Rome’s Colosseum is the city’s—and arguably Italy’s—most iconic and historic monument.
It may also be the country’s biggest cash cow.
The nearly-2,000 year old amphitheater sits in the heart of ancient Rome, and its emblematic nature has placed it on the bucket lists of many world travelers, attracting well over seven million visitors annually before the pandemic.
The Colosseum contributes around 1.39 billion euros (around $1.4 billion) a year to Italy’s GDP from tourism and related activities, in addition to employing around 42,700 full-time staff, according to a new report out this week by financial services company Deloitte.
But the actual value of the monument to Italy, and the financial lengths to which Italians would be willing to protect it, might actually be far higher.
Deloitte’s report, titled “The value of an iconic asset: the economic and social value of the Colosseum,” calculates both the direct value of the historic building to Italy’s economy as well as its social importance or “existence value,” defined as an intangible benefits Italians derive from the Colosseum’s “iconic” and “symbolic” value.
Taking the Colosseum’s social value into account, the monument is worth nearly 77 billion euros ($78 billion), according to Deloitte’s report.
Calculating a social value
Deloitte’s approach to calculating the Colosseum’s social value to the world relied largely on how strongly Italians felt about their iconic monument.
“For an iconic asset like the Colosseum, it is necessary to refer in fact to a dimension of value that includes both tangible and intangible value. In this sense, the immaterial value of the Colosseum may be greater than the value related to the economic benefits it can produce,” Marco Vulpiani, head of valuation at Deloitte Central Mediterranean, which spearheaded the project, said in a statement.
“Its value is not only an economic value, but it is above all a social value,” he added.
Vulpiani said that the Colosseum’s indirect social value is partially connected to the “pleasure of the closeness to and sight of a unique and magnificent iconic site,” citing the high real estate prices in the immediate vicinity of the amphitheater.
But the true “existence value” of a monument can only be calculated by how invested Romans and Italians are in its continued existence, whether they benefit from it or not.
Deloitte conducted a survey of Italians both in Rome and in other parts of the country, gauging how important preserving and protecting the Colosseum is to the nation.
The survey found that over 90% of Italian residents believe that the continued existence of the monument is important and that it must be preserved “under any circumstances,” even if it means having to pay out of pocket to do so.
The Colosseum’s colossal social value was calculated based on Italians’ “willingness to pay” for the site’s preservation.
The average amount Italians both in and outside of Rome would be willing to pay to protect the monument is 59 euros ($59.85) per person per year. Romans were willing to spend on average 90 euros per person per year.
Calculated over the nearly 50 million Italians over the age of 18, the total citizen payout to protect the Colosseum would be around 2.9 billion euros each year.
Deloitte’s Colosseum report is part of a wider initiative at the company to tap into cultural heritage and creative fields as engines for economic development and opportunity and Italy—being home to the highest number of UNESCO World Heritage sites in the world—is an ideal target for these efforts.
“Both economic and social dimensions must be borne in mind, and we must try to make the most of them when it comes to cultural goods. A theme that obviously sees Italy as a protagonist in the world,” Fabio Pompei, CEO of Deloitte Central Mediterranean, said in a statement.
“The enhancement of the cultural and landscape heritage present in our country must become a priority on the agenda of national and local institutions,” he added.
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