Tour guides gathering outside the Pantheon in Rome, dressed in black and shouting “without tourism, Italy dies”. Hundreds of Chefs laying down their white uniforms in the heart of Brussels. These two protests are indeed linked. Guides are demanding financial aid to the tourism sector, claiming they feel invisible, when in fact, they are the voice of Rome’s monuments. Chefs are asking for VAT concessions and economic aid to restaurants, cafes and hospitality venues: as they represent the third largest job source in Belgium. Either of these protests has been sparked as the tourism industry in both countries has seen a downfall due to Coronavirus, and their plight should be listened to.
The Italian protests were part of a flash mob group stationed outside the Pantheon, as well as a sit-in just outside the Parliament in Rome. Tour guides were displeased with the lack of support from public authorities, and several protestors expressed their indignation on the matter: “What we do is bring life to monuments, works of art, paintings, sculptures. We must show we are here since right now we are invisible.”
The white uniforms laid down in patterns across the streets of Brussels was an artistic act to urge the government for recognition to the importance of the hospitality and Food & Beverage sectors to the local economy. The owner and renowned personality of Belga Queen restaurant, Antoine Pinto, expressed the industries hardships: “Today with all of the fixed costs, we can’t keep up if we can’t count on state aid. So, we are placing our clothes in the Grande Place, symbolising the loss of the restaurant sector.”
It is no secret that Italy was one of the major Coronavirus epicentres during the heights of quarantine, however, the country has experienced a downfall in diagnosed cases within the past weeks, and has restarted the economy by opening restaurants and museums. Tour guides are essential to these tourist attractions, even for only domestic visitors.
Belgium, on the other hand, has been locked down since mid-March and started to lift restrictions for shops and restaurants in June. Apparently, the Belgian government listened to the restaurant workers pleas, where a spokesperson for the deputy prime minister said that the state has “already launched a whole package of crisis support measures, looking into additional support for sectors that are hardest hit, such as the hospitality sector.”
In regards to the 2020 pandemic, the tourism industry’s employees are demanding proper management and financial aid, because for some countries, international tourism brings wealth and opportunities, and this year has not been too kind.