For decades, Italy has been one of the most popular tourist destinations globally, from Rome to Milan, Naples to Venice.
With 55 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, fabulous beaches on three sides, and top ski routes, the country was reliant on tourists. The tourism sector employs approximately 4.2 million people and accounts for 12-13 per cent of the country’s GDP.
In late February, with the first confirmed COVID-19 cases, Italy faced a new threat, one that Prime Minister Conte described as “the worst crisis since WWII.” Being one of the first European countries to be struck, the entire country was placed on lockdown, resulting in a massive loss for ‘Made in Italy.’
While the industrial sector is pressuring the government to ‘open up’ as soon as possible to avoid further financial damage, those in the tourism industry do not have the same opportunity. In reality, the re-establishment of tourism is dependent not only on domestic innovations but also on global pandemic growth rates.
Since the beginning of the year, Rome coronavirus has caused a decrease in visitors, which has now come to a complete halt. According to Confturismo, Italy’s tourism organization, the country has already lost 30 million visitors between March and May. This figure does not account for the losses suffered by other businesses in the region, such as restaurants and small shops. The gross loss is forecast to reach 200 billion euros by the end of the year.
Can Rome ever return to its glorious days without hotels ready for business? Although visitors visit throughout the year, the spring-summer season is the busiest for Italy’s tourism industry. Hotels are already planning to close for the Easter holidays, but the coming months will pose an even greater danger, as many businesses have already received cancellations for September.
According to Lorenza Bonaccorsi, the country’s tourism minister, it will take at least a few years to regain its traditional momentum – a dreadful prognosis for small businesses and establishments’ survival.
With Rome’s streets deserted for the first time in decades, many AirBnBs are already classified as yearly rental properties, as owners fear losing even more income.
One strategy is to invite people to spend their annual vacations in Italy to compensate for some deficits. However, as the economy worsens, companies cancelled their summer vacations, which are traditionally scheduled for August. As a result, it’s unclear if domestic visitors would have the same amount of time or money to spend on vacations as in previous years.
The government is currently working on incentive schemes that might help those who depend on tourism to live. Several fees and taxes have been delayed for the foreseeable future. However, residents will be unable to make payments on the new due dates due to the closure of companies and a lack of revenue. Many claim the government’s 600-euro handout or the suspensions are insufficient and that the current steps are inadequate for those who have been impacted.
The uncertain calendar is still the most critical element. The government will lift many of the restrictions over months, and even then, the idea of travel will take on a whole new idea and meaning. Lufthansa has agreed to close German Wings, it’s a charter airline, claiming that “aviation will take years to recover.” Can we ever get on a packed plane or wait in long lines in an airport for a weekend in a European capital, even though those flights or trains operate?
Since the infection is unlikely to go away for a long time, social isolation will continue, requiring transportation and holiday plans to adjust to this new fact. There will almost certainly be scanty seats available on planes and trains, and hotel and B&B space will be limited.
These restrictions could also contribute to a rise in overall costs, making travel difficult for those who have already been affected by the pandemic’s economic effects or causing them to opt for more accessible, less expensive options closer to home.