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UNESCO recognition is a treasure trove: boom in tourism and new activities

The Sapienza University study revealed that from Prosecco DOCG to Pantelleria, employment, visitors and companies are growing

The UNESCO recognition is the one that everyone wants because it is one of the few recognitions that bring people together, and in a world where we are “divided” over everything, it is a highly prestigious goal. Italy is very aware of its prestige, since it the world “queen” of UNESCO recognitions. Italy boast 59 “World Heritage” recognitions and 14 registered in the representative list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The recognitions are a “treasure”. that confirm the history and uniqueness of the “Bel Paese” (the beautiful country), where food and wine and landscape are highly valued, starting with wine “terroirs", which are a special union in the "blood" relationship created between the land and man, history and modernity, and a bond that the generations continue to uphold.
Italy’s UNESCO recognitions include the “Prosecco Hills of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene”, where Italian bubbles that have conquered the world are made, the “Wine-growing Landscapes of Piedmont: Langhe-Roero and Monferrato”, an extraordinary cradle of unique wines - first and foremost, Barolo and Barbaresco, or “Val d’Orcia”, one of the most iconic territories in Tuscany, where two other excellent reds Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano are grown. Then, going south, the extraordinary, “The traditional agricultural practice of growing the sapling vine of Pantelleria”, where there is also the multinational recognition of the “Art of Dry Walls”, found in other viticultural landscapes as well, such as Soave, in Valpolicella, the Cinque Terre in Liguria, Valtellina and more, even outside National borders. Then there is Italian food, its products and its techniques, starting with the “Mediterranean Diet”, the symbol of Italy, or “The traditional art of Neapolitan pizza chefs”, and the “Truffle search and extraction in Italy: knowledge and traditional practices”. And the list of UNESCO recognitions might become even longer, as “Italian Cuisine”, has been candidated, as well as the “System of Chianti Classico Villa-farmhouses”, have been included on the Italian “proposal list” of candidate sites for World Heritage Site, and the technique of setting aside Valpolicella grapes which, if accepted, would be the first winemaking technique to obtain the prestigious recognition.
How much does the recognition “weigh”, in the positive sense, obviously, for a territory that has a UNESCO excellence? This question was answered during the meeting at the Trento Festival of Economics, where part of an International study, carried out by Pierluigi Petrillo, the UNESCO chair at the Sapienza University (Rome), president of the Evaluation Body of the UNESCO Convention on Intangible Cultural Heritage, who presented and illustrated the study that represents the “traditions, know-how, and knowledge that define the identity of a territory”. The economic returns, from employment to founding new businesses, are evident. Petrillo provided data relating to these advantages, and others, which UNESCO Sites and intangible assets bring to the territory, citing relevant examples from the wine and food world, that have succeeded in “neutralizing” the negative effects of Covid.
In general, tourists visiting UNESCO sites totaled +53.59% in 2021 compared to 2020 and +67.83% in 2022 compared to 2021, against the National average, respectively, +41.24% and +50.65%. The trend of overnight stays was higher, +62.81% (2021/2020) and +59.55% (2022/2021) in UNESCO sites, while the National average instead reached +38.73% (2021/2020) and +42.48% (2022/2021). Petrillo stated that the trend also included agritourism companies, and mentioned Pantelleria, which produced an extraordinary performance at +60% (after the UNESCO recognition), compared to the National average +41.9%. “After Covid”, Petrillo said, “we have had the impression that tourists chose UNESCO sites even though the trend before Covid showed substantially identical data. However, businesses that have a connection to the UNESCO recognition, cultural businesses, recreational businesses, businesses that offer tourist services, and agri-food businesses, also grew exponentially”. The study revealed that UNESCO sites attract more tourism businesses (+16.26% in 2018 compared to 2017; +6.47% in 2022 compared to 2021; while the National average was +5.48% and +1.9%), and therefore overnight stays in agritourism companies during the period 2014-2019 experienced exceptional growth (+41.9%), compared to the National average (+2.5%).
The “Conegliano and Valdobbiadene case” is emblematic, taken as a model, and noting that the UNESCO recognition (which was received in 2019, and therefore, during the Covid period), “increased employment”. The Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG District counted 347 non-hotel facilities in 2017, which then jumped to 531 in 2022 and overnight stays in the extra facilities grew from 2.867 in 2017 to 4.211 in 2022. There were 185 sparkling wine houses in 2017 and 209 in 2022. Global companies grew from 4.418 (2017) to 4.514 (2022). Employees in sparkling wine houses increased from 2.726 in 2017 to 3.514 in 2022, while the global ones went from 6.245 to 6.867 over the five-year period taken into consideration.
Valorizing the territory and its skills, and increasing its working numbers, is also evident in the pizza sector, following the UNESCO recognition for “The Traditional Art of Neapolitan Pizza Makers” (2017). The number of professional courses, linked to this art, has grown significantly in Italy and especially abroad, where there are more and more accredited schools. “Before the UNESCO recognition, in the restaurant chain, the pizza chef was considered”, Petrillo emphasized, “ the low man on the totem pole, but after receiving the recognition, the profile of the profession completely changed. Now, there is so much pride and awareness that even famous chefs have started making pizza engaging prominent pizza chefs”. These data confirm what WineNews has reported over the past few months, referring to the “boom” in numbers that the Viticultural Landscapes of Langhe-Roero and Monferrato have registered upon being included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites (2014), generating an exponential growth in tourists and activities. UNESCO is a treasure trove.

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