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Italy thirsts for tourists as country reopens to Europe

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Italy reopened to travellers from Europe on Wednesday, three months after going into coronavirus lockdown, but sparse arrivals dimmed hopes of reviving the key tourism industry as the summer season begins.

Gondolas are ready to punt along Venice’s canals, lovers can act out “Romeo and Juliet” on Verona’s famed balcony, and gladiator fans can pose for selfies at Rome’s Colosseum.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the country was clearly on the mend, adding latest contagion data was “encouraging.”

“There’s enthusiam in the air, a renewed sociability. We deserve to smile, to be cheerful, after weeks of great sacrifice,” he said, adding the time had come to lure tourists back.

Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio urged European countries to open their borders too.

“We are waiting for reciprocity from all European countries,” the minister told a press conference.

Austria and Switzerland are keeping their frontiers with Italy shut.

There were also fears many are hesitant to come to a country like Italy still shaking off a vicious pandemic.

“We hoped to see some movement from today, but have no foreign tourists booked in for this week or next,” said Alessandra Conti, a receptionist at the Albergo del Senato hotel which overlooks the Pantheon in Rome.

“We’ve got a few reservations from mid-June… (but) are still getting lots of cancellations for this summer”.

‘Smouldering’ virus

Italy was the first European country to be hit hard by the coronavirus and has officially reported more than 33,500 deaths — the third highest toll in the world.

It imposed an economically crippling lockdown in early March and has since seen its infection numbers drop off dramatically.

With the country facing its deepest recession since World War II, it needs a swift return of foreign tourists.

A masked gondolier hopes domestic and foreign tourists will take a punt on Italy this summer with the country facing its deepest recession since World War II. PHOTO: AFP / ANDREA PATTARO

But it is still reporting hundreds of new cases a day, particularly in the northern Lombardy region, and experts warn Rome may be moving too quickly in permitting travel between regions and abroad.

Infectious diseases expert Massimo Galli said it would have been better to wait until July to reopen the borders.

The virus “smoulders under the ashes, and when it finds the ideal conditions, it explodes. Even more so if we lower our guard,” he said Wednesday.

‘Like a leper’

International flights into Milan, Rome and Naples increased, with a few also coming into smaller, regional airports.

German Regina Oswald, 53, was one of the very few foreign tourists to be spotted in Venice’s Saint Mark’s Square.

“It’s fantastic to see Venice without a lot of people, it’s the one time in my life I can enjoy it like this,” said Oswald, who arrived early Wednesday for a three-day stay.

“I am worried about the virus, but will take precautions”, she said, such as always eating at outdoor tables in restaurants.

Italy fears those who usually travel in by car, train or ferry may holiday elsewhere.

Switzerland has warned citizens going to Italy they will be subject to “health measures” on their return. It will open its borders with Germany, France and Austria on June 15.

A lifeguard wearing a protective facemask checks the distance between sun beds at Fregene beach near Rome. PHOTO: AFP / Tiziana FABI

Austria is lifting border restrictions from Thursday — but not with Italy, described last week by Vienna’s health minister as “still a hotspot”.

Foreign Minister Di Maio had warned neighbours not to treat Italy “like a leper” and will Saturday visit Germany, Slovenia and Greece to try to persuade them Italy is safe.

‘Scared’

Lockdown had a devastating effect on Italy’s tourism sector which amounts to some 13 percent of GDP.

Only 40 of Rome’s 1,200 hotels have reopened, the Corriere della Sera newspaper said, and just a dozen in Milan.

Restaurants and cafes have slowly reopened in recent days — but the government says it will impose localised lockdowns if it sees contagion numbers rise.

“Who’s going to come? No one from South America, China or the US. And the Europeans will be scared,” Mimmo Burgio, 62, owner of a cafe near Rome’s Colosseum, told AFP.

Reporting and photos: AFP

Business

Indian influencer Niki Mehra in Maldives

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Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC/ Visit Maldives) hosted a familiarisation trip with Amilla Maldives for high-end influencer, Niki Mehra, from India to experience the luxury and romantic offerings of the Maldives from 3rd – 6th May 2024.

The familiarisation trip was a great opportunity to Niki Mehra, a renowned Indian model, fashion, beauty and travel content creator and social media influencer with over half a million followers who has carved a niche in the Indian fashion industry with her unique sense of style. During her time in the Sunny Side of Life, Niki Mehra showcased luxury to romantic experiences of the destination.

The trip promoted Maldives through social media platforms of Niki Mehra while highlighting experiential itinerary offerings of the Maldives. Additionally, the influencer trip assisted MMPRC in propelling growth in the luxury travel segment and honeymoon market by showcasing the Maldives as a premier honeymoon destination for the Indian travellers.

The Indian market has been a strong market for the Maldives over the years, currently ranked number 6 with 46,970 tourists as of 13th May 2024. Additionally, MMPRC showcased the Maldives in OTM and SATTE held earlier this year. MMPRC is committed to boosting the arrivals from the market and has exciting marketing activities planned for future, including joint campaigns, familiarisation trips, participation in major events and other campaigns which provides numerous opportunities to showcase the breathtaking Maldives to the market, attracting more Indian travellers.

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130 hotels in The Prestige Collection with 4 Maldives properties

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The Prestige Collection has reached 130 hotels in its portfolio, continuing to uphold quality and excellence as core pillars. It represents the most exclusive selection within Keytel, the world’s first alliance of independent hotels.

Since its establishment in 2007, The Prestige Collection has been dedicated to meeting the growing demand for luxury hotels, becoming a reference for hospitality industry specialists. Despite its focus on independent hotels, the collection has successfully attracted prestigious properties from international luxury chains such as Rosewood Villa Magna, Mandarín Oriental Ritz Madrid, and Fairmont Mayakoba in Riviera Maya. These hotels view The Prestige Collection as a complement to their commercial strategy for attracting luxury clientele.

With a prominent presence both nationally and internationally across 36 countries, The Prestige Collection shines in with four distinguished resorts: Baglioni Resort Maldives, Diamonds Athuruga Maldives Resort & Spa, Diamonds Thudufushi Maldives Resort & Spa, and Hideaway Beach Resort & Spa. Internationally, the collection boasts emblematic properties like Armani Dubai, Café Royal in London, The Pierre in New York, and Kappa Senses in Ubud, Bali, among others.

The collection categorises hotels into four distinctive categories, highlighting ideal places to disconnect, properties in vibrant urban settings, coastal options for those seeking serenity, and unique experiences for those seeking singularity.

Furthermore, this milestone coincides with the relaunch of its new experiential website platform. This platform offers users and industry professionals the opportunity to explore the collection in greater detail and drives qualified traffic to the official websites of member hotels.

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Waste Management Corporation (WAMCO) Marks a Significant Step Towards Transforming Urban Waste Management

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Waste Management Corporation (WAMCO) marked a significant step towards plastic waste management with the adoption of dedicated vehicles handed over to boost this transformation of urban waste management supported by The Coca-Cola Foundation (TCCF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Maldives.  

In March 2024, UNDP Maldives officially handed over a fleet of six vehicles to WAMCO, which included two electric vehicles (EVs), as part of an initiative aimed at enhancing waste management across the Greater Male’ Area (GMA). This acquisition, facilitated through the financial support of TCCF paves the way for a crucial advancement in bolstering PET collection efforts and tackling the challenge of plastic waste in the Maldives.

“This initiative marks a significant step towards boosting recycling rates and combating environmental pollution in the Maldives,” stated Pek Chuan Gan, Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP Maldives speaking at the handover ceremony. “Integrating electric vehicles into WAMCO’s fleet and improving PET recycling processes not only lowers carbon emissions but also pioneers renewable energy use in waste management. It’s a vital move for steering the Maldives towards a sustainable and renewable-powered future.”

The provision of electric vehicles marks a continuation of UNDP Maldives’ support to the Government’s vision to introduce renewable energy in key sectors such as waste management that significantly contribute to the country’s renewable energy transition ambition. By embracing clean energy solutions, such as electric vehicles in waste management practices, the Maldives can further reduce its carbon footprint and move closer to achieving its renewable energy goals.

“Utilizing eco-friendly vehicles is a pivotal change for WAMCO, signifying a major leap towards modernizing waste management in the Maldives,” remarked Mujthaba Jaleel, Managing Director, from WAMCO. “This collaboration highlights the shared commitment to environmental stewardship and the potential for such partnerships to catalyse meaningful progress in sustainability and about the positive impact these vehicles will have on our operations and the environment.”

Representatives from UNDP Maldives, WAMCO, and The Coca-Cola Foundation’s unified efforts towards a sustainable future. Photo courtesy: CIAO Advertising.

“Our commitment goes beyond just recycling; it’s about fostering a culture of sustainability,” remarked Saadia Madsbjerg, President, Coca‑Cola Foundation and VP Community Affairs. “By enhancing waste management in the Maldives, we aspire to set a benchmark for environmental stewardship.”

For The Coca-Cola Foundation, together with the stakeholders, the aim is to propel Maldives towards a future where plastic circularity is not just envisioned but actively pursued. By channelling resources and expertise into the heart of waste management, TCCF has made a sizeable contribution in enhancing and attracting investment to this crucial sector in the Maldives. This initiative is a testament to TCCF’s commitment to fostering sustainable practices and promoting the reuse and recycling of plastics, thereby reducing environmental impact, and paving the way for a circular economy.

The fleet handover event held on March 18, 2024, served as a celebration of collaboration in waste management. Representatives from UNDP Maldives, WAMCO, The Coca-Cola Foundation, government officials, and stakeholders came together to mark this significant step and reinforced their collective dedication to building a more sustainable future for the Maldives.

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