Italian hotels offer free stay to couples who conceive in fight against country’s low birth rate

Italy's birth rate has halved since the 1960s 

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A group of Italian hotels are offering a free holiday to couples that conceive during their stay there.

The hotels in Assisi are part of the Fertility Room project, a scheme aimed at tackling the country’s low birth rate as well as encouraging tourism to the city.

Ten hotels are currently signed up to the initiative, launched on Friday, which offers a reimbursement or future stay free of charge to guests who conceive during their visit.

Couples must provide a birth certificate showing their baby was born nine months after their stay in order to claim the offer.

The project’s organizers – a group of tour operators in Assisi - said on their website: "Giving birth to a child is an act of deep love, which should be encouraged despite the multitude of difficulties in life.

“Here's how a simple idea can draw attention to the subject of reproduction and, at the same time, encourage people to discover or rediscover an idea filled with beauty and universally recognized values.”

However, local officials have failed to endorse the scheme.

Assisi’s Mayor Stefania Proietti told local newspaper Assisi Oggi that the scheme had no official connection to the city’s administration.  

Umbria regional councillor Claudio Ricci said in a statement that the region would be investigating the campaign to assess whether it was “fitting for the public image of Assisi and the promotion of the region.”

He said the campaign seemed “incongruous” with Assisi’s reputation as a historical and cultural centre as well as the birth place of the Pope Francis.

Since the 1960s, Italy's birth rate has halved to 488,000 babies born in 2015.  Last year experienced the lowest birth rate since Italy united as one country in 1861.

Earlier this year a campaign by Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin to reverse the falling birth rate sparked backlash after posters used to promote the country’s first “Fertility Day” on 22 September were branded insensitive and insulting to those unable to conceive.

One campaign poster showed a young woman holding a sand timer with the phrase: “Beauty has no age. But fertility does.”

In response best-selling author Roberto Saviano wrote on his Facebook page: “It means, simply, hurry up and have children: ‘You don’t have a stable job?’ What does it matter. ‘You are not certain that your partner is the right one?’ Come on procreate, do it lightly.”

The campaign was eventually scrapped.