First hand accounts of Coronavirus (Covid-19) effects in Italy and in the travel industry interview with Daniele and Stefany Ceccato
Lisa: Hi welcome to RView podcast I’m Lisa Richart-Hernandez.
George: And I’m George Hernandez.
Lisa: And we are super excited to share with you our very first telephone interview on the podcast and uh due to social distancing our dear friends Stephanie and Daniella are coming at us from west Ashley in Charleston area and we’re over in mount pleasant in the charleston south Carolina area.
Daniela is is a concierge at the Bennett hotel and so he’s home in quarantine along with Stephanie his wife who is a travel agent our favorite travel agent and uh she’s also a flight attendant for private airlines.
So it’s a very interesting conversation we’re getting their take on what’s happening in Italy and how it’s affecting the travel industry.
George: and we’re trying to get you direct information we’ve all heard rumors I don’t know I’m one of those people I don’t know what to believe on the internet anymore so we wanted to have them on because Danielle has contacts family friends in Italy so we’re trying to bring you the lives there yeah so we’re trying to bring you first-hand information.
Lisa: yeah he’s been in the united states for six years now and he’s from right outside of Venice but we’re gonna let them tell you all about that story and let’s just go ahead and cut over into.
George: so let’s bring them on.
Stephanie: Thank you Lisa it’s always a pleasure to take care of you too on trips I have a travel company called GMC travel Taylor
and we do custom-tailored trips for private individuals groups and we’re affiliated with virtuoso so we’re able to offer clients exclusive perks and benefits that they would normally not find on their own and then we give five percent of our total profit to charity right now it’s going to Talitha Kum which is an orphanage in Kenya that helps children with HIV so it helps them with treatments and also schooling.
Lisa: oh that’s awesome
George: Wow! that’s very nice.
Lisa: so something good is coming from our vacations besides our waistlines exactly yeah yeah yeah um how about you Daniella tell us a little bit about
uh where you’re from and uh what you’re doing now hi everybody
Danielle: thank you Liza, George for having us during your podcast so I am born and raised in Italy in a small town of about 30 000 people uh 20 minutes out of Venice moved here to the U.S. uh six years ago actually on the 20th of march and it’s actually Venice it’s where I met Stephanie.
George: nice yeah were you guys on a gondola together.
Stephanie: no so actually I’ll tell the story I was so before the travel business I was working full-time as a corporate flight attendant and I was living in new york at the time and we had a trip to Venice with somebody I was flying and Daniella was at the time station manager for universal weather and aviation at the Venice airport and so he was our handler which we don’t really have
in us but in Europe and overseas that position is quite common and so he was taking care of everything on our jet from um transportation to hotel to catering and so that’s how we met because when he stepped onto the jet it was just kind of this almost like a star-struck moment where I was like oh my gosh who is this guy?
And then nothing happened that weekend and he saw us back on the schedule the following month going back to Venice so then he mustered up the energy to ask me if I could bring him some brownies from new york and so I did that I got all the best brownies from you know Astoria new york city all these places and brought him this big platter and we ended up hanging out he came to dinner with the pilots and I and uh our trip extended we were there for about a week and so we spent some time together and then when it was time for us to go.
I was so sad and I didn’t really know why and so I was just kind of emotional I didn’t want to leave we just had this strong connection and I think he felt the same I mean he can tell you but um and then we just we did long distance for about eight months and then during that course I moved from new york city to California and then shortly after he moved there to be with me and that’s where we started our life together.
George: Wow see one little question about that are you on a gondola we got the whole we had never ever heard that story thank you for sharing with us that’s actually pretty cool.
Lisa: yeah so thank you Stephanie you mentioned that you’re a corporate flight attendant and I know you still have us a few side gigs for some important people that we’re not allowed to say their names for but tell us about um you just came back from 20 days on a trip tell us about how the coronavirus how it affected that trip and kind of how this whole situation sort of unfolded in your life?
Stephanie: Yeah so I just got back we started in Lisbon and then we kind of bounced around Africa we visited Ethiopia Rwanda Botswana cape town and then we ended in cape Verde and what happened was we the coronavirus was exploding while we were away and I feel like about a week into the trip it completely exploded and you know our clients were just kind of concerned about the safety and they just didn’t want to do we were scheduled to do a crew swap originally in Spain and Spain was one of the affected places.
And so they didn’t want to go there and so the pilot you know had their work cut out for them we had to while we were on the trip completely change our routine so we canceled our you know our tickets you know heading back home from Spain canceled that whole routing process and we wanted to find an isolated place that you know where there weren’t any cases and then we also wanted to find a place that the clients and us wouldn’t have to deal with clearing and you know a major airport um and we wanted to have an FBO which is in our industry in that industry it’s called a six based operator and it’s um kind of like a private airport it’s where the private jets where we fly into and it’s not you know you’re not dealing with as many people right as you would be at a major airport.
and so we completely changed the trip around to meeting that criteria and then also um ultimately we ended up not doing cruise swap because um we were just trying to limit the number of people that they would be even exposed to that you know we’re in and out of the airport. So yeah I was definitely a trip for many different reasons.
Lisa: How did you get to talk to any of the people that were in any of those countries I mean like what was their kind of overall how were people taking it basically would you say.
Stephanie: We felt you know being in Africa we felt like we were and actually one of the safest places we could be because you know we weren’t in Egypt and we weren’t in places that had um you know cases reported or a lot of cases reported. It didn’t seem to be a huge concern amongst people but I think at the airport I was actually surprised to see I ended up flying back home from you know to charleston from San Francisco and I was actually shocked because they didn’t even um do a fever check on me when I left San Francisco and as you all know that’s one of the places that sum affected on you know higher level.
And then in uh like for instance in Kagali when we came to Cavalli and there were a couple of other places too they actually did check for our fever so they were taking precautions because I think being a third-world country knowing that you know if it spreads there they’re gonna be faced with um difficulties that they may not be able to overcome so I was actually pleasantly surprised to see that they were checking in some of those places.
Lisa: Wow that actually brings up a good point I think you know we all talk about in the united states how inconvenienced we are here and nobody of course likes to be quarantined but
you don’t even think about really these third world countries and how it would affect them and when we talk about us not having to wipe them out I mean wow yeah if it gets bad yeah I talked to um my uh virtual assistant he’s in the Philippines and he said they have like roadblocks up everywhere he said it’s really eerie and uh I was thinking well we don’t have any roadblocks yet but then I just read that they’re blocking off all of the roads out to folly beach isle of palms and Sullivan’s Island to the beaches here so people can’t get out there so I guess it started here too.
Daniella um tell us about what you’ve heard your first-hand stories from your friends and family that are over in Italy. I know you um still have your you know close connections there and stuff like that give us some insight as to you know they’re kind of hard yeah they’re one of the hardest-hit places right now. What what are your stories?
Daniella: so it’s an incredible moment for Italy and the people who live there they never experienced anything like this they’ve been in lockdown for about a few weeks and then they have until April the 3rd if I’m not mistaken to stay home they can only leave their homes if they have to go to the supermarket to the pharmacy or to visit to take care of families they are not allowed to be in the car of more than two people so one is the driver the second one will be sitting in the back on the right side they need to have another certification where they have to write down where they leave where they’re going why they’re going if they can’t if they’re stopped by police or for the military and they’re just driving around walking around they have a fine of 206 euros.
As of last week, 42 000 people in Italy have been caught they have been given like a fine since sorry until I think a few days ago they were allowed to go to the beach, not to the beach I’m sorry to go out hiking walking running whatever they want to do because so many people didn’t like the idea of being told to stay home they felt like being on the open-air they could do whatever they want and a few days ago pickle Vernon said you cannot leave your home and go as far you know further than 200 meters that pretty much is 200 yards.
George: oh wow so they can go for a walk but they can’t exceed 200 yards barely yeah that’s magical wow that’s so wow!
Daniella: Yes and I heard from my friend also she um I was texting her actually this morning and she lives in Milan, uh and it’s she’s quarantined with her mom because unfortunately she has a bad disease right now not a coronavirus but another disease and she’s taking care of her but she’s like I am exhausted you know mentally and physically and I’m losing a lot of people that I know as of today in the past 24 hours 793 people died in Italy in the past 24 hours.
George: Wow! that’s scary
Lisa: Wow! I think like a couple of days ago that was like 475 and I thought that was a lot.
Daniella: yes it’s been really serious that I have another friend of mine Katya and she works in the ICU at the hospital and they used to have ten beds now they have 14 they’re all okay guys some of them obviously with coronavirus cases she is really scared and she told me don’t take it easy because it’s a really
the serious virus that a lot of people thought it was just uh,
George: yeah they’re underestimating it.
Daniella: yes we are underestimating it and uh the thing is it’s like your mind is clear you know what’s going on around
your lungs are not working right so it’s almost like you’re drowning in water and probably the scariest way to die you know what they say to wash your hands as much as you can watch what you touch done about your face your eyes your nose your mouth it’s true we have to do it we have to change the way that we live now and in Italy, they are doing it like my dad earlier they called me inside so do you have masks go and buy masks.
I’m I there is no mess around and they told us not to buy them or to use them and it’s like you admit it and in a few weeks probably a month that’s what we thought and now everybody is going around with meth but it’s not an issue for a down too so.
George: I know you don’t have a lot of numbers.
Daniella: but I did some research actually on the numbers I don’t have like percentages but um so from the beginning they had over 47000 positive tests they had 4 000 people who died and 4 100 that recovered.
George: is this just Italy or worldwide?
Daniella: yes this is just Italy, wow and they perform 207 thousand tests uh and on a population of 60 million people right so 207 000 over 60 million people it’s pretty much you know the same amount of people that you have in california in Florida wow so more tests have to be done the majority of them are people over 70 years old you have some that died that were all between their 50s and 60s but the other day I think two three days ago the youngest person in italy died and he was 32 years old without any medical condition so before the virus, so it’s affecting also people from the 30s in their 30s and their 20s so we’re not immune to it no we’re not actually a seven months old kid has coronavirus, not in Italy it’s uh I think it’s here in the united states I can’t remember where so even little kids can have it maybe they’re stronger we don’t know and so that’s why we don’t see a lot of that um on that side but it’s uh he can get everybody.
George: Yeah I can definitely get everybody but the one thing that seems to stay consistent from everything that I’ve read is it’s affecting the elderly way more obviously because they
Lisa: well anybody that has a compromise
George: right if you have asthma yeah
Lisa: And that’s what Danielle is saying is there are younger cases it’s not like we should
George: no no I’m not saying anything about contracting it it’s just those numbers are wow those numbers are amazing.
Lisa: So, I remember early on when it first kind of started coming in in the united states Danielle uh people were posting different things about oh this is you know some kind of hoax by the government or whatever and you were like this is a serious thing and people in Italy didn’t take it seriously at the beginning either and now we finally are and everything’s closed down would you say that tell us a little bit about the stories that you’ve heard about that type of thing in Italy.
Daniella: Well you know it’s called coronavirus 1919 because it was actually the first case it was in December 2019 so it’s something that started a long time ago uh now in italy uh from the story that I heard you know my mom owns a shop o she’s a small business owner and even if she can have her shop open because she follows under some of the special um shop seconds they open she’s not because she’s not having a business.
So like here in the united states small business owners are taking a big hit a lot of my friends are home from work because their business clothes for example and so they have to take mandatory days off fortunately in Italy I have to say we have a lot of vacation time so not a big deal but.
Lisa: Just out of curiosity how much vacation time do people in Italy normally get?
Daniella: 30 days
Lisa: 30 days wow!
Daniella: Yeah that’s why we live longer and well not anymore with this virus but yes we have 30 days of vacation and I’ll leave unlimited time off for if you get sick so the government jumps in and out of the maternity leave and other stuff so you know they’re worried but as of now they’re still receiving a check from the government so what they’re making uh what they used to make I think it’s about 80%.
but they’re just staying home and it’s crazy my I spoke to my grandma the other day she’s 86 she’s uh you know she’s scared of it she’s like I went through world war II and I have to say I never seen anything like this after that um and especially now being older she’s uh she’s just staying home she doesn’t want anybody to go to her house and if they do they just stay outside on the porch and she’s like you know to keep the distance I don’t want to die wow really really cautious yeah so that’s what is uh what’s going on in Italy it’s uh they’re just trying really to do their best to avoid other people yeah and get in contact with other people and really conscious about the how they feel if they’re good it feels so good they’ve they don’t um
The other thing that my dad actually told me in my mom too is if someone is expected or is actually testing positive for the test they’re going to find out who they’ve been in contact with and all these people that they have symptoms or not are going to be tested because they really want you they really want to avoid that you feel good you might have the virus you don’t have any symptom yet but you’re carrying it and I don’t want you to go out and spread it out.
George: That makes sense so we have a friend in Italy who owns a clothing shop and I’ve been keeping tabs on him on Facebook and we talked about this on our last podcast and I wanted to bring it up to you and ask you obviously his shop is closed. But every night it seems like Italy’s you know we love Italy when we went we’ve just fallen in love with the people with the play everything and um it just seems like they’re in good spirits considering what’s going on it where he lives he’s in an apartment building surrounded by apartment buildings and every night they everybody goes out on their balcony and they sing and they laugh you know it’s like social interaction with distance, uh one night they had a DJ set up on one of the balconies and everybody was singing and spirits were good how are your friends? How do they seem or there are they their spirits up or they get beat up by this thing?
Daniella: No actually their spirit is uh is up and uh they’ve been telling me they’ve been doing the same thing you know they organized uh you know the singing outside or there is music or somebody you know everybody puts out candles they’re trying to find a way to get their spirits up and said it’s really important during this time because you
uh you can get affected you know mentally also being included inside your house uh for so much time so thank god in Italy we pretty much all have a balcony and uh whoever right they’re just opening the windows and doing this thing.
George: That’s awesome that’s really cool and that’s got to be hard because when we went to Italy that’s one of the things that we loved was the nighttime everybody was at the town square everybody was walking around the streets and it was so like in surrey beautiful and everybody it was just so nice so it would be so strange to go there now and not see anybody and totally understand why but you know when that’s your culture is to go out and meet your friends and have a glass of wine and socialize when that gets cut out that could definitely affect you psychologically. So I’m glad to see that they’re finding a way to still socialize with being responsible also at the same time.
Daniella: luckily but you know a lot of people are complaining about the technology but actually the technology really helps people to stay in touch especially now that they can’t see each other in person and my friends, for example, they’ve been calling each other through skype or WhatsApp for example last night I was on on the phone actually on the video uh with four of my or my friends all in different cities and you know technology sometimes helps and especially this way that you can do like a video chat with multiple people it really helps people and seeing them you know we were smiling and laughing they were asking me obviously about the lack of toilet papers in the united states and it’s a huge thing in Italy it is everybody cannot and oh my gosh yes I have to do a live video for the next time I go to the supermarket. Because they can’t believe it they’re like why are you out of the toilet
George: so they’re fine in Italy the shortest is just here for some reason we have lost our mind in the united states and everybody has bought and I still cannot.
Lisa: okay so get an explanation well my explanation that I heard was in china they ran out of masks and one of them I don’t know one of their leaders there said that they could use toilet paper in place of medical masks oh my god and wrap it around their head and so according to the man that was standing seven feet away from me at the car dealership when I was getting my car fixed yesterday he said that was what started the toilet paper craze but you know that’s just hearsay.
George: So I don’t have this I gotta think about a million other things that I can make a mask out of but okay if that’s what the rumor is now we understand why the need for toilet paper and by the way harris teeter still has no toilet paper.
Lisa: Yeah I actually went to lowe’s today because we needed some cleaning supplies and they were very very limited on what they had there as far as cleaning supplies do so I bet so Stephanie uh I’m sure you came home after being gone 20 days and all your clients have all these amazing fabulous trips planned all over the world that you do what is happening in the travel industry right now like what can you share with us from that perspective?
Stephanie: yeah just to answer your question yeah t’s definitely traveled um you know we’ve been hit probably as one of the hardest you know industries out there there’s been a lot of cancellations and postponements and um you know it’s definitely sad but we’re you know we’re all working together and you know trying to get through this together and we’re encouraging the client to postpone
and not cancel because there are so many benefits that you get from travel which um you know where we don’t want the clients to kind of miss out on that for when you know things are ready to kind of you know get back o normal and people can travel again without you know without worry but what we’ve been seeing is a lot of the cruise operators they’ve suspended you know voyages for
30 days some hotels are closing a lot of companies have been adjusting their cancellation policies and in the client’s favor so meaning you know some of the airlines even have been doing uh you know waivers where they don’t have to pay like let’s say American today I just read that American they came out with a travel exception that’s going to be good from march to up until May 31st where you won’t get any change fees but then you have to book your travel by December 30th, 2020.
So it just kind of depends on the airline and it depends on the tour operator and cruise operator but most of them I would say as far as cruises go they’ve suspended you know some until April 11th some until the 14th it just kind of they’re being um obviously you know depends but um really considerate because they don’t they want to keep these clients and they want them to travel when you know everything’s well again and so um so they’re getting you to know a lot of credit future cruise credits and or refunds.
Lisa: this would have been a great time for me to be on my Antarctica cruise that I’ve been dying to go on because I think that might be one of the only places that are not affected by this I think Antarctica
Stephanie: right not yet well I’ll lookout for any specials because I’m sure when uh you know when things are ready to pick up again we’ll have a nice great deal for you and you can take it on one of uh one of our preferred partners that do an amazing job with Antarctica cruises.
George: I said the same thing I said when this virus passes there’s going to be so many incredible deals because everybody’s just all the travel industry is just going to want everybody to come let’s go let’s get these people on the cruise ships and flying and vacation every resort in the world has got to be hurting so bad
Lisa: my girlfriends were supposed to go to Italy and Greece and then we canceled Italy and then they had to cancel Greece and so my fear we’re supposed to go to the Dominican Republic in June and you know we might be coming around the other end of it in June in the united states but that doesn’t mean that the Dominican republic won’t be affected.
George: right and if they get affected I don’t know how long it’ll take for them to you know fight their way through it.
Daniella: they’re evolving day by day right right cases are coming off from different countries so now to know oh where should I go once this is over it’s really a question mark yeah there’s no way of knowing you changed by the hour right thinking about that we are weeks behind Italy in some in some ways you know they are not even at the peak now of uh of this epidemic and uh and we are we’re just weeks behind so they’re saying that probably we’ll see the pick in may but again we don’t know we have to wait and uh and see and uh hopefully another country we’re smart enough to close the border way ahead of time and to limit the cases.
Stephanie: yeah in the travel industry you know a lot of our suppliers that’s just it and hoteliers we’re taking it day by day because you know as things keep evolving you know it’s the cancellation policies keep changing and so that’s why um I think in this time for the people that you know do use travel agents they’re kind of they’re seeing our value right now because we’re constantly monitoring um emails with updates from the airlines from the cruise lines from the tour operators from the hoteliers and so you know we’re able to stay on top of it and keep them you know
aware of any updates and what they should do what they shouldn’t do in this case yeah because it does keep changing.
Lisa: Yeah I was thinking the same thing and um just out of curiosity because I know sometimes when we book trips uh they always want to charge for like a can a travel trip insurance or whatever is this something that would be covered by the insurance that you pay for.?
Stephanie: yeah the only insurance that would have covered the coronavirus it would be canceled for any time but what the insurance companies are doing uh like for instance, uh you know Travelex just actually um canceled their cancel for any time insurance alliance still has it but they’re changing their um you know their policy they after January 21st because the coronavirus was a foreseen the thing they stopped covering it I mean unless you know somebody actually has a condition of you know medical you know illness then, of course, that’s covered but if something is foreseen with the travel insurance companies they won’t they won’t cover it and so after January 21st that’s what.
George: unless you actually have it right now unless you’re actually sick yeah otherwise, everybody would jump on board and be like yeah coronavirus giving my money back all right that makes sense.
Stephanie: So Danielle and Stephanie any final thoughts I think we all just need to work together you know yeah difficult time because you know there are a lot of businesses and people and families affected by this it’s not just one particular industry it’s many at this point and uh I think we just need to keep our head up I mean that’s what I’m trying to do you know just keep my head up keep positive you know we’re going for walks now we’re getting our vitamin d in that we’re you know I’m starting workouts in the house just to kind of keep you know keep my energy flow going keep my head in the right place so that way you know because at this point you know being sad or being worried I know those are all normal uh feelings when something like not gonna do anything we’re not gonna benefit from it so I’s just trying to you know to keep my head up and uh keep going and spread light and love instead of um anything else.
George: yeah that’s what we’re trying to do too we’re knocking out the uh house chores list and trying to tackle one room at a time and we got the rv in for repairs and just trying to make the best of this little bit of downtime and I mean there’s not much else we can do.
Lisa: I think a lot of people are gonna have the cleanest houses they’ve ever had when they’re done with this in the most organized and the most beautiful yards because when I was at lowe’s today everybody was buying plants it’s like well I might as well plant I might as well go work out in the yard since we’re stuck home this weekend with nothing to do.
Daniella: probably also like another thing that we should say is to if we know any early person around stop by and see if they need anything if we can run to the supermarket for them if there are there’s anything that we can do with them, uh you know keeping the distance but that’s what I and Stephanie were doing this morning we know this older lady lived in our apartment complex and she had the door open and you know we’re just kind of screaming her name and saying hey damn you know are you doing your everything okay anything you need you to know you have our number and everything you need please let us know because she lives by herself
George: that’s awesome!
Daniella: and you know this is something that it will help us also to feel better during this time playing something for other people not that we don’t have to do it every other day or every other time don’t get me wrong but especially at this moment you know really look after people that.
George: right now is the time to look after each other.
Daniella: and themselves yeah that’s great
Stephanie: Yeah I agree I mean she was so happy just even seeing our faces because she said she felt so isolated and I know many of us are feeling that way I mean I’m I’ve only been back since Monday and I’m already it shouldn’t get out so I can’t even imagine how I’m gonna feel in a couple of weeks but it’s um I know we’re all affected by it and sometimes just having that face time or just you know obviously considering social distance but if we’re able to connect with people you know in person you know reasonably it goes a long way because I think one good thing that does come from negative situations is that it bonds people and it brings us closer together which is actually kind of nice.
George: yeah well and this one is worldwide so it’s not just the united states it’s not just Italy and oh let’s send them to help everybody needs to come together and we just got to do it.
Stephanie: yeah agreed
George: share the love not the hate
Lisa: that’s right oh Stephanie and Danielle thank you so much for joining us today and all of your insights and information uh Stephanie I will put the information for your uh travel agency in the show notes and you want to just uh give us a quick uh contact info to how people could reach out to you if they want to plan their travel in the future when this is all over.
Stephanie: sure and thanks for having us um it was a pleasure. You can reach me at is 917-653-9346 cell phone and I have a couple of emails but I’ll give you one its [email protected]traveltailor.com.
it’s D as in and dog M as in money and C as in cat traveltailer.com?
Stephanie: yeah yeah and Tailor spelled t-a-i-l-o-r.com
Lisa: all right and we’ll add that to our show notes
George: yes and thank you for joining us
Lisa: Thanks for being with us and uh don’t forget our friends listening to please share this podcast with your friends and like or leave a comment and if you’d like any other questions or want to reach out please do uh you can reach us at RViewpodcast.com that’s RVIEW p-o-d-c-a-s-t dot-com and we’re on Instagram at our RViewpodcast now we’re onfacebook too so follow us and like us there and we will talk to you all soon. thanks!
George: Thanks, everybody!
Lisa: Stay Safe!