Allegrini 2018

Tourism: recommending or returning to a destination depends on the food and wine experience

Roberta Garibaldi’s “2020 Report” on food and wine tourism reveals visits to wineries are still at the top of the list, but “boredom” is looming
Wine tourism, a successful worldwide phenomenon

Tourists are traveling more and more because of their interest in food and wine - making many people believe that food and wine move the market - seeking out local food, wanting to get to know the producers, but they are also looking for other kinds of experiences during their journey, mainly because they are starting to get bored with visits to wineries, and appreciate being involved in organized games. This is the identikit of foreign tourists and what they are looking for when they come to Italy, which the enormous “Report on Italian Food and Wine Tourism 2020” revealed in this year’s two-volume edition (Supply and Demand). The Report is 735 pages of data and analysis that outline the “System Italy” offer, compared at the European and national levels, tracing the profile of the international tourist from France, the UK, Canada, the USA, Mexico and China. “This study”, the author, Roberta Garibaldi, pointed out, “is the result of an extensive work correlating supply and demand to give workers and professionals in the food and wine tourism industry a strategic business tool, allowing them to operate proactively as they will know their visitors’ characteristics”.
Food and wine is becoming increasingly important. 71% of people travel to live memorable food and wine experiences, while 59% say that themed experiences help them choose amongst multiple destinations. A positive food and wine experience makes it more likely to recommend the destination (79%) and return to the destination (77%). “Food and wine has become the pillar of tourism”, Garibaldi explained, “and while in 2006 only 17% of tourists lived an experience linked to food and wine, today it is up to 95%”.
TripAdvisor data has also confirmed this trend. In 2018, the portal recorded an increase in bookings related to food, wine and nightlife (+ 141%) and compiled a ranking of rewarding experiences. The skip-the-line at the Vatican Museums ranked number one in 2019, the one-day sightseeing tour in Tuscany, second and the lesson on pizza and ice cream, third. Cooking classes are a theme that returns often to tourists’ preferences.
The study also showed that for tour operators, the most enthusiastic food and wine tourists of different nationalities are Chinese (81%) and Mexicans (73%). Followed by French, Canadian and American (46%) and finally, British (42%).
The fastest growing markets, according to ENIT (Italian government tourist board) Tour operator monitors, are: Japan (+40%), then Brazil (+20), South Korea, Spain, Germany, Czech Republic (+10) and China + 7%). Of course, in this moment, as the coronavirus alarm has been spreading, the tourist industry has already received many cancellations, the Italian hotel association, Federalberghi, has reported.
Foreigners are not all the same, however. Upon a thorough examination, it turns out that about 50% of tourists is made up of “omnivores”. That is, during their trip, they want to live a variety of enriching experiences, and food and wine, which is multisensory, emotional and cultural, best meets their needs. Food and wine tourists are more likely to combine their experiences with other activities than are general tourists, like shopping (85% against 68% of general tourists) or music festivals (66% against 45%). The majority seek a variety of new and different experiences and define themselves “eclectic” (43%), while only 19% define themselves “gourmet”, and one of these are the French, for whom the theme of local, gourmet and authentic prevails. Millennials lead the trend of the generations, while the new “super foodies”, i.e., Generation Z, are coming up and are frequent travelers who show a very high interest in food.
“Correlating data of the most appreciated experiences, the most sought-after on the web, the most lived and the most valued by tour operators and where our country is placed”, Roberta Garibaldi continued, “there are some themes we can focus on. The "food truck", or street food, is one of the most lived experiences (41% of world tourists and 70% of Italians) and the most sought-after on the web are historic restaurants and bars and historic houses where wine production companies are located, agri-food, visits to other types of products, and finally, cooking classes. Pizza is one of the driving products of our country. We should take advantage of the UNESCO recognition, and make it an asset on which to focus more heavily on tourism. We have been thinking about a museum dedicated to it or diversified experiences”.
Gorgonzola and pizza were the most sought-after Italian products on the web between 2017 and 2019. One of the Internet trend topics between November 2019 and January 2020 of users in the US, China, France, Spain, Germany and the UK included typical products and dishes, and besides pizza, products that stand out are arancini, ossobuco, Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino Romano. The wines of South Tyrol and Chianti (Semrush data) are among the “Sparkling wine” productions.
Interest in gourmet catering remains unchanged. Forty-eight percent of world tourists went to a gourmet restaurant in the past two years, while the figure rises to 68% for food and wine tourists. Sixty-three percent of Millennials believe it is appropriate to spend a large amount of money on a meal. And, one of the reasons to visit a country was including a famous gourmet restaurant for 42% of Millennials against 31% of Generation Z and 24% of Boomers. But, those who frequent them the most are still the Boomers (48%).
Italians should not think that they really don’t have much to learn when it comes to food. It seems absurd, actually, but the votes TripAdvisor users gave between 2016 and 2019 rank Italy as one of the countries (together with France and Germany) that have lower scores, while the users are more satisfied with the food in the United Kingdom, in Switzerland, in Austria and in Spain. What are our weaknesses? The negative reviews target fixed price menus and gluten-free. The ranking of European cities places Florence at the top, followed by Barcelona and Amsterdam, then Rome, London, Naples, Venice, Berlin, Paris and Milan. Italian restaurants seem to not fare very well on TripAdvisor, while cooking classes are excellent, as they have registered over 96% satisfaction.
Visits to the wineries deserve a separate paragraph. They are definitely at the top of tour operators’ proposals (83% in the 2020 catalogs). As Roberta Garibaldi pointed out, “Tourists are always interested in them, but the offer must progress towards a more distinct segment and position. 61% of tourists find the winery visit experience repetitive. This is the reason why a distinct setting is needed to create something unique”. The number one example of success is that of the most visited winery in Chile. What is their secret? “Making quizzes for tourists”, is the answer of the owner. “The tourist”, explained Garibaldi, “wants to be involved, get to know people, have a memory. So the gamification of the experience and customizing gadgets are welcomed”. Whoever gives himself an identity wins, and consequently museums and thematic hotels have been created. For instance, there is the Nutella Pop-Up Hotel in Napa Valley, the Chocolate Suite at the Golden Palace in Turin or the Casa Cacao Hotel in Girona, Spain. We must also work on understanding tourists. What do Americans want? “They are quite happy to tour the winery”, explained Garibaldi, “but we know that they are looking for pleasant and friendly environments”. The other aspects to focus on are storytelling and sustainability. 60% of leisure tourists indicate food choices that reflect personal values ​​in terms of health and wellbeing and 53% try to eat in places that show social responsibility.
So, to diversify experiences, the territories should encourage openings and visiting other places. There is a great desire to visit where the product is made, like chocolatiers, breweries, distilleries and dairies.
One of our shortcomings we are aware of is that European competitors are more capable of enhancing and better communicating what they have. Confirmation comes from the direct analysis carried out on foreign tour operators, who consider the quality of the offer and food and wine experiences to be good or excellent, while easily finding information about them and booking them is much lower. “Making a system” is a long-standing problem, while instead it is easier to improve communication, which today moves more and more digitally.
The data and trends revealed in the report were generated with the support of PromoTurismoFvg, which coordinates the Friuli Venezia Giulia Wine and Flavors Route, the only one that has a Regional “direction” and one of the most successful case histories, and also UniCredit, and sponsored by Enit-National Tourism Agency, Federculture, Qualivita Foundation, ISMEA, Italian Touring Club, in addition to the collaboration of Travel Appeal, TripAdvisor and Semrush.

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