For all too brief a time, the Italian summer offered a glimmer of hope. After emerging from what was in early 2020, one of the world's harshest coronavirus lockdowns, Italy managed to dust itself down in time to welcome visitors.
But as the sun begins to cool, so do hopes of a full recovery for Italy's decimated 2020 tourism season. Winter is coming, and with it what is expected to be a full-blown economic catastrophe.The Italian government, like many across the world, has been doling out cash to help support many ailing businesses and individuals, but with many global travel restrictions still in place, lost revenues from the country's faltering travel industry leaves a gaping financial hole that must now be filled.
"Tourists are what we need to keep going," says Cassandra Santoro CEO and founder of travel planning service, Travel Italian Style. "Our guides, drivers and workers from Piedmont to Sicily who thought they would be out of work for a season, are now exploring other jobs and income sources."
Anyone visiting Italy in August could've been forgiven for thinking almost everything was back to normal, bar the facemasks and social distancing. Culturally set in stone as a holiday month for Italians, it saw many locals enjoying a hard-earned break as best they could.
But even with 60% of Italians managing a break -- almost all of them in Italy -- and the influx of some northern European visitors, the forecast is abysmal.
"The projected 2020 loss from overseas visitors to Italy is €24.6 billion and even domestic traveler spending is down €43.6 billion," says Giorgio Palmucci, president of the Italian national tourist board, ENIT.
Even with hopes of growth and recovery two years down the line, the pain, he adds, is likely to be widespread."All Italian cities are expected to be significantly impacted, particularly those more dependent on international visitors like Venice, Florence and Rome."
Adding to the problems is a rise in Covid-19 cases blamed on the movement of young Italians, both over the borders into countries like Croatia, Greece and Malta and to summer nightlife hotspots at home. Daily increases are lower than France and Spain, but Italians are nervous about the approaching winter.
Fears of a second wave appear to have dashed earlier projections of a September and October tourism revival, with Italians and overseas visitors canceling plans and sitting tight.
Business owners now feel that government talk of the Italian summer as a domestic boost to tourism was just rhetoric. Unbridled optimism coupled with images of packed Italian beaches for the popular August 15 ferragosto holiday were, they say, just a smokescreen for an industry on the verge of collapse.
The statistics certainly paint an uglier picture. The Italian Confederation of Business has reported that 70% of hotels in cities like Rome and Florence and 20% in coastal areas never even reopened after the lockdown. The Italian National Institute of Statistics projects that 60% of businesses in the industry fear imminent collapse.
The ongoing travel ban that prevents Americans Italy's biggest source of tourism -- from entering is also having a particularly brutal impact.