COVID-19 Tourism Impact
Find below our articles and newsletters on how the pandemic spread is affecting travelers and Tourissimo.
Newsletter, May 3, 2021, Unleash Travel!
Do you remember the famous line, “At my signal, unleash hell” boasted by Russell Crow in the movie Gladiator?
After reading the April 25th NYT article "EU Set to Let Vaccinated U.S. Tourists Visit This Summer," I surprised myself with the vision of Maximus boasting “At my signal, unleash travel!!!.”
The pandemic is not over and we’ve hoped for quick improvements before, but this time is different. We could be at a turning point tourism-wise. This time, the need to restart economies and resume travel finally aligns with comforting numbers in terms of vaccination and COVID-19 control.
As the NYT article predicted that Americans could travel to Europe in the summer, European politicians are working tirelessly to reopen. The Italian minister of tourism said that we are entering a “planning and monitoring phase” to reopen on June 2nd. That is Liberation Day in Italy and is a date charged with symbolism.
Italy’s government is looking at relaxing restrictions in a “major way.”
There’s lots of talking about the green pass to make reopening to tourism – both domestic and international - safe. I am observing not only a strong desire to restart, to reopen, but also confidence in the near future and a pragmatic approach with much coordination among countries. Of course, no one wants to take chances and the success of the green pass will be consequential.
The overall feeling is that it is time to look at the future and beyond COVID.
So, the word of the week in Italy has been: reopening. After several hiccups with vaccination, Italy is now vaccinating at its goal-pace of 500,000 people a day with a stretch goal in the following weeks of 1 M. Businesses are gradually reopening.
At Tourissimo, we are hopeful and ready to restart ourselves. With several biking and hiking tours confirmed between September and October, we are planning and coordinating things with our partners, we are scouting and also meeting our guides and staff soon for a reopening huddle.
Every country is dealing with its own Covid-19 crises but international diplomacy and the scientific world at large are not standing still. It’s an evolving scenario and in the right direction. Here’s an example: countries used to deny entrance or require quarantine for people crossing borders even when coming back from abroad. Now, many countries allow entrance with a negative Covid test, usually taken up to 72 hrs prior or right at the airport. Covid passports in the form of smartphone apps have also been deployed.
What about Americans to Italy? Too soon to go, but not to plan.
Italy is indicated as of January 11th as Level 3 out of 4 in the travel alert scale of the State Department.
On the other hand, US citizens are not permitted to enter:
Non-essential travel (i.e., tourism) to Italy from most non-EU countries (including the United States) is prohibited. Essential travel is allowed and includes students, businesspersons, EU residents, and relatives of Italian citizens.
I’ll spare you the numbers but Italy and Europe are also struggling and have put soft and hard lockdowns back in place.
This is the situation as we enter 2021. But more and more we see people planning and some are ready to book. [read more]
A lot has happened since our last update. Some European guests and several of our guides enjoyed a week of cycling and camaraderie during our Giro d'Italia Cycling week in Emilia Romagna.
Beppe and I traveled from Italy to the USA. As soon as we left, a second wave of COVID-19 hit Italy and the rest of Europe hard and new restrictions (not as severe as the total lockdown of the spring, but close in some regions) went into effect. Piedmont, where we are based, experienced a severe outbreak and many people we know tested positive. We are happy to report that even those who were hospitalized are now on the mend.
It now looks like Italy's second wave is subsiding, although there is still trepidation about the holidays and about ski season. A State of Emergency is still in effect. The current decree is in force until later this week and all the current safety measures are expected to continue.
The Local Italy has done a thorough job of reporting on the current rules and restrictions in place. If you want to learn more, you can check out this article.
Newsletter, October 8, Details of New Decree
Here are the rules that we expect to be in the October 15 decree:
- Italy’s list of European countries deemed “at risk” will be updated. Currently, those returning from Spain, Malta, Greece and Croatia are subject to mandatory testing. The Netherlands, Belgium. Czech Republic and the UK are expected to be added to the list. Those arriving from Romania and Bulgaria are subject to quarantine.
- The current no-travel list: Armenia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brazil, Bosnia Herzegovina, Chile, Kuwait, North Macedonia, Moldova, Oman, Panama, Peru, Dominican Republic, Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo. No update yet on if this will change.
- Travel from other countries is allowed for essential reasons only, and quarantine is still mandatory. There is a new exception for international couples, and the partner living abroad can now return to be with the "person with whom they have a stable emotional relationship, even if not cohabiting." Quarantine will be mandatory. No word yet on what proof will need to be provided for this exception, and we have not heard or read any stories from people who have come to Italy with this exception yet.
- Anyone who has tested positive for Covid-19 but doesn't follow quarantine rules could be fined a minimum of 500 Euros and could even face a prison term of 3 to 18 months under the new decree.
The new decree is expected to set guidelines for local authorities to impose a localized lockdown if the outbreak is hard to control in a certain area.
- The new decree does reportedly allow for "selective" closures of businesses, including bars and restaurants, if there is an "adverse" situation regarding infections locally.
- Cinemas, theaters and concert venues are expected to be allowed to remain open, but the limit remains 200 people for all indoor events and 1000 people for outdoor ones.
- Discos are set to remain closed.
- Safety measures on planes, trains and ships are set to remain in place, and local public transport will continue to run at 80% of maximum capacity.
- Schools are expected to remain open, with rules unchanged, as the head of Italy's Higher Health Institute on Wednesday said infection rates in schools were "highly limited" and "the protocols are working."
- The current requirements on social distancing and regular hand washing reman unchanged.
- People are instructed to keep a distance of one meter from others at all times, and anyone who has a temperature above 37.5 degrees Celsius is obliged to stay at home.
2021 Bookings Update
In Italy phase two of the COVID-19 pandemic started between May 18th and May 25th and it corresponded with the start of less strict measures. Since then things have been moving very smoothly towards a gradual reopening and phase THREE.
Because of public pressure and with the nervous ok of the scientific task force, the government even sped up some reopenings initially planned for later in June (gyms, spas and salons, hair dressers).
In the media most of the attention moved from health to economy and to the strenuous negotiations within the EU for grants and/or loans. Money is there and lots of it. Mr Conte (Italy's Prime Minister) should rightly consider it his win and the negotiation is now about when money can become available because in normal times this would require six months. And of course the argument is that we don’t have six months to just wait to pump money into the economy. [read more]
May 18th marked an important step in the Italian pandemic course.
This is it, this is Italy entering a real phase two after "phase 1.5" started after the May 4th decree. It’s hasn’t been very long between May 4th and now but there’s been lots of progress.
As has been the case since the start of the COVID-19 emergency, not all regions are in the same situation. That has caused, along with the different political colors of part of the regional governors – friction between the government led by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and some regions. They found a compromise starting last Monday: regions can issue guidelines different than the ones issued centrally, but they are accountable for their decisions. They have to report back their cases and the central government can impose its hierarchy if numbers go over a certain benchmark. To better understand the situation consider that public health is a central government matter but that hospitals are under the regions. We have all learned of Lombardy's disastrous handling of the emergency and the untimely political back-and-forth with Conte. [read more]
There was great trepidation for last weekend's press conference by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. Italy has been under lockdown for just over 40 days now and the pandemic curve started to decline about a week ago (not all regions have the same situation). Several decrees spaced over that time were aimed at safeguarding public health and giving a first response to the economic meltdown. As you know, it was all done under emergency circumstances and people understood what they were asked with all its implications.
But that wasn’t the hard part politically. While uncertainty is paramount we cannot just wait and see or hope for the vaccine to be available sooner than possible. The so-called “phase two” or reopening is an incredibly complicated puzzle with lives and the economy at stake. [read more]
We are in the middle of something of historic magnitude. Some things, at least during our lifetimes, will never be the same. There are so many angles for looking at how Covid-19 has impacted and will change travel. I’d like to share my thoughts on air travel, something we’ve taken for granted for decades. [read more]
Italy is fighting an invisible enemy as many others in the world right now. The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our habits with little warning and also put the lives of our families and fellow citizens at risk and a strain on the health system. The sad truth is that the virus is taking lives as we write.
We have been waiting to reach out because we wanted to postpone this communication until we saw the epidemic curve in Italy show its decline. We prefer not talking of a “peak” because numbers can always change and they depend on
factors such as timing and number of positive cases found (which does not mean all of the cases). But the trend has finally shown an undeniable decline in the cases hospitalized, intensive care recovering and deaths. The number of new positive cases that need hospitalization is lower than the people recovering. [read more]
Like many of you, Beppe and I have been in a state of shock as the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds. Our first thoughts are for our family, friends and staff in Italy and we have been in constant contact with them while we remain here in the USA for longer than planned. They are all well and they are adhering to the strict measures in place to slow to rate of spread. [read more]