AMALFI COAST EMPTY AS CRISES DETER TOURISTS
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Amalfi Coast ’empty’ as crises deter tourists
Hoteliers have been forced to cut room rates to persuade visitors to return, reports Rachel Spence.
The number of tourists heading to Italy’s Amalfi Coast is set to drop by as much as 50 per cent this spring. With its spectacular limestone cliffs and crystalline waters, the fabled coastline – home to Positano, Amalfi and Ravello – is usually a magnet for discerning tourists. But this year several local crises, such as the failure of rubbish collections around Naples, the closure of the coastal road and the discovery of toxins in buffalo mozzarella, have combined to persuade visitors to go elsewhere.
Lorenzo Cinque, the president of the hoteliers’ association of Salerno province, blames misleading press reports for the problems.
“The refuse crisis is taking place in the province of Naples, not Salerno, so our streets are absolutely clean,” he said. “And mozzarella from our province has never been at risk. But people have been alarmed by the newspapers.”
The strong euro, weak dollar and relatively weak pound, coupled with the generally gloomy economic outlook, have exacerbated the problem, said Mr Cinque. He estimated that bookings have reduced by half in March and April.
The situation is acute in Ravello, where the town’s most luxurious hotels had just a handful of rooms occupied last weekend.
“It is completely dead here,” confirmed Marco Vuilleumier, the owner of the family-run Hotel Palumbo. “Occupation is almost zero.”
Once the favoured retreat of Wagner, Liszt and Virginia Woolf, and home to Gore Vidal for many years, Ravello has been particularly affected by the closure of the coastal road for the past three months. This has been due to falling rocks. Last weekend local hoteliers set up a gazebo at the roadblock, where a hostess directed drivers to free parking places and offered them a free taxi ride for the last leg of the journey.
“People think that because the main road is closed, they cannot get here,” said Franco Girasoli, the director of the five-star Hotel Caruso. In fact, it is possible to reach the town using a lengthier inland route. After an emergency meeting with the Campania regional authorities, hoteliers hope the road will reopen next week.
Paradoxically, the area’s woes make it a tempting last-minute destination. On the website of the Hotel Caruso, for example, rooms were being offered at half price until April 24. As well as these discounts, many hotels are offering complimentary dinners and free room upgrades to entice visitors back.
It was also reported this week that the Via Krupp on the island of Capri, considered one of the world’s most beautiful footpaths, is to reopen after 30 years. Cut into the coastal cliffs, the path winds down through a series of dramatic hairpin bends. Local tourism authorities hope its reopening next month will help boost Capri’s visitor numbers, which have suffered as much of a downturn as the rest of the Amalfi Coast.