Italy is suffering. Every year — until 2020 — Italy has welcomed millions of tourists from the United States, who spend billions of dollars enjoying the charms of one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Those tourism dollars are a huge part of the Italian economy and help to keep thousands of people employed.
But . . . it’s 2020, which means everything has changed. With Italy being a COVID-19 “hot spot” in the early days of the pandemic, and the United States and other countries continuing to deal with coronavirus issues, tourism from America to Italy has plummeted. The principal hotel association in Rome says 90 percent of the hotels there remain closed, and estimates that the hotel closure is causing an economic loss of about $115 million per month. Restaurants are operating at much lower capacity, and the residents of Rome report that it feels almost empty without the throngs of tourists. It’s hard to imagine Roman landmarks like the Pantheon, shown above, without huge crowds of visitors. In fact, you might say that this would be an ideal time to visit Italy . . . but for the global pandemic.
And you have to wonder — will there be a long-term impact on tourism and travel, to Italy and elsewhere? It’s pretty clear that travel helps to spread pandemics, which gives the notion of tourism a kind of risky taint — but once they get going, pandemics are notoriously nondiscriminatory in their impact and eventually are going to hit, and hurt, every country. If a reliable vaccine is developed — a big if — will Americans go back to favorite destinations like Italy, or France? Or, will they to stick closer to home for the time being and choose to travel within the U.S., until the dust settles and other tourists returning from their trips give the all-clear to travel overseas? The Italian tourist industry representatives quoted in the article linked above seem confident American tourists will be back because they just can’t get enough of Rome and the Tuscan sun, but after 2020 . . . well, who knows?
We’ve got an overseas trip planned for 2021 and certainly hope to be going — but between now and then we are going to be paying pretty close attention to news about vaccines, and outbreaks, and other medical developments that we wouldn’t have even considered before this year. I’m guessing that we’re not alone.