Italy to Create ‘COVID-Free’ Islands to Restart the Country’s Tourism Industry

In a bid to kickstart the travel and tourism economy in Italy, the Italian government has announced that they will be vaccinating all residents on the country’s holiday islands to create ‘COVID-free’ islands for people to travel to this summer.

The program prioritizes vaccinating all residents on popular tourist islands with a goal of having all vaccinated by the end of April.

Controversy has been sparked by this move, however, with mainland Italian travel and tourism operators being essentially left out in the cold once again after a year of not being able to operate. Nevertheless, it appears that the Italian authorities are continuing with the operation.

There has not been a firm date announced for the program to be complete and tourism to begin once again, however, Italian Minister of Tourism Massimo Garavaglia has eluded that the official restart date could be 2 June 2021. This move would be following the lead of France and the United States, who have set their reopen dates to be national holidays.

“President Biden and President Macron said they are organizing reopenings based on their national holidays, July 4th and July 14th. Our Republic Day is on June 2nd,” said Garavaglia in an interview with the daily newspaper Il Messaggero.

The top island destinations in Italy that are stealing the spotlight for COVID-free destinations include Capri, Ischia, Procida, the Aeolian Islands, the Egadi Islands, Elba, the Pelagie Islands, and the Tremiti Islands.

The vaccination of all residents on these islands is being negotiated by top Italian officials and the mayors of the specific towns that populate them. The plan may already be in full-effect on a few islands.

Francesco Forgione, Mayor of the Egadi archipelago (which is comprised of the islands of Favignana, Levanzo, and Marettimo) took notes from Greece’s vaccination strategy and their targeting of small islands to open for tourism.

“I think we need both courage and foresight. Italy should behave like Greece, and Sicily should take action,” Forgione said.

Forgione was the first public official to write to the Italian Chief of Vaccination Strategy, Francesco Figliuolo and suggest that people on islands be vaccinated with priority in order to get tourists to these islands more quickly and restart the tourism economy more effectively.

“Here, Federalberghi [the national hotels’ association] asked for tourism workers to be the first to get the vaccine. But on small islands there is no distinction between tourism workers and the rest of the population. This applies to the Egadi islands, but also to the Aeolian Islands, Pantelleria, Lampedusa, Linosa, and Ustica. I believe that all of Italy’s small islands share this belief,” Forgione said.

Following Greece’s lead and vaccinating the populations of islands could prove effective for the Italian travel and tourism industry.

Greece, at the time of writing this article, has had plans in place to vaccinate 69 of their islands to open for tourism.

In addition, Greece is set to open for tourism from 14 May 2021.

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