Covid-19 Emergency. Proximity tourism as seen by an Italian tourist guide who works in Lucca, Tuscany.

Gabriele Calabrese

Forty-eight hours before the lockdown, I had what could be considered a vision.  I wonder how many of my colleagues also had the feeling that a deep-seated crisis would ultimately hit the entire tourism sector of Italy and the rest of the world in general.  If I had the same foresight in regard to gambling, I would be a millionaire.

Unfortunately the latter is not the case and I can only ascertain with bitterness that my premonition was correct: we are jobless or almost so.

I say almost because that perception along with the ample time at my disposal to ponder what we could possibly do under these conditions, pushed not only me but my entire team at Turislucca to find solutions to the problem. It was clear from the start that organized tour groups from outside Europe (the Schengen area) would not be returning for at least a year or more. What to do? Feel sorry for ourselves? That’s not our style. So we thought the only thing to do was to try and effectively reorganize and restructure our services and programs.

The target thus became individual tourism and proximity tourism. What is meant by proximity tourism? It refers to tourism at a local, regional, and national level and to some extent, families coming in from countries bordering Italy using their own means of transportation.

What kind of product could we offer that would appeal? How could we home in on clients?  We began working on multiple fronts.

At first, we began by making our own homemade videos aimed at both locals and our clients abroad, in order to keep in contact, reinforce customer loyalty and secure possible individual clients for the future.

We then contacted local institutions (neighboring cities, bank foundations, private associations) to make them aware of our problem and to pick out itineraries and topics that would appeal to a clientele interested in enjoying freedom again, albeit in an informed and responsible manner, in the aftermath of the lockdown.

We therefore conceived  and posted new itineraries on our websites and on digital platforms for a fee.

Promotion was carried out via our customer mailing list (acquired through time), local newspaper articles, and naturally, through social media.

A calendar of our events was prepared and also sent to local and regional television networks (2020, September Calendar).

A product which has proven to be a winner is Look at Lucca. This daily two-hour guided tour, carried out in English and Italian simultaneously, is for those tourists, individuals or families, who wish to visit the historical center of Lucca without booking in advance.  One shows up at the appointed time and place.  I wonder how it would be possible to make more non-Italian people aware of this tour using the means at our disposal without having to pay for online advertising.

The ‘battle’ for the survival of our ‘species’ is currently underway.

Toward the end of October, we will be able to evaluate the effectiveness of our initiatives. The hope of soon returning, even if slowly, to being able to travel as before and enjoy seeing visitors again is a strong incentive to keep working. Let’s hope that an effective vaccine become widely available soon.


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