Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Italy’s tourism sector has taken a massive hit. Tour guides are begging the government for financial aid, while others are desperately trying to lure back tourists as quickly as possible. Bringing tourism rates back up is not an easy task, nor is it made any easier when airlines begin attacking regions of the country.
Recently, discount airline EasyJet began advertising flights to southern Italy. In the promotion, they wrote that Calabria, “For an authentic taste of Italian life, there’s no better than Calabria. This region suffers from an obvious lack of tourists due to its history of mafia activity and earthquakes and the lack of iconic cities such as Rome or Venice that can attract Instagram fans.”
Within hours, the advertisement was removed and claimed they had no idea how the advertising originated. They then followed up by saying they only wanted to point out how undervalued the region is amongst tourists.
Calabria’s regional president, Jole Santelli, said the ad was “offensive, distorted, and had a clear racist undertone.”
This promotion comes only weeks after EasyJet said they will not fly to Italy if Rome extended social distancing rules on airplanes past June 15th. The company had said it was impossible to ask airlines to operate with only a third of their seats filled. EasyJet also took issue with Italy’s investment into Italian airline Alitalia.
EasyJet CEO Johan Lundgren had stated, “We make our contribution to the country. I find it unacceptable that one helps only one airline.”
Despite the previous threats, EasyJet did resume flights to Italy earlier in June.
Lundgren issued an apology to Calabria earlier in the week in which he stated Calabria was, and always has been, important to the company. Santelli said though she appreciated the apology, EasyJet should remedy the situation by offering more flights to the region.