Italian Travel Agents Protest: Demand Tourism Decree

Italian travel agents protest and demand a tourism decree by August 10 which resulted in a meeting that lasted about an hour and a half at the Ministry for Cultural and Environmental Heritage (Mibact) headquarters in Rome, Italy. The meeting took place between ministry managers and a delegation of travel agents led by spokesperson Enrica Montanucci. The meeting included an opening of proposals from travel agents precisely for the drafting of a decree in the wake of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Among the contents envisaged for the decree is a retroactive redundancy fund for tourism for 3 months, with the hope of extending it until December 2020. This will require approval by the Minister of Economy Gualtieri. The decree is asking for a different calculation of the lost funds of the annual average for travel agents and not on the monthly turnover with taxation spread out over 5 years.

These are promises “but not guarantees, apart from the deadline for the release of the decree” as Montanucci herself pointed out, adding that this meeting had “a humility [that] differs from that of the previous talks.”

Montanucci said the travel agents felt for the first time the desire to meet. And in this regard, the Minister of Economy invited the individual agents to send “an email within 48 hours with the proposals to be sent to the ministry. We need everyone’s help to bring a result home.”

This ended the new demonstration of travel agents in Rome – after that of June 4 in the Piazza del Popolo – with the delegation received by the managers at the end of a morning of protests.

In another demonstration, this time with approximately 500 travel agents from all over Italy, Montanucci said, “There are 150,000 jobs at risk and they must necessarily give us answers.” The Maavi committee returned to protest, this time directly against Mibact for the status of the category, or rather, against a name – Dario Franceschini, the Minister of Culture and Tourism, who catalyzed the attention of the demonstrators.

Franceschini became the target, because of promises made but so far not fulfilled. From Sicily to far north Italy, the travel agents arrived without being discouraged by the heat until they regrouped to make their voices heard and employing the use of megaphones, trumpets, and whistles.

They also presented banners prepared for the occasion and directed at the minister, who they blame and describe on their banners as “incompetent about tourism” and “incapable” and “with you, tourism rest in peace.” Some banners were directed to the government as a whole stating: “Billions only to Alitalia” and “8 thousand agencies on the verge to fall flat on their back,” and “You won’t steal my dignity, you won’t steal my dreams.”

On the sides of the square where the protest took place, the garrisons of the police force were there to prevent all the demonstrators from pouring into the headquarters of the Mibact. There were no associations supporting the individual travel agents at this protest except for AIDIT, the Italian Tourism Distribution Association.

Cesare Foa, the regional president of AIDIT for Campania, noted that ASSOVIAGGI (the Italian Association of Travel and Tourism Agencies) and FIAVET (the Italian Federation of Travel and Tourism Business Associations) were missing from the protest. There were some delegations from the ASTOI travel agency present, but its leaders were missing. Foa said, “We must all be together because we are exhausted; we have done everything possible in recent months, effectively replacing the state.”

Among the interventions, a representative tour operator underlined the promise of layoffs if extended  will result in the consequence of more unemployment. This representative said this is absurd, because it is better for the State to pay the redundancy fund rather than the unemployment fund.

Another hot topic of the protest concerned future activity. The general feeling was: we are a non-existent sector, ignored, never protected, and it is bad to say, but less and less growing.