Italy beaches getting 'anti-coronavirus' ready in bid to save holiday season from pandemic

Aerial photo handout of beach resort Bacino Grande in Porto Cesareo, Italy, showing a possible model of beach adopting social-distancing rules - FILE
Aerial photo handout of beach resort Bacino Grande in Porto Cesareo, Italy, showing a possible model of beach adopting social-distancing rules - FILE Copyright AFP - Bacino Grande / Fabrizio Marzano handout
By Alessio Dell'AnnaAFP
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Private-beach owners are ramping up efforts to adapt their tourism spots to social-distancing rules in a bid to save the 2020 holiday season from the Covid-19 pandemic

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Hundreds of millions of tourists flock Italy every year, enjoying the Alps or the country's coastline.

However, as summer approaches amid Covid-19 restrictions, it seems unlikely they will be able to enjoy the Bel Paese as they normally would.

Italy has already lifted some lockdown measures, and will do so further from May 4. 

How social-distancing rules will affect the upcoming holiday season however remains unclear.

The Covid-19 pandemic has hit the tourism sector very hard

Countries like Croatia, whose economy is hugely reliant on tourism, have recently come up with ingenious ideas to keep tourism flows alive next summer, such as "tourist corridors".

Italy's private-beach owners are preparing too, and have started getting "anti-coronavirus-ready" by applying social-distancing measures to their resorts.

AP Photo/Andrew Medichini
An empty beach in the seaside town of Ostia, near Rome, Monday, April 13, 2020AP Photo/Andrew Medichini

In Porto Cesareo, a small seaside town nicknamed "the Caribbean" of Italy's southeastern region of Puglia, a private beach is setting up umbrellas and deckchairs with a safety distance of 1.5 metres as well as installing ropes to mark out the space between holidaymakers. 

"We can come safely to the sea, we have rules imposed on us, and we have imposed them on ourselves. And we can abide by them, which is why we have tested this distance between umbrellas.", Fabrizio Marzano, the owner of seaside resort Bacino Grande, says.

"The little ropes we see are simply to give an idea of the space, of what it could be, to respect the safety of all the people who go to the beach, for all the tourists."

But social-distancing rules are not just a matter of space. They involve customer service too, as Mr Marzano says. 

"For example, there can be no queues at the bar, as this would mean that people would be too close to each other. And so we will have to give the customer who wants a sandwich, a pizza, a Coca-Cola, the possibility to bring it to them to their beach umbrella."

Last month, Italy's tourism and culture minister Dario Franceschini announced "important" measures to prop up the tourism sector amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Measures include financial support for tourism seasonal workers and tax relief for several business activities (including guided tours, bathhouses, restaurants, theme parks, libraries, fairs, cultural and artistic events and many others), as well as "refund" vouchers for hotels that suffered booking cancellations.

Furthermore, the tourism ministry is planning to "revamp" Italy's image in the world with a new marketing campaign.

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