Allegrini 2024

Wine tourism, big phenomenon thanks to small wineries, for which it is worth 7% of turnover

Minister Daniela Santanchè, to WineNews: “the sector is increasingly important, to deseasonalize tourist flows and for employment”

A big phenomenon, and a sector that is becoming strategic for the whole of Italian tourism, thanks mainly to small wineries with family hospitality (39%, compared to 14% with historical, architectural or artistic relevance; 12% with famous/historic brand; and 11% that have landscape or naturalistic relevance, are organized for incoming or equipped with an innovative offer), and that already register 15 million accesses each year and derive on the wine tourism front an average of 7% of their wine business, which for 46% does not exceed 500,000 euros in annual turnover, and in which the real income remains direct sales (6-14%). Wineries that on average have 15 employees of which 3 are involved with wine hospitality, a service entrusted, in 73% of cases, to a woman while the company management is predominantly male (55%). But the biggest problem, of small as well as large wineries, from the North to the South of Italy, is the need for trained staff, with the difficulty of finding them increasing exponentially. This is the picture of wine tourism in Italy taken by “Enoturismo 4. 0 - Enoturismo Observatory: Digital Evolution”, a handbook on the sector by Dario Stefàno and Donatella Cinelli Colombini with an extensive and documented analysis of Italian wine destinations, i.e., cities and wineries, investigated by Nomisma Wine Monitor - on a participated sample of 145 municipalities and 265 businesses - presented, today, in Rome, at the Senate of the Republic, in Palazzo Giustiniani, with a greeting by Senate President Ignazio La Russa and Tourism Minister Daniela Santanch. Who, interviewed by WineNews, reiterated how “wine and gastronomy are fundamental to Italy’s image, and to deseasonalize tourism and employmen”.
According to the analysis, Italian wineries are accelerating in the creation of experiences, but with 3 problems: remoteness of flows (32%), scarcity of contacts, and few staff (74%). Wine tourism hubs that are instead beginning to be decisive, such as experiential museums or wineries with extraordinary historical and monumental elements, are still very rare. Even in points of sale and tasting rooms there remain problems such as repetitiveness of proposals that in 96% of cases decline the guided tour to the production premises with small final tasting. Just as the problem of accessibility on holidays and weekends persists, with half of the wineries closed and 11% of reservations falling through the cracks. Seventy-five percent of wineries are, in fact, open Monday through Friday, while on Saturdays the percentages drop: 57% morning and 43% afternoon. Even on Sundays and holidays, half of the wineries are closed. However, the prices of the proposed activities are increasing, including premium experiences over 100 euros per person, but they still generate marginal income compared to direct wine sales, which is 6-14% of the entire wine business and is the real wine tourism revenue.
Women working in wineries are closer to wage and career parity than those in other economic sectors because they preside over the new sectors of wine: sales (51%), marketing and communication (80%) finally wine tourism (76%). Conversely, in the vineyard and winery they are in the minority (14%), but they have an increasing weight in purchasing decisions and visits to wineries. Even among wine tourists and especially among those who book their visit online (66%) they are the majority. Overall, the growth of the female role is a tonic element for Italian wine and in general for the whole of agriculture where 28% of businesses have a female owner, and they show themselves to be not only more profitable (the 21% of rural area they manage produces 28% of agricultural GDP), but also an expression of a new business model that is more environmentally friendly, internationalized, oriented on quality and production diversification.
99% of the wineries surveyed have websites, but the number of monthly hits exceeds 1,000 per month in only 34% of cases. 49% inform their followers about news at least once a month. While the presence of a blog (24%) or newsletter (48%) is low, the presence on social is plebiscite (99%). On Facebook, the average number of followers is 8,585 while it is halved in Instagram and still drops a lot in Linkedin and Twitter. These are the most critical elements for wineries that intend to open up to e-commerce. In fact, if social channels manage to keep alive the relationship with a part of their visitors, they are not enough for companies to make a real business online with the sale of bottles. The numbers are too small in relation to the wine tourism flows that could generate the contacts. This is no small problem, as the desire to sell one’s wine online grows. Very few wine businesses in the Northeast have shopping carts, while 63% of those in the Center and 58% of those in the South and Islands have e-commerce. The survey describes the need for a portion of wineries to sustain an additional effort to attract wine tourists to the area: 32% are not in the directrix of tourist or wine tourism flows so they cannot intercept visitors passing nearby, but must take actions to attract them back. Only 24 % are located where there are wine tourists, while 44% enjoy the presence of flows that may not be interested in wine, but still constitute an interested catchment area.
Italian wineries, after 2015, have greatly increased, diversified and structured their ancillary offers to the “basic” one consisting of the guided tour of the production facility concluded with the tasting of wines for sale, which is now present in 96% of wineries. In particular, the 8 main wine tourism proposals are: 1) wellness and relaxation: 64% of wineries have a green area for relaxation, but there are also those who have facilities for natural wellness such as massage and wine therapy; 2) entertainment: entertainment activities for adults (64%) and recreational events (17%) prevail, scarce are animations for children (6%); 3) meal delivery: 72% are able to accompany their wines with food although actual catering is present in only 26% of cases, and more than half have an equipped outdoor area and dining with the winemaker is possible in 37% of wineries; 4) culture: almost half of the businesses offer visitors to go to nearby cultural events or attractions, 43% organize exhibitions, concerts or cultural events, and 38% offer historical or artistic guided tours, and 20% have their own museum or educational infrastructure; 5) sports: some have created itineraries for trekking (44%), biking (35%), or horseback riding (13%), some jog in the vineyard (18%), and some have a swimming pool (14%); 6) experiential and educational offerings: this section includes all those activities that, patented by wine, become something more structured, such as events organized by 77% of businesses, educational tastings (70%), themed events (65%), nature walks (36%), cooking classes (36%) and wine weddings (34%), with increases of more than 30% after 2015; 7) receptivity: growth is there but not as huge, with businesses offering overnight accommodations being 32 %, RV pitches 28%, and wine-themed proposals 23%; 8) traditional offerings: the guided tour with final tasting, which is present almost everywhere, flanked by themed tastings (78%) and vineyard education (73%).
The third and biggest problem facing wineries is the growing need for staff, with the difficulty of finding them perceived by 74% with particular severity in Veneto (92%), Sicily (89%), Friuli Venezia Giulia (83%), Puglia (83%), Piedmont (80%) and Umbria (75%). Specifically, the most sought-after professional figures in Italian tourist wineries are: multi-language staff (98%), already present in 90% of wineries; guides for tastings or winery and vineyard tours (97%), already present in 91%; sommeliers (85%), already present in 69%; agronomy technicians (79%), already present in 67%; and chefs (65%), already present in 34%. The crucial questions concern the skills required for wine hospitaliaty, elements that, wanting to look far, also define the professional profile of the employees and the subjects to be taught in their training. However, the need to work on holidays is definitely the biggest obstacle to finding employees to hire. The difficulty in finding trained staff is particularly severe in the Northeast, while the South lacks multilingual staff, but in general the most difficult characteristics to find are: knowledge of foreign languages (98 %), willingness to work on weekends (94%), wine and vineyard skills (94%), sales technique (92%); skills in digital communication and social media (93%); skills in typical local products (93%); skills in wine tourism marketing (92%); and skills in tax and legal regulations (63%). So much so that an increasing number of businesses (65%) are investing in in-house skills in order to increase the performance of wine hospitality services.
“Wineries, even the smallest ones, have accelerated in recent years the path of expanding the wine tourism experiences they offer, ranging from catering to accommodation, focusing on nature and wellness with an entrepreneurial spirit”, stressed Denis Pantini, Head of Agrifood, and Roberta Gabrielli, Head of Marketing and Business Processes at Nomisma-Wine Monitor, “but the challenge for associations, administrations and wineries is to increase the development of skills, from technical to relational and customer care, in order to have a wine tourist who chooses to come back and recommend the experience he or she has had”.
Analyses and numbers that, starting with the handbook “Enoturismo 4.0”, produced with the contribution of Le Donne del Vino, Movimento Turismo del Vino, Città del Vino, Nomisma Wine Monitor (Agra Editrice, pp. 211, cover price 25 euros), “want to be a call for legislators and government to grasp and, possibly, anticipate inputs and trends that characterize this peculiar declination of experiential tourism”, explained the Honorable Dario Stefàno, in the presentation moderated by journalist and RAI anchor Massimiliano Ossini. But, said Assoenologi president Riccardo Cotarella, “Italy’s problem is that we don’t make a system and this creates communication problems about wine at the international level. Wine tourism is not only economy but popularization: those who come to our companies become our ambassadors all over the world”. “Wine tourism is a strategic sector for everyone. Italy is an open-air wine museum. We are a real model of wine diversity, which can be communicated and transmitted to enthusiasts only by welcoming them to the places”, stressed, in a video message, the president OIV - International Organization of Vine and Wine, Luigi Moio. “My part of the book contains the “instructions for use” of the innovations that emerged from the surveys”, explained winemaker Donatella Cinelli Colombini, "it teaches, for example, what winery clubs are and why they work in the U.S. and not in ours, why wineries need to use more technology in their relationship with visitors and stop offering photocopy wine experiences”.
Part of the study concerns female professionals in the sector, who in the wineries dominate, also in terms of career progression, the sector closest to consumers, that is, sales, wine tourism, communication and marketing. And from whom, reiterated the president of Le Donne del Vino, Daniela Mastroberardino, comes the request for “the subject of wine to enter fully into Italian education, to train a new generation of future restaurant room managers as well as future managers of tourist offices, travel agencies or hotels who know the basics about wine and wine territories”. And who are able to “enhance wine and the territory through sustainable and responsible tourism, with an emphasis on the quality of the experience offered to visitors at the winery”, according to Movimento Turismo del Vino President Nicola D’Auria. “For the 145 mayors interviewed, being a Wine City means promoting and enhancing wine and its culture to the fullest, being within a network, within a shared project in order to be able to create tourism marketing strategies”, recalled Wine City President Angelo Radica.

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