A group of Italian hotels is offering free accommodation to couples who conceive during their stay, in a bid to boost the country's low birthrate.

Ten hotels in the central region of Umbria have signed up for the initiative. According to The Local, some will offer reimbursements to guests who can prove they got pregnant during their stay, while others will offer a free second visit.

Couples don't have to be married to participate, which is causing some controversy in the conservative region, which is the birthplace of St Francis of Assisi.

"Giving birth to a child is an act of deep love, which should be encouraged despite the multitude of difficulties in life," organisers said, according to The Local.


However, local councillor and former mayor Claudio Ricci questioned whether the campaign was "fitting for the public image of Assist and the promotion of the region".

Italy has the lowest birthrate in the European Union, registering the lowest number of births in more than 150 years in 2015, with only eight babies born for every 1000 people. The average child-bearing age has also risen to more than 31.

According to the Daily Mail, accommodation providers that have signed up to the scheme include: Farm Basaletto; Farmhouse Casa Faustina; Farmhouse Le Mandrie di San Paolo; Hotel Upper Room Hotel Cristallo from Moro Gallery Hotel Assisi; Hotel Dei Priori; Hotel Fontebella; The Castle Hotel; and Hotel Windsor Savoia.

In September, the country's Health Ministry launched an initiative called "Fertility Day" to combat sterility issues.

However, protesters were furious at an image of rotting banana skin with the slogan "Male fertility is much more vulnerable than you think" and a picture of a woman holding an egg timer saying "Beauty has no age. But fertility does".

They say the government is ignoring economic reasons for the low birthrate, citing low-paying temporary work and insufficient daycare as factors.