Italian good news: In a year without travel we haven't stood still. Italy reinvents itself between workation and alternative tourism
- WTI Magazine #137 Mar 20, 2021
We publish this article, in its English translation, courtesy of the author and of the magazine HuffPost, which we thank, where it was published in the Italian version on March 9th.
It's March 11, 2020. The World Health Organization declares that Sars-CoV-2 is a pandemic. The world stops and our habits change: distancing and limitations to mobility become the rule. Despite the fact that this year has brought travel to a halt, generating an unprecedented crisis, global tourism's ability to reinvent itself has remained intact. Italy is no exception: from packages for "working tourists" who want to enjoy the beauty of the Alps to projects to transform islands into "Covid-free" archipelagos, there are many Italian locations that have revised or plan to revise their tourism model to resist the pandemic.
On the other hand, the blow to the industry and all those who depend on it has proven to be enormous. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the global tourism economy could end up showing an 80% collapse when all the data for 2020 is available. Covid′s year also brought a bad setback for Italy: 245 million lost presences and a 14 million drop in revenue compared to 2019.
But for Italian tourism, 2021 could be year zero. This is also underlined by the recent Censis report “Reinventare il turismo dopo la tempesta perfetta” (Reinventing tourism after the perfect storm). According to the report, given that in the short term international tourist flows will not be able to recover the driving role they had in the last ten years, in order to restart the sector should aim at the goals of contingent proximity and wide-ranging dissemination of digital content. Censis specifies that "it will not be a fallback: these flows will be fueled by all those fellow Italians (about 17 million) who in 2019 went abroad and that in large part will now turn their attention to Italian locations."
By making a virtue of necessity, professionals in the sector are opening up to new trends, such as that represented by the "workation" (work + vacation). According to a survey conducted by AirBnb in recent months, it will be the preferred formula of smart workers for the coming seasons: two workers out of three, interviewed by the hospitality giant, admitted to dreaming of working remotely from a place usually considered "vacation".
Among the resorts that have seized the opportunity is Courmayeur with its ad hoc offer for "working tourists": packages that include a workstation at high altitude with a view of Mont Blanc and a gourmet lunch break at the restaurant. This is how the Manifesto of ethical smart working was born, a document presented in recent days to guide part of the commercial strategies for the coming years of one of the pearls of the Alps.
The Monte Bianco Skyway cableway started the ball rolling by offering a smart-working ticket with a panoramic work station at the Pavillon, at an altitude of 1,37 miles, with a coffee station and lunch break with a panoramic view. Several hotels in Courmayeur, moreover, have transformed part of the rooms and interior spaces into offices equipped with telematics connection and services. "We want to launch a long-term message, not only in the immediate to look forward and try to overcome this difficult time that we are facing for a year," explained the mayor Roberto Rota.
Still on the "workation" front, opportunities throughout Italy have been offered by Borgo Office, the first platform that combines smart working and farms in small towns, willing to host workers looking for new views.
From the green of Piedmont, through the hills of Emilia Romagna, to the Valley of Trulli in Puglia and the Sicilian "Borgo dei Borghi 2016" in Sambuca: at the moment there are ten structures operating in Borgo Office and the goal is to reach thirty within the year. The stay of the package "smart working & farm supporting" is free, but those who take advantage of it can economically support the host structure by buying baskets of products "zero kilometer". In addition, in your free time, you can participate in excursions, cooking classes, yoga classes and other experiences for a fee.
It should be noted that small villages remain a favorite destination, even in the Covid era. Despite the fact that in 2020 the tourism sector was blocked in the months of March-May by the pandemic from Covid-19, the ISTAT report on the Tourist Movement in Italy on the period January-September 2020 recorded an increase of +6.5% compared to 2019 in the summer of 2020, mainly in favor of the destinations "less usual, presumably less crowded and with a wider receptivity of extra-hotel type (agritourism, open air, etc.. ) to the detriment of more traditional summer destinations, namely seaside resorts and large cities, usually characterized by greater crowding."
Among the small pearls of the Italian territory that have been able to reinvent themselves, we should mention Santa Fiora, in the heart of Tuscany, where a "Smart Working Village" was born, a refuge for all remote workers looking for a different lifestyle. The town in the province of Grosseto, on Mount Amiata, offers a real escape from the city to work remotely in one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, taking advantage of ultra-wideband and benefiting from an incentive of 50% on the rent.
The tender, which expired at the end of December 2020, has already granted the transfer of 12 families to Santa Fiora. A solution that relaunches the area, attracts new people and grants those who benefit from it an experience that goes beyond a vacation.
Being able to reinvent oneself in maximum safety, despite the closures of the ski facilities. They know it well in Livigno, the Lombardy resort known as "Little Tibet", where those who don't want to give up the enchantment of the snow can take advantage of the alternative activities to skiing that have always been part of the winter offer and have recently been enhanced.
The Tourist Board of Livigno is focusing even more on “ciaspolate” (snowshoeing), sleigh rides, and walks on the beaten snow. For those looking for more adrenaline activities there are paragliding, ice climbing, ice driving. And more: skating, curling, snowmobiling. In addition, there is the recent reopening of the Alpe Vago area and the consequent expansion of the footpaths.
From the mountains to the sea, aiming at "Covid-free" archipelagos. At the moment it is only a project, but it is the idea to which Sicily looks hopefully in anticipation of the summer 2021. One of the first to put forward the hypothesis was Francesco Forgione, mayor of Favignana, who proposed to vaccinate immediately the entire population of the Egadi islands to create safe areas where finally relaunch tourism.
A proposal also supported by the Sicilian branch of Confesercenti (one of the leading Italian business associations), which would follow the model set up by Greece that has chosen to immunize its islands, making them "Covid-free" in order to safeguard the tourism sector in view of next summer and the health of visitors and inhabitants.