Did you ever wonder what it what have been like to be in Italy during the strict lockdown period? Amy from Luxe Associates Travel was right in the thick of it and has given us the download on what life looked like and what she thinks travel will be like post-COVID-19.
Amy Doherty owns & manages Luxe Associates Travel, a tour operator based in Rome which offers private guided day tours in Rome, Florence, Venice, Naples/Pompeii/Amalfi Coast.
Amy’s business focuses on promoting slow tourism, quality experiences and tours for families & couples from all walks of life.
Let’s find out what Amy has experienced in Italy during the past few months.
How did you see people supporting each other during lockdown over in Italy?
Whilst Italy is generally not famed for the discipline of its citizens, Italians were truly marvellous during lockdown. No fights over toilet paper here!
People respected & are still respecting (for the most part) social distancing, wearing masks, etc. As Italy is an extremely family-oriented culture, the lockdown was very difficult, but now that we’re allowed to move freely, families have been reunited and we’re slowly getting back to normality.
In terms of business, I have been blessed that my clients have supported my small business during this time by not cancelling, and instead moving their bookings across to 2021.
I realise I have been very lucky in this as I’ve been following closely the travel industry situation in Australia & the dynamics & problems of cancellations & refunds.
How have you adapted to the changes within the industry during the pandemic?
As Italy was one of the first to go into complete lockdown, we’ve moved some offerings online. Instead of focusing on ‘virtual tours’ however we’ve focused on another aspect of what clients often comment on ‘I’d love to learn some Italian’.
As we focus heavily on the education aspect of our tours (in a fun & entertaining way – no dry textbook explanations here!) our 10 part online “Italian for Travellers” course is a nice congruency and fun addition to our usual tour offerings to make the whole experience more rounded when clients will finally have the opportunity to travel back to this marvellous country.
We’re also offering private online Italian language lessons for kids so they’re also more inspired for when they come to Italy.
What do you think the future of travel will look like in Italy?
Hopefully Italy will be able to move away from the mass tourism that it’s seen particularly over the past 2-3 years. Italy has become somewhat of a Disneyland, particularly in places like Venice.
The environmental footprint of this mass tourism was starting to take its toll so my opinion is that Italy will have the opportunity to re-set and now focus on sustainable tourism & boutique experiences which will be good for the locals, the environment & indeed the economy.
Italy is a place that is to be lived & savoured slowly – it shouldn’t be a ‘one-day cruise ship experience’ to Venice, Florence, or Rome.
If you could ban three things from pre-COVID travel, what would they be?
1. Huge group sizes in the major museums & sites in Italy.
Not only has this been uncomfortable for visitors & guides alike but it has also been contributing to the degradation of some of the world’s greatest works of art in museums such as the Vatican & Uffizi.
2. Day excursions from cruise ships.
These were causing problems to the very ecosystems of cities like Venice not to mention low-value experiences for clients.
You can’t understand Italy on a one-day cruise ship excursion with 100 other people.
3. Move away from the ‘tick that city off the list’ mentality.
Yes, it’s great to say you’ve been to a place and take the selfie but it’s a whole other experience when you get to learn about a city and its history. There needs to be a focus on education & quality experiences – truly learning about history & the local culture.
What positive changes would you like to see as part of a travel industry reset?
I’d like to see a focus on sustainable, boutique experiences with a focus on supporting small, local tourism businesses across the world. It would be great to also see lesser-visited regions of Italy to become more prominent in tour planning as Italy truly has so much to offer.
I believe that ‘Slow Tourism’ as the only way to travel.
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