Breaking Travel News interview: Lorenzo Giannuzzi, chief executive, Forte Village
Forte Village in Sardinia has reopened to guests from around the world as Italy eases out of the lockdown imposed in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak.
The location is considered one-of-a-kind among travel connoisseurs, offering an attractive mixture of beaches, sports facilities and fine-dining.
It is a place where guests can relax in total harmony with nature, get back in shape, or fill their lungs with the fresh air from a centuries-old park.
Mixed with the iodine from the crystal-clear sea, this is the ideal location to forget the hardship of the past few months.
As holidaymakers return, chief executive and general manager Lorenzo Giannuzzi tells Breaking Travel News editor, Chris O’Toole, every precaution has been taken to ensure a safe trip.
He explains: “We opened earlier this week – and we offer a very secure protocol for visitors.
“Arrivals undergo a non-invasive test, to check for Covid-19, with a pinprick on the finger, and, if anybody is doubtful, we offer the more significant swab test to find out.
“It is all very quick, and within 20 minutes we are able to give the okay to guests to enter Forte Village – we are hoping to build a safe haven.
“Once you are in, you can forget about the virus for the duration of your stay.
“All the tests are carried out in a separate, reserved area, so there is no danger.”
He adds: “If we do discover any positive cases, then there is a further area here on the resort where guests can be relocated, and the medical teams can work with you there.
“We will continue to take care of them, while they have access to some of the services of the resort - but we expect this to concern a very small percentage of our guests.”
Once inside, guests are entering what Forte Village promises is a Covid-19-free space, meaning some measures seen in the wider-world will no longer be necessary.
Giannuzzi continues: “We have secured a waiver for some of the restrictions – if you are at Forte Village you can play sports without masks, for example.
“Masks are not required when walking around the resort.
“A lot of our resort is outside in the fresh air, so people prefer to remain outdoors here, which is what makes us attractive – which again lowers the risk.
“We will require guests to wear a mask in enclosed spaces.”
Of course, reopening is only half of the equation, with demand likely to return only slowly over the coming months.
Lockdowns, closed borders and quarantines all have to be overcome before guests can return to the Italian resort.
“We are strong in the Russian and British markets, but unfortunately the reopening has been delayed there, so we will have to wait and see when visitors come back,” says Giannuzzi.
“Britain is moving forward, and there is no more quarantine for visitors to Italy, so that will help us at Forte Village – we just need to reassure our clients that we offer a safe place.
“This year, of course, we will have less clients than previous years – which is understandable.
“But we are hoping for a pickup now; it has been impossible to advertise as we did not know what the situation would be in Italy, but this is now changing.
“We would have preferred lockdown to be lifted simultaneously – Russia took a little longer, Britain took a little longer, so it is difficult to coordinate.
“When were given an opening date, we worked with the media, our partners to get the message out, and for this reason we expect demand to now recover.
“But, for now, we have less people in house, this means guests have more space, our staff can be more dedicated, more personalised – so it is a plus for them,” he jokes.
In the longer-term, Giannuzzi is confident about the success of Forte Village and the Italian hospitality sector, arguing Covid-19 might even boost demand for health resorts.
“We are very confident in the future; I think demand for health resorts like Forte Village can only increase,” he says.
“People want to take care of their health, and Covid-19 has shown that the healthier you are, the more chance you will have to fight.
“There will be growing demand for hotels that offer this type of therapy.
“We are building new resorts in Fiuggi and Cagliari, capital of Sardinia, to take advantage of this – we want to share all we have learned about taking the waters here with our new hotels.
“Cagliari is a hidden gem here in Italy – not as famous as Rome, but second to none.”
He adds: “We are currently offering an immune system boosting spa programme, and wellness has long been part of our offering here at Forte Village.
“Guests can spend some time with the extraordinary treatments developed by the renowned doctor Ursula Jacob, a German physician we have been working with.
“We have also long offered thalassotherapy, which is incredible.
“We have one pool here which, without knowing, operates along similar principles to sanitisation, with the salt offering healing properties – so we are able to use that.
“It is a sterile, antiseptic area, which offers great benefits to the immune system.”
But for the next few months, the focus will be on consolidation, with a view to recovery moving into 2021.
Giannuzzi continues: “Sardinia itself saw a low level of cases, our local government decided to close the island immediately, and being surrounded by the sea may have helped.
“We saw very few cases – one of the lowest figures in Italy.
“This has given us a good base to build our ‘Covid-19 free’ island offering – and we can invite people to come once again to enjoy a holiday.
“We have the sea between us and the rest of Italy, so it is like another country.
“You cannot reach us by car or train, so we are not expecting domestic tourism to take the lead – it will be from all over Europe, an international clientele.
“It is only 45-minutes more from London than Milan to Cagliari.
“But the airport is fully operational, for commercial flights, as well a private planes – working at full speed.
“We have flights from various cities in Italy, as well as with British Airways from London, France, Germany and Austria – everything is slowly coming back to normal.”
A truly incomparable place that fully restores the feeling of complete freedom, Forte Village is considered the World’s Leading Resort by voters at the World Travel Awards.
Find out more about visiting the resort on the official website.