The Italian island of Sicily has made a desperate plea for visitors, as tourism numbers plummet amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Sicily lost upwards of €1 billion (AU$1.7 billion) in tourism-related revenue since Italy was forced to enter lockdown in March, and its plan for revival will see you save big.
The regional government has promised to cover half the cost of visitors’ flights, and a third of their hotel expenses.
On top of that, it will offer free tickets to all its museums and archaeological sites, in a move that is set to cost the town a whopping €50 million.
How do I get it?
Vouchers for flights and accommodation will be available on the Visit Sicily website as soon as the country reopens its borders and businesses.
While there’s no set date, we do know restaurants across Italy will reopen for takeaway only from 4 May.
Also read: The jobs hardest hit by coronavirus
Italy ‘on its knees’
The news comes as the Mayor of Venice said the city was “on its knees” from the lack of tourism dollars.
A whopping 4.2 million Italians are employed in the tourism sector, which makes up around 13 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
Prime Minister Conte dubbed the coronavirus “the worst crisis since the second world war,” with the country facing losses of €200 billion.
The European Union said Europe’s tourist industry was facing “staggering” figures of decline due to the virus, and that it would be the last industry to recover on the other side.
“Tourism was the first sector to be hit by the coronavirus and I am sure that it will be the slowest to recover and come out of this phase,” European commissioner of the internal market and services, Thierry Breton told a European Parliament committee.
Breton predicted losses of between €275 billion and €400 billion throughout the EU.
“The loss of earnings at European level we are looking at for hotels and restaurants is a magnitude of at least 50 per cent in terms of annual income,” Breton said, but flagged this figure could rise to 70 per cent for tour operations and travel agencies.