Following the trail of destruction caused by COVID-19 and the understandable apprehension by some businesses to continue going forward, the news media is currently buzzing with reports that Italy as well as other countries in Europe is slowly relaxing travel and social restrictions perhaps with the hope of restoring life to some degree of normality. “Hoorah” we all say, I wonder however, what is the future for those small businesses in the tourism & hospitality sector that have suffered the loss of a complete seasons booking?

From firsthand experience, SMEs in Italy are left reeling from the lockdown and travel bans imposed in the fight against the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

In recent weeks, some businesses in Italy have cautiously re-opened whilst implementing the various newly recommended health and safety precautions.

The hope is that they will possibly draw some local trade? However, spare a thought for those businesses; small family run hotels, B&Bs, restaurants, artisan producers, wineries, private tour guides and the like who have invested considerable time & resources in attracting clients for 2020 only to lose the entire seasons’ bookings. Moreover with international travel at an all-time low, they have little to no prospect of doing much business for the remainder of the 2020 season. These are the businesses that have been the “hidden gems” with whom I have been fortunate to get acquainted. As such they have graciously allowed me to share something quite unique with my clients; a taste of “the real Italy”. These are the micro businesses that have welcomed complete strangers into their homes, kitchens and artisan workplaces and are simply delighted that a traveller has taken the time to show an interest in their craft or cuisine.

Globally, governments have of course stepped in to assist some categories of business and individuals, providing emergency funds. However based on current circumstances, the future for this group of business owners looks bleak. It was, and still is my fear that these “hidden gems” that have been crafted and passed down through generations might be lost, perhaps forever.

It is therefore incredibly inspiring that despite the heartbreaking loss of lives, heavy financial losses and a mostly uncertain future, the resilience and tenacity shown by these micro businesses endures.

The “green shoots” of new life are surprisingly beginning to show, almost Phoenix-like, slowly emerging from the ashes of the once thriving but now scorched tourism & hospitality landscape.

Promotions and hopeful memes for a brighter future seem to appear daily in news feeds and publications, replacing the now not so funny Covid-19 jokes. Perhaps these aspirations will not bear fruit this year, but most probably will in 2021. In this respect the Italians are indeed a remarkable nation with an un-suppressible passion for life and enchanting sociability. It is perhaps that unique human ability to pull together and defiantly sing from their balconies in the face of social deprivation that epitomises the charm that is Italy. This has been a very humbling journey so far and one that I hope I can learn from.

On reflection, there is most definitely hope, and despite the bad press and international criticism that Italy has endured these past few months I firmly believe that Italy will survive and thrive beyond this crisis. The charisma of Italy that attracted me & so many visitors lives on.

As fellow motorcyclists know only too well; sometimes it’s far better to face the storm and ride on through it with positive determination, knowing you will either outrun it or pass through it quicker – both outcomes are preferable than giving up your journey and possibly being swept away by the flood.

“andrà tutto bene” – everything will be fine

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