Italy has accelerated its de-escalation to revive a desperate tourism industry, which accounts for 13% of its GDP
Two workers are busy repainting the sign for “Battistini”, Ostia’s oldest private beach.
This town of Roman coastline It is preparing to open despite the total absence of visitors, while its inhabitants look with fear and uncertainty towards an atypical summer season.
With ten kilometers of sand, this city just half an hour from Rome is a favorite vacation spot for Italians and foreigners. The hoteliers, who depend on tourism, believe that the losses of these closing months are “unrecoverable”, as Efe Lia, owner of a bar near the beach, tells Efe.
In front is Roberto, who proudly displays the seafood display from his restaurant. Before confinement, decreed ten weeks ago, it was an oyster feast, while now it only has a small shellfish source for its few customers.
I am terrified to say it, but we have lost around 70% ”, he calculates. For this reason he decided to strike, like many other businessmen, on the first day he allowed himself to open, last Monday the 18th: “The State has left us alone, we have not received any help.”
Outside, on the beach, there are many walkers and few bathers. This sunny day in late May is one that many Romans have chosen to see the sea again after almost three months.
“Seeing the sea is a beautiful feeling, it gives the idea that something is improving,” says Valentina, who is from Ostia but had not stepped on the promenade until today. Her partner, Simone, has come from Rome and appreciates this “normal test”.
Asked about their employment, they both say in unison that they are “momentarily unemployed.” The devastating job destruction caused by the coronavirus crisis has allowed many young couples, such as Valentina and Simone, to spend a day walking on the beach, many with their children.
Lia is the only one who works in her family. Her daughter is a waitress in a bar in Sorrento, a small tourist town near Naples. There, with few inhabitants and greater dependence on tourism than Ostia, “the situation is disastrous.”
Her other son runs a tourist apartment in the center of Rome and has not received a reservation for the summer. “I don’t expect them to go back to work before spring 2021,” she says, resigned.
Italy has accelerated its de-escalation to revive a desperate tourism industry, which accounts for 13% of its GDP, according to the National Tourism Agency (ENIT). For this reason, it will open the borders between the regions and abroad on June 3.
Among entrepreneurs there is a certain hope: that Italians, having more difficulty spending the summer abroad, go to the beaches of their country.
“Our hope is to work with the Romans, who will not be able to go to distant places this summer,” says Giorgio, owner of a historic jewelry store whose survival is hanging by a thread.
In “Battistini”, the first private beach that opened in Ostia, in 1919, its owner describes this year as a “complete disaster”. Silvana, protected with a mask with the Italian flag, believes that local tourists “are not enough”, since here they had Spaniards, Germans or French, among others.
I have 12 workers, I don’t know if I will have to fire any of them. Now everyone works, but if people don’t come… ”. Leave the question in the air, which is the same one that many workers in the sector ask themselves. The opening, which was expected for April 25, is delayed in the Lazio region, where Rome and Ostia are, until May 29.
Outside, an excavator is redistributing the characteristic black sand of this beach. Bathing is allowed, but not sunbathing until June 1, by municipal regulations. Still, there are some families who defy the ban and sit down to enjoy an almost summery day.
Most walkers wear a mask despite the heat. Roberto, a retiree who has taken advantage of the day to come and see the sea with his wife, sees it “difficult” for people to take her to the beach and to maintain a safe distance from children.
“The sea seems very clean, we missed it a lot. We are excited to see him again after such a delicate moment, ”says Rosalba, also retired. Immediately after, she scolded her husband for wearing the mask down to his chin during the interview.
The walk through Ostia is a continuous contrast between the walkers and bathers, happy to return to the sea, and the businessmen and workers of the tourist places, in tense calm before a return to normality far removed from what they knew.
With information from EFE