Italy opens its borders to European tourists again on Wednesday. As the summer approaches, the country hopes to save its tourism industry, an important sector of its economy supported by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The gondolas can sail on Venice’s canals, the lovers play “Romeo and Juliet” on the Verona balcony and the Colosseum in Rome welcomes visitors again. As the tourist season is about to start, Italy will open its borders again on Wednesday, June 3. International flights resume in Milan, Rome and Naples and the government approves free movement between regions from this day.
“The government wants to do everything to save the summer season when the epidemic curve improves,” recalls Natalia Mendoza, France’s 24 correspondent in Rome.
Italy reopens borders to increase tourism
As the country is facing the deepest recession since World War II, there is a great need for tourists. However, the government and professionals in the sector are afraid that tourists will not be there this year. If the number of Covid-19 pollution continues to decline, Italy is still one of the European countries most affected by the pandemic, where the new coronavirus has killed more than 33,500 people.
Italy, last “hot spot”
Despite the border opening, border countries continue to be very cautious about Italy. Switzerland has warned that its citizens traveling to Italy from Wednesday will be subject to “health measures” for their return. It will open its borders with Germany, France and Austria on June 15, but not with Italy.
On June 15, Austria will lift its restrictions with Germany, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, but again not with Italy, which its health ministers described last week as a “hotspot”.
These Italian-specific measures prompted Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio to warn countries against treating his country “like a leper”, while people arriving in Italy from Europe will not be, they need not isolate themselves unless they have recently traveled from another continent.
Luigi Di Maio announced that he would travel to Germany, Slovenia and Greece this weekend to convince them that Italy is a safe country for tourists. He will have his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian on Wednesday.
Tourism ruined by the health crisis
Containment measures have had a devastating effect on the Italian tourism sector, which accounts for about 13% of gross domestic product (GDP). Restaurants, cafes and bathing facilities have been slowly opening over the past two weeks. But only 40 of the 1,200 hotels in Rome have reopened, Corriere della Sera said on Monday, and only a dozen in Milan, where their owners say it is too expensive to open them if they remain empty.
The National Tourist Office said that about 40% of Italians usually go abroad for their holidays, but that they could decide to spend their holidays on their land this year, which would help local businesses.
However, the free movement on the territory from the north to the south of the country raises concerns, especially in the south. “The governors of regions like Sicily and Campania fear the arrival of tourists from the north, which is more polluted,” explains Natalia Mendoza. The Italian government, for its part, ensures that the Italian health system is ready to provide in the event of a second epidemic.