The damage of the pandemic
It was the virus that knocked out the tourism economy last year. To understand the tsunami that hit the sector, which before Covid had 135 thousand employees working in 52 thousand companies and 9 billion euros in terms of added value, just compare the data. In 2019 there were 4.2 million arrivals and 15.5 million presences. From abroad there were 1.2 million arrivals and 3.8 million international overnight stays against 3 million arrivals and 11 million national overnight stays. Last year, however, total arrivals were 2.3 million (-45 percent) and total presences were 10 million (-35 percent). International arrivals stopped at 248 thousand (-76 percent) with one million 167 thousand overnight stays (-35 percent). Domestic arrivals were 2 million, with 8.8 million national overnight stays (-23 percent compared to 2019).
And this year? To date, according to regional sources, it appears that holiday homes, b & bs, landlords in the months of July, August, September in Puglia are already at a sold out level. To confirm these forecasts, there are data coming from ports and airports. At the airports of Bari and Brindisi there is the paradoxical possibility of having the same number of routes that were available in 2019. The airlines have renewed all their contracts with the two Apulian airports. On the front of the Bari port, however, the arrival of the first ship of the Carnival group is currently scheduled for 8 May. Subsequently starting from June they will land three MSC ships per week. Same goes for Costa Cruises with three other ships from June. But it must be taken into account that the programs are reviewed at least every two weeks.
The unknown vaccines
For the moment, the president of Federalberghi Puglia does not believe it is sold out, Francesco Caizzi: “We sail on sight. From our observations resulting from the hotel system we have found requests, but they are flashes in the pan. They cannot be quantified. The presumed full house seems to me an excess that does not take into account the objective difficulties linked to the fact that we are behind with vaccinations “. This latter theme represents a great unknown, as he also points out Marina Lalli, national president of Federturismo-Confindustria: “If the vaccine plan takes off, then we can hope to recover a part of our summer. But if it does not take off, it would lead to an unmanageable situation for companies”.
Tourism of proximity
Too many unknowns that lead us to believe that the forecasts according to which domestic tourism will save the season are right. All considerations that the Region with the Councilor for Tourism and Culture, Massimo Bray, keep in mind. Just as there is a need to preserve the backbone of Apulian tourism, that is to say businesses.
Hence the measure ‘We protect tourism and culture’, which expired on February 15 with disbursements of the first 20 million euros and resubmitted. This time, however, no longer linked to fixed costs but to the turnover gap. An overall measure of another 30 million that will not only serve as refreshment, but also as support to restart. To do this, however – they make it clear in the Region – it is necessary that the government also give a reopening date.
The hypothesis May 28
Meanwhile, the Region tries to trace its own path. It was discussed a few days ago in a meeting with the representatives of the beach managers. The hypothesis is that the bathing season can be opened starting from May 28th. “The problem – he points out Fabrizio Santorsola della Fiba-Confesercenti – will arise as usual in the control of the many free beaches. It is hoped that this year there will be more controls. “After all, the restarting of the activities of the 600 beach concessionaires that fall on the state property (to which another 200 operating in the private property sector must be added) is essential to rekindle the engines of the tourism.
Precisely on this front, the Region aims to deploy all its forces, scheduling some of the most important events that were held in other periods in the months from June to September before the pandemic. The plan is to put on the table about 12 million euros that are in the availability of the Pugliapromento agency. The first idea is to move to the summer months all the activities of ‘Puglia 365’ (which are linked to the diversification of tourism, with events related to nature, landscape, sport, culture and food and wine) that in recent years they were organized by municipalities and private individuals in spring, autumn and winter.
The big events
The other fundamental issue on which we want to reason concerns the great events that punctuated the Apulian summer until the outbreak of the pandemic. The first novelty concerns the ‘Red Bull cliff diving‘, the now historic diving festival that was held in the summer in Polignano a Mare before Covid. Last year the event was canceled. Regional sources report that this year Red Bull is working on an innovative sporting event model that focuses heavily on digital promotion.
An edition that should be held in September, with Polignano a Mare confirmed among the eight world stages. In theory, all the great events are confirmed, from the ‘possible book’ (also in Polignano) to the Notte della Taranta (which was held last year but without an audience) passing through the Bifest (last year held in September) and the Festival della Valle d’Itria, the Locus and the Viva Festival.
The book review in Bari
In this theoretical summer program, the Region aims to include also events that were conceived on the occasion of the participation of Bari and Taranto in Capitals of Culture 2022 (recognition that was instead assigned to Procida). Among these are the Taranto Architecture Biennale and a large Mediterranean book fair in Bari entitled ‘Lungomare di libri’. The Region is discussing it with the Municipality of Bari to hold the review in the summer.
Landing on Netflix
However, there is also another front on which Puglia wants to focus and concerns digital and platforms. A way to keep the relationship with international tourists alive. The decision of the American show Somebody Feed Phil, a food and wine travel documentary that was conceived by Philip Rosenthal, to realize an entire episode of his program in Puglia. A decision made possible also thanks to the friendship between Rosenthal and Nancy Dell’Olio, the lawyer originally from Bisceglie who is also the ambassador of Puglia in the world.