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Italy sounds the alarm: equating alcohol and wine will affect wine tourism this year when it is restarting

Ministers from 8 Countries participated in the UNWTO FORUM to discuss guidelines of the sector that is the “strength” of world tourism. Roberta Garibaldi (CEO ENIT) lists the trends

The Minister of Tourism Massimo Garavaglia stated at the close of the sixth "World Wine Tourism Forum”, where eight Ministers gathered to participate in Alba, from Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Portugal, San Marino and Serbia, and discuss political strategy and support for the recovery of world tourism, which has been struggling with rising costs, the war and lack of personnel, “We are moving towards an increasingly concrete and organized tourism policy, by means of treating data in a uniform manner, innovation, promotion and digitization, which is precisely what we need. We are living in particularly complicated times, because following the end of the Pandemic, this year had seemed to be in great shape with a very large influx of tourists. However, we do have the problem of expensive energy, plus we then complicate our lives by standardizing alcohol and wine (the position of WHO, ed.). During the Forum we have reiterated that behind every bottle of wine there is a territory, and there are centuries of work throughout the generations that have shaped and made it beautiful, like Langhe. Instead, the idea that it is "unhealthy" does not respect the culture of the Countries. We are, however, optimistic and we think it will end up in the trash. In the meantime, there is a lot to do, and we have already defined common guidelines together with the representatives of the other Governments that we have warmly welcomed to Italy. Tourism by definition is not only bringing foreigners to your Country, but it is also going to visit other Countries, to support it through openness and exchanges. We will meet next year in Spain to continue developing as well as protecting a sector that is the leitmotif of all tourism. It is fragile, though, because everything is connected to it, from hospitality to catering, therefore, if one piece gets broken, the entire supply chain will break”. Rural tourism in the territories actually represents the key to a true, innovative and sustainable restart, according to UNWTO, the UN World Tourism Organization led by Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili, who has promoted the Forum for the first time in Italy.
The sector has great potential still to be developed and in which we must invest, because “tourists have changed, and especially the new generations want a different kind of wine tourism, respectful of the environment and off the beaten track, the so-called, " Slow Tourism ". It will not hinder mass tourism, but will be by its side, because it represents the "gateway" to getting to know the actual, real life of a territory. Furthermore, it is because 90% of the tourists who come to Italy to have a food and wine experience must have a quality experience — if you raise the quality in a sector that is strategic for all tourism, the effects are distributed throughout the tourist offer”, Garavaglia said, “and this must be done to make the sector less fragile in dealing with external shocks, such as Covid before and now expensive energy”. Mariam Kvrivishvili, Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, emphasized that this is why the role of all governments is fundamental in identifying opportunities and guaranteeing that they turn into success stories, supporting the private sector with all the tools available, especially economic ones, starting from the production of wine, Sofia Zaharaki, Minister of Tourism of Greece, reiterated, and through the collaboration between Ministries, Ilin Dimitrov, Minister of Tourism of Bulgaria, and Sergiu Prodan, Minister of Culture of Moldova, both said. Collaboration between the public and private sector is becoming more and more fundamental for the growth of the sector, according to Rita Marques, Secretary of State for Tourism, Commerce and Services of Portugal, which must be sustainable and respectful of the needs of local communities, with whom it is fundamental to keep an ongoing dialog open. We are aware, Federico Pedini Amati, Secretary of State for Tourism of San Marino, pointed out, that the food and wine of our Countries is an added value, which allows us to make ourselves known all over the world, while Tatjana Matic, Minister of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications of Serbia, added that it represents an opportunity to relaunch, especially for those who have had a more challenging recent history, which must be supported through cooperation and International agreements.
The Forum was an opportunity to share experiences and successful case histories, which have demonstrated the resilience of wine tourism, even throughout the Pandemic years. It has been able to reinvent itself and has recovered its numbers thanks to policies, strategies and continuous training courses open to change, digital innovation and sustainability. David Mora, founder of the "Wine Tourism School" and coordinator of the Master in Food and Wine Tourism at the Basque Culinary Center, and Sofía Ruiz Cavanagh, founder and CEO of Wineobs.com, a portal that connects wine experiences from Canada to Argentina, and winner of the "Best Of Wine Tourism 2022" of the Great Wine Capitals as an innovative experience in wine tourism, agreed about the resilience of wine tourism. Martin Lhuillier, head of the of Atout France’s "Wine tourism" sector, the French Tourism Development Agency of the French Ministry of Tourism, stressed that “visits and tastings are no longer enough to satisfy consumers, who instead want to know more and more about wine”. This trend translates into experiences that come from all over the world, from the most important wine territories, like Argentina, and the Bodegas Zuccardi winery, founded in Mendoza in the mid-twentieth century by the Zuccardi family, originally from Avellino, and winner of "The World's Best Vineyards 2021", Spain, and the Wine Museum of Bodega Vivanco in La Roja, winner of the TripAdvisor "Travelers' Choice 2022 " award, and Italy, where the Urban Vineyards Association (UVA) was founded, and now counts 11 city vineyards located all over the world, in Turin, Milan, Venice, Siena, Catania Palermo, Paris, Lyon, Avignon and New York. “The Pandemic has taught us even more profoundly the importance of a direct relationship with consumers, who we can tell our story to in person, by welcoming them into our companies”, Luca Balbiano, founder and president of the Association, said, “to show them how our work evolves and the efforts we make to make a difference, from the point of view of sustainability, too, which is why our wines a worth a higher price. We are also the "guardians" of our territories, the beauty of which lies behind our wines that are open to wine tourism. Worldwide growth must, however, be sustainable and respectful of the needs of our territories, from a social, cultural, economic and environmental point of view”.
The sector is looking to the future through a new perspective, including developing a new way of measuring it, as Alessandra Priante, director of Europe UNWTO, explained to WineNews recently. For instance, by putting UNWTO in a Working Group together with OIV-International Organization of Vine and Wine, demonstrating that the growth of wine tourism goes hand in hand with world wide wine production, to ensure they are sustainable in numbers and offers. The Forum was “a special occasion to promote our territory, as well as a great opportunity to increase ours and the people who have designed our local tourism’s awareness, leaving a legacy for the future”, Carlo Bo, Mayor of Alba said in conclusion. “We have deep respect for our land and its products, which we must safeguard”, Alberto Cirio, president of the Piedmont Region, emphasized. I also ask the Ministers to commit to defending wine and its identity. Wine is culture; it is not alcohol, and equating the two is a profound mistake. The World Health Organization has done so, and has even equated consuming wine with smoking, hoping for a 10% decrease in consumption and also urging Countries to adopt taxation measures aimed at reducing consumption. Wine is not just an economic "factor" that has brought wealth to our territories. It is our culture, the same that we see in a painting or in a monument, made up of our history and our identity, and this is why we are defending it. We need to educate our young people about its value, because telling them that wine is alcohol does not mean that tomorrow we will have fewer consumers of a product that also represents the culture of respect for the earth and sustainability”.
At the close of the Forum, there was the ceremony of the symbolic passage of the amphora from Italy to Spain, the Country that will host the next "World Wine Tourism Forum edition number 7”, to be held in Rioja in 2023. The Minister of Tourism, Reyes Maroto commented on the ceremony, participating in video conference, saying that we are demonstrating “the history of our Countries is in a bottle of wine, and the production of wine, without which there would be no wine tourism, benefits the development and sustainable growth of our Countries”.

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