Tourism is one of the critical sectors of the Italian economy and although the pandemic has wrought havoc in every part of the economy, the area that has suffered the most has been the restaurant and hotel industries. As an incentive to bring foreign tourists back after the lockdown, the glorious Island of Sicily is going to discount the price of airfare by refunding one half the cost to visitors and pay for one of every three nights in hotels!
This novel and remarkably enticing offer has been made by the regional government to tempt tourists who are ready to make reservations for later this year. The offer also includes free entry to museums and archaeological sites.
Tourism represents 13% of Italy’s gross domestic product, but it is an even greater percentage in Sicily, which thus far has lost more than one billion dollars from the sector. Sicily is eager to get back in gear as virus-related numbers continue to diminish and the path out of the lockdown and gradual reopening of the economy takes place.
Already, retail stores, museums and libraries have reopened. Restaurants are permitted to allow full service as long as patrons and staff continue to wear face masks. On June 1st, the Italian government permitted the reopening of barbershops, beauty salons, massage centers and other personal care activities.
With each of these positive steps taken to ensure a safe and orderly reopening of the country, Italian tourism industry officials have been working tirelessly to find ways to rebuild the sector as swiftly and safely as possible. They have considered different ways of establishing social distancing at beaches, hotels, restaurants and popular public monuments.
Sicily’s unique discounting plan for visitors is called “Empty for Full” launched yesterday, June 3, as Italy reopened its borders for tourism. Manlio Messina, Sicily’s tourism director, stated that there will be 400,000 vouchers for discounts and giveaways to encourage visitors to come to the island.
InformaSicilia.com reported that the vouchers will be paid in advance for tourist packages that include rooms booked in a hotel, guided tours and tickets for the theater or shows in Sicily. The vouchers will be offered free of charge to tourists who choose to spend a three-night holiday on the island, with the fourth night accommodations being free.
The crisis in the tourism industry is broader than many may expect. It not only impacts hotels, restaurants and bars, but shops, beaches, car rental companies, real estate agencies and event planners. In particular, seasonal workers, tour operators, travel agencies and tourist guides are greatly affected.
The European Economic Commission has estimated that the pandemic will cut half the revenues of hotels and restaurants, while travel agencies may lose up to 70% of their earnings. These are dire numbers, especially considering that Sicily has not been hard hit by COVID-19. With a population of over 5 million, over 70,000 tests for the coronavirus have been administered with less than 3,500 positive cases. At this point, only a few new cases across the island are emerging. With all of the good news surrounding Sicily’s emergence from this health crisis and the economic incentives in place, the fall seems like an ideal time to visit Sicily!