Virus Fears Leave Venice Tourist Spots Empty

First came the flood, then came the disease.

Over the past three months, the tourism industry of Venice, has had its share of plagues.

Flooding in November, prompted by exceptionally high tides, led to mass cancellations. Now as Italy experiences the biggest coronavirus outbreak outside Asia, a similar and unwelcome drop-off is occurring.

According to Associazione Venezia Albergatori, an association of local hotel owners, 50 percent of reservations in Venice have been canceled in the last week. “The situation is dramatic for the industry,” said Vittorio Bonacini, the chairman.

Mr. Bonacini estimates that since November, Venetian tourism, worth 3 billion euro or about $3.3 billion, “has probably lost 800 million euro.” Since the outbreak began on Feb. 21, he said, Venice hotels have lost almost 70 percent of their international visitors.

Once plagued by overtourism, Venice is now ghastly empty.

Many of its world-famous hot spots, including Campo Santa Margherita and the Jewish Ghetto, are deserted. Few tourists can be seen even in the usually packed St. Mark’s Square.

“It feels like one of those zombie movies with one guy walking in an empty New York,” said Matteo Secchi, a hotel receptionist. He said tourists scared off by the virus are canceling their reservation up to April. “One month like this it’s something we can deal with, but if this drags for months, people will get unemployed.”

Venice is hardly the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Northern Italy, and no lockdown has been imposed on the city.

As of Thursday, 650 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Italy, according to the country’s civil protection agency (the ministry of health’s count, which lags the civil protection numbers, is slightly lower). The vast majority are in Lombardy, where 11 villages and small towns have been fully quarantined and the regional capital Milan has self-imposed a lockdown, with schools, gyms and public offices closed, while pubs and cafes are subject to an on-and-off curfew.

In neighboring Veneto, the confirmed coronavirus cases are 71, said the civil protection agency. Its regional capital, Venice, has closed only its schools and museums.

And, of course, the last two days of the Venice Carnival were called off, making international headlines.

Milan postponed its Design Week, its largest international draw, and Rome has reported thousands of traveler cancellations.

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