bathing licensee that currently are under regional competence  

Finally, with the aim to avoid the current legislative fragmentation, the Tourism Code will be amended in order to contain the whole tourism law at state level, including the provisions aligned with EU Acquis (5).

1) Legislative Decree n. 79, 23 May 2011

2) Judgement n. 80 of 5 April 2012

3) ENIT, formerly a government body was transformed into a National Tourism Board, under the direction of the Minister of Tourism as per Act n. 35 of 14 March 2005.

4) It is the case of EXPO to be held in Milan in 2015.

5) For instance, the near coming new Directive on package travels will be included in the existing Tourism Code.