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food / travel

Italy's Tourist Industry Aims To Please New (Rich) Visitors From Emerging Markets

Looking up, in the Vatican Museum
Looking up, in the Vatican Museum
Egle Santolini

ROME - Italy is a place of culture, beauty, and a well-oiled style of life -- crisis or not. Foreigners always return for more. But in order to make sure that the tourists keep coming back -- and telling their friends -- some guidelines are needed.

According to data from the federation of hotels “Fedalberghi”, the total number of overnight stays in Italy last year decreased by 2.5% from 2011.

Still, the opportunity, all agree, are new waves of travelers arriving from emerging countries. The Chinese, along with visitors from the Gulf nations, Russia, and Brazil bring in the big bucks. But, cultures can clash and even the simplest of gestures can ruin their stay -- or win you eternal praise.

Here are seven secrets for Italian hotel operators to keep them coming back for more of the dolce vita:

1. NO FOURTH FLOOR It’s better not to assign a guest from China a room with the number four in it. The number four is considered bad luck by many Chinese.

2. TEAS AND QUIET Chinese guests appreciate a kettle and a nice variety of tea bags in their -- preferably red -- rooms. They’re also fond of their privacy but usually unimpressed by the typically small Italian hotel rooms.

3. CHOPSTICKS VS CROISSSANTS The Chinese also prefer noodles and chopsticks for their breakfasts, staying away from the common continental.

4. MATS & NUTS Middle Eastern guests should not miss their prayer mats, says Alessandra Baldeschi of the Dorchester Group. She adds that it is de rigueur to remove the alcohol from the mini-bars in their rooms, while walnuts and hazelnuts are to be provided as snacks.

5. BRANDISH BRAZILIANS It’s the Brazilians who are the biggest renters of Ferraris. A Brazilian man who stayed in Milan wanted to pull up to La Scala Opera House in a horse-drawn carriage was able to pull it off, thanks to the concierge at the Principe di Savoia Hotel.

6. BUTLER BENEFIT At the Seven Stars Galleria Hotel (with its internal views of the octagon of the Vittorio Emanuele mall in Milan -- suites start at 500 euros/night) the most striking benefit is the butler for each suite: a personal secretary who not only makes sure that everything in your room is working but can get the limousine for you to go to the Bellagio or to get you tickets for one of Verdi’s operas.

7. PERSONAL TOUCH “For the guests to feel at home, the hotels must be really prepared,” concludes Elisa Dal Bosco of the Seven Stars Galleria. For example "getting rid of the flowers if there is anyone who suffers from allergies, changing the top level of the suite into a fitness center, bringing a piano to their room, and these are just three recent cases."

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