Over the last ten years, Florence has availed itself of an unstoppable growth in tourism: In the year 2018 tourist presences in the city reached 15,5 million, as claimed by the CTS (Center of Touristic Study of Florence) most of them flocking to the city centre. Hotels were always booked, taverns and restaurants full of customers, endless queues for the museums, tourists streaming through the narrow streets of the city, in shops and in squares. From €22 million in 2014 the city grossed nearly €50 million in 2018, from the city tax alone. With this amount, together with revenues from other sources (bus, hotel, museum tickets and restaurants) the city had an income of nearly € 3.467,1 million, in the year 2018.
This was happening until the arrival of Coronavirus, when, suddenly, all income stopped. The virus took away everything.
Now that phase 2 has begun, the city is ready to restart, almost all shops and bars are open keeping to the social distance regulations.
During the first phase of the lockdown the neighbourhoods that preserved some kind of vitality, because the local residents are still living there, have been the Oltrarno neighbourhood with San Niccolò as far as Porta Romana, San Frediano and the Santo Spirito area, then the Santa Croce neighbourhood and parts of San Lorenzo. The city centre, for years explicitly dedicated to tourism, is now completely deserted.
Airbnb and apartment rental agencies have taken the place of the locals who have moved out to the outskirts of the city, due to the increasingly high price of apartments as a result of tourist demand.
In order to face the increasing demand of tourists, over the years the historic city centre has been completely changed, losing its identity.
Many historical shops have closed to make way for famous fashion shops and tourist restaurants putting Florence on a par with other European cities.
For a city like Florence, which for more than a decade has based the greater part of its income, exclusively on tourism, in this sensitive moment it makes you wonder what will happen when the borders open again. In economic terms the spread of Coronavirus has been a dramatic event for local companies and shops. On the other hand it could offer new perspectives for a better organization of tourism. The epidemic has shown the local authorities that they need to re-think the way in which what the city offers is being consumed, re-evaluting their activities because in the future something similar could happen again. It is up to local and national government to educate tourists and local companies to develop more structured, slower and better quality tourism.
An offer to tourists that is able to promote the artistic and cultural heritage with activities that create greater awareness and avoid mindless mass exploitation by visitors.