Italy leaves the pandemic behind by announcing major projects, restyling, openings. From the north to the south of the boot, a hundred new hotels are opening within a couple of years. The investment market involves major foreign funds and prestigious international hotel brands. The restart focuses on food & beverage, digital, new services and sustainability. Preferred in terms of booking in this first phase of the recovery are the alternative destinations to the great cities of art. Among the big players in the sector stands out Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, which has 50 important innovations in the pipeline, including the acquisition of the San Domenico Palace in Taormina, opening this summer.
No less is the London group Rocco Forte Hotels, which already has seven properties in the peninsula and on 3 June will open the doors of Villa Igiea, the historic Art Nouveau building overlooking the Gulf of Palermo. It also happens unexpectedly in cities like Milan, where the Four Seasons and the historic Grand Hotel et the Milan have seized the moment to stop to redo their look.
The demand for luxury, international and high-spend corporate hotels has yet to recover, meaning that hotels in Milan, Rome, Venice and Florence remain closed, as this type of demand is key in the primary city markets.
The small luxury operators have been more receptive in reopening, whereas global chains appear more cautious. Small luxury operators benefit from having a significant presence throughout Italy and are more flexible in managing brand standards and related operating costs.
In addition to primary city markets, luxury resort destinations such as Lake Como, Capri, Amalfi Coast and Portofino are more prudent in reopening. In fact, luxury hotels in top seasonal destinations seems to concentrate seasonal operations in a shorter opening period (very high season) to capture the demand peak generated principally by high-end domestic tourists and maximize profitability. This shows us that the domestic market is driving the recovery of hotels in Italy.
Whilst all segments have different strategies in the reopening process, one thing is consistent throughout and that is the strict protocols in place. Examples include compulsory paths for the checking in-and-out process, allocated time slots for breakfast, no buffet options and strictly a-la-carte menus, relevant signage for both guests and staff and the use of facemasks in all communal areas.
In our little Calabrian experience, Soverato has started to reopen its hotels, even if it’s just a challenge this year. Hopefully Covid will go on vacation!!