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This has been a challenging few weeks, and I thought I’d take a minute to share an update. There’s a lot of information out there about COVID-19, aka the coronavirus in Italy. I don’t want to add to the noise, so this is an update. An update on our company, our team and our vendors in Italy, and thoughts from our clients.
(That’s me in Sardinia, above. Such lovely memories!)
A timeline of the Coronavirus in Italy
Just to recap:
- The first case in Italy was on January 30th (seems like another lifetime!)
- By the end of February, some areas in the two northern regions of Lombardy and the Veneto were on lock down
- By March 8th, the lock down expanded to include quite a bit of northern Italy
- March 9th: the entire country was in lock down
- March 11th: the Italian authorities said that only “essential” businesses would remain open
- Then on March 21st, the definition of “essential” was tightened, with the closure of factories and outdoor physical activity banned
Our customers’ reactions to the Coronavirus in Italy
I am happy to say that across the board, our clients have not wanted to cancel outright. They all want to postpone.
In February, we started seeing March trips ask to reschedule. At that point, the regions around Milan and Venice were in shelter-in-place, but the rest of Italy was relatively business-as-usual. Our March trips were not going to northern Italy, and they weren’t worried about their trip. They were worried about getting stuck.
Currently, we are working on cancelling itineraries in April and May. For the rest of our trips, we are keeping an eye on cancellation windows and scheduling phone calls with clients to discuss. As always, our planning fees can be used as a credit towards a future trip, and do not expire.
Our clients can’t wait to get the green light to travel to Italy. They want to help resuscitate the economy, and to enjoy the beautiful vacation that we’ve been planning together.
Our Team during the Coronavirus in Italy
I am based in the San Francisco Bay Area, but our team is in Milan, Italy and in Assisi, Italy, and in Medellin, Colombia.
I have been talking to my Italy team regularly. Weeks before this became a reality in the US, they shared stories of police on the streets, monitoring people moving from A to B. Stories about the lines at the grocery store (and there’s an app for that, too), and stories about their local pharmacies that only allowed 4 people in at once. I am happy to report that my team and their families are healthy.
Meanwhile, new requests ground to a halt during what is usually our busiest season. We are still busy, but our work right now mostly consists of cancelling trips.
Italian small businesses during the Coronavirus
Our local vendors are all small businesses. The local guides, local drivers, and hotels that are closed are suffering greatly right now. Thankfully, the Italian government is giving them a little bit of support. However they are being hit hard, and I have no doubt that many of them will not recover. As soon as we are able to send them business, we will.
You can watch my video on LinkedIn with my thoughts on how to help local businesses.
Italian tourism post-coronavirus
Everyone wants to know: when will this end? I get this question frequently. I have been interviewed on podcasts and have been on tourism panels. But I don’t have the answer to this any more than anyone else does. That Italy will open its borders again to tourists, I have no doubt. But when? I have no idea.
It boils down to this: Italy can not open its borders to tourists until Italy is healthy, and also until the rest of the world is healthy.
So, this not a time for traveling, but a time for dreaming. We’ve been sharing some of our favorite ways to dream about Italy travel on our Facebook page – come over and join us.
In troubling and uncertain times we find more meaning than ever in our company mission and travel philosophy.
We’ll be back creating amazing Italy trips for our travelers. Meanwhile, let’s use this unexpected gift of time. Stay positive, stay healthy, and let’s rise from this stronger than before.
Italy Beyond the Obvious will help make your trip truly memorable. Take advantage of our Italy trip planning services for a customized itinerary, or get coaching assistance with our Italy travel consulting services. And if you like what you read, why not subscribe to the Italy Beyond the Obvious blog and get free updates?