Maria do Céu Quintas
The Great Lockdown is an extraordinary opportunity for us to reinvent ourselves
Aurora Pedro Pinto
Chairman of the Livraria Lello Board of Directors
We are going through a health crisis, but we are also entering the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. These are the words of the IMF, which has already named this economic crisis The Great Lockdown.
No one is in doubt that this is a time of enormous challenges. For the NHS, for the government, for families, for businesses. But also for culture and tourism, which represents more than 8% of the national GDP, and which is one of the areas that is suffering most from this pandemic.
The Livraria Lello bookshop has also been closed since March 13, in a decision taken as a preventive measure. Since that day we have tried to tell the community, the country and the world that we are still here, and that we will return as soon as possible. And since that day we have been trying to find solutions to minimise the impact of this pandemic on the lives of our readers. It was with this goal in mind that on April 01 we launched the world’s first Drive-Thru bookseller’s, and since then we have been offering hundreds of books every day, at considerable financial effort, rewarded by letters and messages of thanks from our readers. Also in April we launched the Tales of Quarantine Award, which aims to reward six new authors with prize money and a publishing contract. With these actions we are showing that we are here to support the community, that we will open our doors again, and be an anchor in tourism and culture.
At first, nothing will be the same as before. When we open, and at least until the end of the year, we will stop welcoming people from all over the world, and we will start welcoming tourists who travel by car: Portuguese and Spanish from nearby regions. Of the more than 1.2 million visitors we welcomed in 2019, less than 15% were Portuguese and about 35% Spanish. If we think that of these Spaniards we will lose those who travel by plane, we can see that when we open doors we will have, in the best scenario, 25% of the visitors that we used to welcome. This will be until September only, because after the middle of that month, with the return to school and work, this percentage will decrease during the week, and will only carry on at weekends.
Given this scenario, it is essential that the various cultural and tourism players quickly realise that they will have to reinvent themselves and above all else unite if we all want to get through this crisis. This is an extraordinary opportunity to look at our business and reinvent ourselves, putting our efforts into better qualified, more supportive and more sustainable experiences.