In St Mark’s Square last week, tables and chairs outside the famed Caffè Florian remained empty, with the few tourists spoiled for space as they posed for selfies. More white medical masks than carnival masks could be seen.
After Venice cancelled most of its annual celebrations amid Italy’s attempts to contain coronavirus outbreak, visitors ran for the hills, leaving the lagoon city a ghost town.
The Venetian tourism industry is still reeling after severe flooding in November left much of the city under water; now it has a very different kind of crisis to face. More than 800 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in Italy, and 29 people have died.
The floods reduced turnover in Venice by 40% in the final quarter of last year, according to local government figures, and estimates suggest the virus will cause a downturn of 30-40% in this quarter.
More than 40% of hotel bookings have been cancelled, according to the Venetian Hoteliers Association. The entire economy has been affected.
Venice, which receives 20-30 million holidaymakers a year, has a love-hate relationship with tourists. Overcrowding causes antagonism between those Venetians who make a living from tourism and those who feel suffocated.