Allegrini 2018

2023 is the year that food and wine experiences are tourists’ top choices in Italy

The sixth edition of the “Report on Italian Food and Wine Tourism” by Roberta Garibaldi has confirmed the trend. The top “pleasure spots” are Sicily, Emilia-Romagna and Campania

2023 is the year that food and wine experiences are topping the list of all the types of tourism, in Italy and in Europe. Food and wine tourists today total 58% of Italian tourists (37 percentage points higher than in 2016, when it was only 21%), and estimates are showing that the total comes to 9.6 million tourists. However, not just these tourists are targeting food, wine and beer-themed experiences, because now all tourists traveling to Italy want the same type of experience. About 7 out of 10 Italians have enjoyed at least 5 food and wine experiences during their most recent trips (+25% compared to 2021). Experiences range from culinary in restaurants (94% of tourists), visits to production sites (74%), events (60%), activity proposals (54%) and themed itineraries (48%), primarily at sea or mountain resorts. The top “pleasure spots” are Sicily, Emilia-Romagna and Campania for food and wine, while the top cities are Naples, Bologna and Rome, as the sixth edition of the “Report on Italian Food and Wine Tourism” by Roberta Garibaldi revealed. The Report was presented in a first preview to the press, at Palazzo del Touring Club Italiano in Milan. It furthermore revealed that the prospects for this year are positive, because, in spite of the crisis, 1 Italian tourist out of 3 claimed to have a larger budget to spend on purchasing food and wine offers, than in 2022. This means the offer is getting more and more interesting, but it needs a quality leap in terms of ideas, system, promotion and marketing, especially digital, by following current trends. These trends include having a variety available to choose from to enjoy all around experiences in new destinations, which must be “frictionless”; that is, more accessible and easy to purchase; the “The White Lotus” effect, or the influence of movies and TV series that are set in a specific territory, which is rapidly growing in choosing a destination; the new “green & social” identikit of tourists, who are more and more attracted to “responsible”, sustainable and environmentally friendly tourism; getting in touch with the local community to contribute to the social well-being of the territories and deseasonalize travel, which means there are tourists all year round, and the advantages are, obviously, saving money as well as choosing less crowded places; “longevity” tourism is instead becoming the opportunity to dedicate oneself to one’s well-being and learn to adopt healthier lifestyles, where rural territories are a favorite destination for a “digital detox”, away from the chaos of the city.
Italian tourists who have made at least one trip focused mainly on food and wine is continuing to grow. The percentage is in line with the results of the European Travel Commission study, according to which Old World travelers look for offers focusing mainly on food, wine and beer for next summer’s trips as well as offers linked to natural landscapes, often where they have lived (17.3% and 17.8%, in general 21.2 and 21.8 million tourists are planning to experience them this summer). Plus, 4.5%, or 5.5 million Europeans have declared that their travel plans are primarily focused on food and wine.
“We are already holding three aces in our hands - the exceptional appeal for tourists, our country’s excellent offers, and tourism, which is expected to keep growing over the next few years. The challenge we face today is to transform these three aces into a poker, by working on factors to boost our potential”, Roberta Garibaldi, professor of Tourism Management at the University of Bergamo, president of the Italian Food and Wine Tourism Association, vice president of the OECD Tourism Commission - Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and keynote speaker at major international events on the topic of tourism such as the World Forums of the UNWTO-World Tourism Organization and the World Economic Forum in Davos, pointed out. “There is a large gap between the interest in various experiences and effective use. All of our Regions boast a wealth that can be improved upon. It is fundamental to preserve and enrich Italy’s culinary heritage, its landscapes, small shops and the artisans of taste, to guarantee constant, harmonious and balanced growth in the long term relationship between the most famous destinations and the lesser known inland areas. Food and wine tourism reduces the overtourism phenomenon and disparities, helps maintain traditional activities in the small villages and in rural areas, and it also brings additional income to producers by stimulating them to actively protect the landscape, which is one of the main reasons tourists choose Italy”.
Specifically, the newest edition of the “Report” has indicated 4 main trends, starting from the variety of all-around experiences. Italian tourists want to discover new destinations (63%) and diversify their experience. They are searching for genuine proposals and experimenting different ways to be in contact with nature. Some of the most popular are tastings in the vineyard and in the olive groves, events that combine taste-art-music, workations (working vacations) in rural areas and new proposals such as foraging (1 out of 2 Italians indicated), survival courses and playtime activities such as escape rooms and treasure hunts. Plus, tourists are more and more interested in experiences at various places of production and not just wineries, wile dairies seem to be requested the most. Another trend is tourists want their experiences to be “frictionless”, that is, accessible and easy to purchase. The gap between interest and effective use is still very high, while today’s tourist wants to be able to find information, choose and book available offers easily. It is no coincidence, then, that 63% of interviewees stated that they want to book visits to production companies online, while only 23% have purchased them from the site and 20% through online intermediaries. When choosing, tourists utilize innumerable sources of information, but they tend to trust, most of all, relatives and friends (54% of Italian tourists). Social media is especially important for younger people (Facebook for Millennials and Instagram for Generation Z). Then, there is the “The White Lotus” effect, or the choice of a destination is influenced by films and TV series set in a specific territory, which is growing rapidly as well. Further, the “green & social” aspect, as the Italian tourist is increasingly mindful of sustainability, adopting appropriate behavior when traveling, such as avoiding wasting food at the restaurant (65%) and behaving more respectfully towards the environment on holiday than at home (54%). Italian tourists are also highly interested in connecting with the local community and contributing to social welfare through their travels. Choosing to travel off season to visit and experience places is increasing, since it is considered not only a way to save money and to get to know places when they are less crowded, but also a responsible choice that guarantees year-round tourism at the destinations. Last but not least, one of the newest trends in food and wine tourism is “longevity”, in other words, travel becoming an opportunity to devote oneself to one’s well-being and learn to adopt healthier lifestyles. Seventy-one percent of Italian tourists would like to find menus that have healthy recipes, and therefore the Mediterranean Diet becomes an asset to be valued and suggested in the tourist offer. The Rural areas are the ideal places to get away from daily routines and from technology (62% of the people interviewed wanted to go on food and wine trips to a place where there is a digital detox), and from the confusion of the city, staying with relatives and friends (almost 6 out of 10 tourists would like to find travel proposals in rural areas to stay with their loved ones).
How can we satisfy tourists’ new needs? First of all, by increasing regional food and wine resources. Interest in food and wine tourism is constantly growing and can and must be a stimulus for further improvement. We have an abundant and wealthy National heritage, and all of the Regions have excellent and specific products, recipes and typical dishes. Sicily, Emilia-Romagna and Campania are the top Regions Italians choose for food and wine, while Naples, Bologna and Rome are some of the top cities. Italians are now the number one food and wine travelers in Italy. While taking into consideration that they still do not know many of the regional specialties, it becomes a great opportunity to strengthen rural areas as well as increase domestic tourism. The sixth edition of the “Report” further revealed the need to assist tour operators in development and promo-marketing phases, mainly on digital channels, of the offer, thereby increasing accessibility. It is also important to innovate experiences. Something new that characterizes the tourist is definitely an opportunity to be seized immediately. For instance, it would be advisable to open all production sites - dairies, salami factories, chocolate factories - to tourism, offering visits and tastings at the company. Encouraging diversified “leisure experiences” in rural areas and in close contact with nature - such as walking and cycling tours, wellness activities - going beyond the usual places, is also highly recommended. The process must go hand in hand with a new kind of communication as well as being differentiated by target, to satisfy the “thirst” for information that the tourists has before and during their experience. And, more than anything else, according to the “Report”, created with contributions from the Scientific Committee, represented by top experts in the National and International academic and scientific worlds, the support of Unicredit, Visit Emilia, Valdichiana Living and Smartbox, the patronage of Cultura Italiae, Federturismo, Qualivita Foundation, Ismea, Iter Vitis Les Chemins de la Vigne en Europe and Touring Club Italiano, and the collaboration of TheFork and Tripadvisor, who also attended the presentation, moderated by Luca Ferrua, director of "Il Gusto - La Repubblica”, video messages from Maurizio Martina, Deputy Director of FAO, Alessandra Priante, Director of Europe UNWTO, and Stefano Dominioni, Director of the Institute of Cultural Itineraries of the Council of Europe (TBC), and the closing speech by Giorgio Palmucci, member of the Governing Council of Federturismo and vice president of Confindustria Alberghi - becoming truly sustainable, because food and wine tourism represents an option for off season flows and making destinations (starting from sea and mountain destinations) attractive throughout the year, guaranteeing constant work for professionals and workers in the area. First, it is important to create connections between rural and urban areas, with the view of redistributing flows and avoiding overtourism phenomena. At the same time, it is necessary to carry out actions to protect and enrich the food and wine culture and landscape, by promoting sustainable governance.

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