I was asked the other day by a friend, an ex-intern, “How are you, and how’s Bella Vista doing during this crisis?” I still haven’t answered as I am trying to gather my feelings.
“ How am I ?”
I’m afraid to answer—how can I possibly reply? Am I good? Am I healthy? Yes, I might be physically healthy—so far, so good—but financially, neither I nor Bella Vista are doing nearly as well as I’d hoped or planned. My loved ex-interns, guests, and friends are perhaps wondering the same question, so it’s about time to let you all in on a little update.
You might have noticed our ‘marketing campaign’ still continues! Nice pictures, ha? Before the pandemic, I employed a new marketer so I could slowly and steadily pass on all the power of running the business to professionals and take a back seat to simply enjoy life for a change. For all those that have read our blog (or know me personally), you know very well that moving to my beloved flat in Corfu Town signaled the beginning of a new chapter of my life.
Then along came COVID-19!
What you don’t know is that, before the pandemic, I hired a General Manager to run Bella Vista! Yes! You read that right! I decided that it was time for me (and Christina) to take a step back, therefore a professional candidate was chosen and employed on a YEARLY basis starting in February 2020. If I only knew what was coming…
2020 started off as a promising year with many pre-reservations, up-to-date decorated rooms, and qualified staff at all levels. Somewhere in the middle of February, the news broke about China and Wuhan, but this was too far away from us. I was thinking if anybody in Greece was going to have ‘a problem’, it would be on the other side of Greece, in the Aegean Sea, which traditionally attracted Asians. If only I knew…
At the beginning of March, the virus was already causing havoc in Europe. As the virus spread, the reservations (which were coming unstoppably till then—yes, we were expecting a great year) slowed down. We still didn’t believe it would affect us. People around us started worrying, but here at Bella Vista we had no cancellations. Was it due to our ‘good reputation’? Who knows? Then, in the middle of March–pretty quickly really–the government took severe actions. Firstly, they closed all schools, then they closed all cafés, bars, and restaurants all within a week. It was an unbelievable sight to see the Liston cafeterias in Corfu town all closed down as more and more restrictions were imposed for public safety.
As for today, all reservations for April and May have been officially cancelled. Some people asked us to return money from non-refundable bookings. Money due to be cashed in in March has not been cashed, and I’m left here praying that the travel agencies we work with will not go bankrupt with all the checks unpaid and summer business not arriving. The summer ahead looks scary, to be honest. Seasonal staff expected to have seasonal work are all left in a cloud of uncertainty. I’m at the center of this all at Bella Vista, praying my mother and family will stay alive and healthy.
This is the worst crisis I’ve faced by far, and it’s global… I have no clue where it will take us or how we will survive. I only know that I have to stay healthy, stand tall, and maneuver whichever way possible to get through this situation, simply because there is no other option.
How am I, then? These days I’m wishing I’d sold everything earlier and been able to live peacefully, without worries or headaches.
And then, I recall the lovely ex-interns—my kids, you know—and all the lovely guests who became friends throughout the years, and of course, the staff. All those people who have become part of the Bella Vista family, giving us a ‘purpose in life’ and a reason to smile. It’s through these people and their unconditional love that I have a reason to feel useful and a place to constantly reevaluate my mission in life. They energize me, allow me to refocus, stay positive, and understand why I have to fight fiercely to overcome this outrageous worldwide crisis.
As you know, at Bella Vista we believe that ‘things happen for a reason’. I hope that this is a life test that we can learn from and become stronger somehow. I have NO clue how this will turn out, nor how we will overcome such a serious obstacle as COVID 19. I think that if we manage to ‘stay alive‘during this pandemic then nothing will affect us anymore, but we’re at the beginning of a new era, and as a friend told me the other day, “You might not be able to control the situation, but what you can control is your reaction to it.”
So on this note I will conclude this message: we are alive and kicking. Just like in the film ‘The Gladiator’, my ‘orders’ to people around Bella Vista are to ‘stick together’. We are facing an unprecedented situation, therefore let’s stick together and survive together. We have done it before, even if previous storms were not as severe as this one. This is a global storm and I hope that with faith in our hearts, love in our souls, and a bit of luck and resilience, we will come out the other side stronger than ever. Only time will tell.
Until then, stay safe.
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