Italy’s tourism industry is a massive and thriving portion of the economy. Though many of the locals would like to see an end to the overwhelming number of tourists crowding their streets, the financial benefits are undeniable.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has delivered a sucker punch to this industry. Many Italians who work in that sector feel the government has neglected to support them in this uncertain time.
On Tuesday, protesters gathered outside the Pantheon in Rome to publicly voice their concerns. They dressed in black, wore face masks, and held signs that read, “Without tourism Italy dies.”
The protest was organized by the Association of Licensed Tourist Guides, AGTA, who are looking for a suspension of tax payments for 2020, the possibility of installment payments, and overall financial support.
One protester told the local news station, “We are asking for support from the government because we never hear the tour guide sector being spoken about.”
Tourism in Italy accounts for 13% of the country’s gross domestic product. That’s about 4 million out of the 23 million in the workforce overall. With the country’s borders only recently reopened, many fear tourists will be too scared to visit Italy.
Meanwhile, many other European countries are still days away from opening their borders if not weeks. Switzerland and Austria have both issued statements warning against travel to Italy as it is still considered a hotspot.
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said he feels Italy is being treated like a leper.
With the summer months being Italy’s biggest tourist season, it’s unlikely the industry will recoup its losses over the coming year or even in the next.
There is some glimmer of hope in all of this. About 40% of Italians travel abroad every summer. With many travel restrictions still in place, that number is expected to drop significantly. Economists are hopeful, with more people staying close to home, this will help boost Italy’s local economy.