As the summer season is soon coming to an end, we met with Guy Antognelli, the Director of Monaco’s Tourism and Convention Authority, to discuss the state of the tourism industry in the Principality in the face of the global pandemic.

“It’s not been a great summer,” comments Guy Antognelli. He does admit however that in June “we would have begged for a July and August like the ones we’ve just had”. In other terms, even if feelings are mixed, one would rather see the glass half-full than half-empty.

Guy Antognelli thinks it is difficult to give a verdict on the month of June, which he describes as “not representative” of the overall situation. “Some hotels stayed open for residents and the others re-opened between June 4th and 28th”, he explains. Business tourism, which is usually in full swing during the month, was simply nowhere to be seen.

New, more local visitors

In July, the number of hotel clients halved with varying degree depending on the hotel. There were overall fewer clients, but all of them were still willing to pay the hefty price of a Monaco stay. “We saw a small price drop of around 13%. This is mainly due to the absence of Russian, American and Middle East visitors who usually book the bigger suites,” explains Monaco’s chief, noting: “but the price of a stay for French visitors in July is more or less the same as last year”.

In light of the various travel bans still in place, it was Western European visitors that took the centre stage this summer. France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland… These are the main countries targeted by this summer’s marketing campaign released by Monaco’s Tourism and Convention Authority. “Nowadays, these are the clients who have the biggest impact onMonaco’s economy, simply because they are the only ones there,” remarks Guy Antognelli.

August witnesses a rise in tourist number

Things are looking up in August. One need only look at the Casino square and the Palace square to notice the rising tourist numbers. On August 13th, hotels were 80% booked for the coming week. Data predicts a drop of 35% to 40% on last year’s numbers. “It tells us that Monaco remains an attractive destination, the bustle of tourists is starting again. It will make cash to flow back into businesses, something which hasn’t happen in a while,” says Antognelli. Is an increase in visitor numbers enough to sustain the entire tourisms industry? “No,” answers Antognelli categorically.

The health and economic crisis resulting from Covid-19 has lasted for now five months, severely impacting the revenue of all those involved in the tourism sector. Even the businesses who were relatively stable before the pandemic now face difficulties. Amongst the most affected are event agencies, who have not had any business since March. “There was no Grand Prix, the Yacht Show was cancelled, we still have weddings, but they are all on the smaller scale. It is this sector of the tourism industry which had been the most affected. Most of them are little businesses with a small treasury,” explains Guy Antognelli.

Business tourism facing an uncertain future

What about business tourism? At the moment, Monaco’s Tourism and Convention Authority would rather not get carried away: “Conventions can be postponed, but these are events for which it is difficult to make plans.” The problem is how can one prepare an event that will take place in several months without knowing what the health measures will be? There is also the question of how to get visitors to come. “Today, the uncertainty is such that partner businesses and participants cannot confirm whether they are coming or not. And when it comes to this, neither we nor the organisers can do much more than tell them ‘here, this is everything we’ve done to ensure your safety during this event’”, states Guy Antognelli.

Even if Monaco’s tourism industry is picking itself up, the uncertainty of the future months remains at the back of everyone’s mind. Nobody knows what autumn will look like. Meanwhile, to cope with this unprecedented crisis, the Princely government is providing economic aid to Monegasque businesses, hoping it will restart Monaco’s economy.