Encouraging signs for the future of tourism
Domenico Colella, GM of The Westin Excelsior Florence and The St. Regis Florence hotels, tells us about his vision for the recovery of the hospitality sector
For tourism it's time to get ready for summer. Despite the stop for Easter and the difficulties still to be faced, Italian tourism does not give up and indeed ride the wave of what seem to be the first signs of recovery in the sector. Among the most significant initiatives vaccinations to all those who are in contact with the public, green pass that demonstrate the vaccination or negative tampon.
We talk about it with Domenico Colella, General Manager of two exclusive Florentine hotels, The Westin Excelsior Florence and The St. Regis Florence.
How is this beginning of 2021 going from the point of view of tourist flow and what do you expect for the coming months?
The Westin Excelsior Florence, following its reopening after last year's total lock-down, has always remained open and our commitment is to continue to represent one of the symbols of Florentine hospitality even in exceptional conditions such as those we are experiencing.
Of course, the continuous "Stop and Go", due to color changes between zones and the succession of government regulations, make the operation very complicated. Unfortunately, the extension of restrictions until the Easter period means that an important moment for the relaunch of tourism will have to be postponed. There are, however, encouraging signs for the future: in the past months, the desire to visit Florence has been clearly perceived. During the periods in which the conditions allowed it, the city has revived, seeing many visitors arrive. We have received and continue to receive calls from our clients who can't wait to return. The vaccination campaign underway gives a glimpse of the exit from the crisis, we all hope that it will proceed quickly and soon allow the resumption of domestic and international travel.
Personally, I am confident that, as soon as conditions allow, we will see a sustained return of tourist flows. Florence's beauty and cultural richness make it one of the favorite destinations for travelers, and we will be ready to welcome them.
What kind of clientele did you host at The Westin Excelsior, Florence?
Thanks to local tourism, even though room occupancy rates are not very high, we have been able to maintain sufficient continuity and when restrictions have allowed it, we have hosted many Florentines and Tuscans, even if only for a lunch at our rooftop bar and restaurant Sesto On Arno with a breathtaking view of the city and the Florentine hills. Unfortunately, as expected, the passage of Tuscany in the orange zone has further lowered the occupancy. However, we still have the presence of some loyal guests who come to Florence for business and choose The Westin Excelsior Florence.
Should Florence create a new "tourist model"? If yes, how should it be?
Last summer and during the months in which it was allowed to move, there were many who did not want to miss the opportunity to visit the city in a unique and, perhaps, unrepeatable context. Definitely in the last period, although delicate and complicated, we have known a tourism of great quality that it would be opportune to continue to cultivate also in the future.
How soon do you expect to return to pre-pandemic flows?
It is difficult to predict a certain date, but there are encouraging signs coming from countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States and China, where the vaccination campaign is proceeding at a fast pace. We hope that also Europe can catch up soon in this sense.
Even Europe is thinking about the vaccine patent (possibly replaceable with a certificate of immunity or negative tampon) to be able to travel. What do you think?
We believe that vaccinations will be able to play a crucial role in protecting public health, which will allow people to travel again. Vaccines are only part of the puzzle and should be paired with swabs, proper use of masks, adherence to interpersonal spacing, and adherence to hygiene protocols. Vaccinations will not only help curb the spread of the virus, but will help rebuild consumer confidence in the tourism industry. Currently, countries around the world are grappling with how vaccination records can and should be used as travel resumes. With the vaccination campaign still in its infancy, we believe it is premature to take a position on the health passport concept. However, we hope that governments are able to collaborate with each other and the private sector by implementing vaccination protocols and testing so that the standards put in place are consistent and build travel confidence.