As Italy reopens, tour guides plead for more aid, and tourists

By Elisabetta Povoledo

A few dozen black-clothed tour guides and tour organizers recently twirled white umbrellas to the tune of “Singing in the Rain” outside the Pantheon, one of Rome’s greatest tourist attractions.

The problem was, there were very few tourists.

The Pantheon, an ancient Roman temple, was among a wave of attractions across Italy that reopened this month after the coronavirus lockdown. The flash mob of guides and organizers was one of several similar events held in various Italian cities this week to draw attention to the severe problems caused after tourism — usually a lifeline — was paralyzed by the pandemic.

In the days after some of the first lockdown restrictions were lifted, Italians relished the empty streets, rediscovering city monuments and museums that they would normally avoid because of long lines.

But even as travel restrictions are lifted throughout Europe, reluctance to travel outside national borders remains high. Forecasts for the number of airplane reservations to Italy suggest drops of 95.2% in June, 82.4% in July and 76.4% in August, compared to the same periods last year, according to Italy’s national tourism agency, ENIT.

That is nothing short of a disaster, according to the workers dancing outside the Pantheon, who feel they have been neglected by the government. Many are demanding subsidies for the coming season when most will be out of work.

“Without tourism, Italy dies,” chanted Ilenya Moro, a tour guide in Rome who helped organize the flash mob.

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