Lake Como Italy
Lake Como Italy
Italy’s Lake Como opens its arms to world travelers. (Photo by Harrison Shiels)

“The USA is no less aspirational or desirable as a destination, and cost for travelers is not an issue either.”


The economies of the United States and other countries depend, to varying degrees, on vacationers, business travel and general tourism.

I think it’s also fair to say it’s important that citizens of the world are able to visit experience, firsthand, other cultures, cuisine, and lifestyles and to see historic locations and destinations of intrigue, even if for recreation and adventure. Better understanding promotes peace.

While we, as Americans, might yearn to pray at the Vatican and stare up at the wondrous artwork on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, there are people in Italy, and Ireland, India and Indonesia for that matter, who dream of coming to the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

At present, though, travel into and out of the United States is limited due to the pandemic.

Dollars and Sense

“80 million visitors to America annually from around the world provide a trillion dollars in economic impact. And we have 9.2 million travel-related jobs,” said Chris Thompson, CEO of Brand USA, during a World Travel and Tourism Council COVID-19 19 Task Force Call. Brand USA is a public/private partnership with Congress and Thompson, speaking from Orlando, cited Oxford Economics data saying despite anxiety levels heightened by the pandemic, the USA is no less aspirational or desirable as a destination, and cost for travelers is not an issue either.

“We can’t expect visitors to come here until destinations themselves can deliver safety on a consistent level and right now they are in survival mode. And it’s important to remember that attractions, restaurants, and retail experiences are special not only for visitors but also enjoyed by people who live in communities.”

Brand USA is, for now through social media, attempting to remind people why they love the U.S. and why they want to travel to see our amber waves of grain and purple mountains.


Venice Italy
Venice was one of the first Italian cities emptied by the virus. (Photo by Harrison Shiels)

Leading by Traveling

Andrea Grisdale spoke next during the WTTC meeting. As the founder of IC Bellagio, the leader in creating tailor-made Italian experiences for discerning travelers, she presented from the Hotel San Pietro in Positano, where she’d just what she described as an “amazing plate of spaghetti” down by the beach.

“We cannot expect others to travel if we don’t do it ourselves. We have been traveling and keeping the dream of Italy alive by showing people via social media what it was like to be on a train or in a special place,” she said. “From the beginning, we maintained our travel advisor role by offering full, complete transparency, whether good, bad or ugly, but we also had something positive to communicate every single day.”

Grisdale and IC Bellagio also created “Italy Comes to You” gift cards for wine, truffles and Italian products, and, speculating that young people will be the most likely to first start traveling again, founded “Influenced by IC Bellagio.”

“Our clients enjoy can authentic, immersive experiences with locals. We focus on cuisine and adventurous touring so they can have the ‘Instagramable’ moments they love to share,” explained Grisdale, knowing that being outdoors, for those who can physically travel throughout Italy, is important in the Covid era. With that social distancing sensibility in mind IC Bellagio has also formed an exclusive villa collection.   

Visiting Virtually

IC Bellagio’s high-tech version of connecting Italy is through a collection of new virtual experiences, as well. Participants can go through an out of the way alley in Venice…from the comfort of their own home. There is a “Kid-Friendly Ancient Rome” tour and a private tour retracing the footsteps of the Allied Forces in Sicily during the Second World War. Online cooking, wine tasting and languages classes are offered, too, in the most authentic manner.

Rome Italy
When will religious pilgrimages return to Rome? (Photo by Harrison Shiels)

No Country is an Island – Not Even the Emerald Isle

Tourism Ireland is attempting to reach across the ocean to its admirers who cannot fly there due to quarantines with tasty treats from the land of letters and poets. Folklorist Billy Mac Fhoinn reached out to America in telephone media interviews by calling from his home on the Dingle Peninsula, in County Kerry.

“I live just above Ballyferriter two doors from the church. I am a Limerick native but I had the good sense to marry a Kerry woman from Dunquin near the Blasket Islands,” said Mac Fhloinn who described the sunny, rugged, heavenly beauty of the Irish-speaking Dingle region that is the pastoral, sea-smashed, antique Ireland of people’s expectations and imaginations.

“I’m looking out over at Mount Brandon here on the end of the Dingle Peninsula and things are pretty fine. It’s good to be here. The next time you’re over we’ll have to go to Dick Mack’s Pub for a pint of their very fine home-brewed ale.”

Ireland beach
Ireland’s remote beaches await hearty visitors. (Photo by Harrison Shiels)

In the meantime, is recommending virtual visits to plan ahead and Irish gifts to “scratch the itch” such as Glendalough Irish Whiskey; Barry’s Tea; O’Donnell’s of Tipperary crisps; Flahavan’s Rolled Oats; Butler’s Irish Cream truffles; Triona scarves; Inis candles; Ghee grass-fed clarified butter, and more in care packages via

Ireland pub
A seat at the bar…someday…in Ireland’s pubs. (Photo by Harrison Shiels)

The Stomach is the Way to A Heart

Among the Irish items that tell the Republic’s story and codify its charm is the tea break tradition.

“We bake a speckled bread with fruit that’s been soaked in black tea overnight to absorb that lovely black tea flavor. We put favors into the bread when we’re baking it. A ring, and coin and a thimble, for instance, mixed in. When you cut it into slices it becomes a fun kind of fortune-telling game,” he explained. “If you got the thimble, it was not so good: it meant you were going to be single for the rest of your life…although that might suit some people very well.”  

The international tourism industry wants no one left single though. It’s about togetherness and a bridge of hearts for the moment. Whether we’re coming…or going…let’s hope we can come and go as we please again soon and welcome to the world to…the world!

Irish tea
Exported Irish products serving as ambassadors. (Photo by Harrison Shiels)


Read more of Michael Patrick’s work at The Travel Tattler, or contact him at [email protected]

Michael Patrick Shiels

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