Italy Targets Mid-May Opening for Tourism in Bid to Save Sector

Italy is aiming to open the country to tourists in mid-May, pledging a range of measures to protect visitors from the coronavirus as it scrambles to rescue a sector devastated by lockdowns and restrictions on movement.

As part of the race to get the industry back on its feet, the Rome-based government will introduce so-called vaccine passports earlier than the rest of the European Union, Tourism Minister Massimo Garavaglia said in an interview. “Conditions are right to start the summer season on May 15,” said Garavaglia, a 53-year-old lawmaker from the rightist League, Italy’s most popular party.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi is under pressure to salvage tourism, which accounts for 13% of Italy’s economic output. Tourist arrivals plunged by three quarters last year, generating losses worth 2% of GDP and putting 100 million jobs at risk, according to a report earlier this month.

The Draghi government hopes to introduce its version of the EU’s planned “digital green certificates” through a decree as early as this week, Garavaglia said, and is planning “Covid-free” rail service to some 90 destinations, with mandatory pre-boarding swabs for passengers.

Checkpoints at popular tourist spots are another option. “In Venice they’re studying solutions to help tourists enter, perhaps through checks, at the few entry points to the city,” Garavaglia said.

The government is also planning to earmark more than 1.7 billion euros ($2.1 billion) in support for businesses and workers who’ve lost revenue because of the pandemic, Garavaglia said, and foresees financial tools including mini-bonds to allow businesses to group together to seek funding for structural works on hotels and restaurants.

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