Sustainability and rediscovery of territories in terms of food and wine meet in the new post-pandemic trends of nature and open-air tourism.
The pandemic has changed the approach to travel, shifting the focus to proximity, safety and holidays in nature and the outdoors. How is this affecting food and wine tourism? To find out more, the editorial staff of BIT 2022 asked one of Italy's leading experts in the sector: Roberta Garibaldi, Professor of Tourism Management at the University of Bergamo, Managing Director of ENIT - National Tourism Agency and Advisor to the Minister for Tourism on Food and Wine Tourism.
Tourists are looking for increasingly engaging and innovative experiences
“Clearly the pandemic has changed the priorities and needs of tourists. They are now more active and demanding, and are not satisfied with the traditional offers, but are looking for increasingly engaging and innovative experiences, in the name of sustainability”, Garibaldi explains. “So even the food and wine travel becomes an opportunity to be greener: trekking through vineyards, olive groves, orchards... walking and cycling or e-biking tours, yoga in these magnificent open spaces. The interest of Italian tourists in these hiking practices has increased by 10% compared to 2018, confirming the growing relevance of the taste-nature combination”.
“Our country is the ideal destination, thanks to its food and wine richness, which can be seen not only in its products, but also in its cultures and landscapes. The pandemic has led to the rediscovery of areas that are less well-known to the general public, while at the same time bringing to light an issue of great importance. How can this discovery be encouraged? Places such as food and wine hubs are becoming a possible solution, with 60% of Italians saying they would like to find one in the destination they are visiting. Not only to get information and book experiences on site, but also to enjoy experiences: 66% would like to do tastings, 56% would like to enjoy multimedia tours, and 55% would like to take part in workshops and cooking classes”.
“This desire to experience the outdoors and less crowded areas fits in well with the need to feel safe”, adds the ENIT CEO. The 2021 edition of the Food and Wine Tourism Report showed that an average of 7 out of 10 Italians believe it is important to adopt ad hoc rules and measures. In addition to those already known, open-air visits and tastings, and tours in small groups are among the elements considered essential for those participating in food and wine-themed experiences”.
Taste and well-being, but not only: green approach and social responsibility are central in the choices
Moreover, the “new normality” is making new types of food and wine routes and experiences emerge. “In addition to the combination of taste and wellness, experiences that are characterised both by a green approach and by being socially responsible are becoming more and more central among tourists’ desires. This second aspect of sustainability, which is generally less appreciated, is particularly appreciated with 71% of Italian tourists saying they are more likely to visit a production company if it has projects in place to support the local community. Oil is also receiving increasing interest and, thanks to the recent approval of national guidelines, will increasingly feature innovative and creative proposals. Interest in a more complete experience is strong, with 70% of Italian tourists wanting to taste the oil in combination with local products and food and 67% wanting to see the production process. The experience is also exciting: 54% would like to learn about the history and anecdotes of the company and the territory by meeting the owner of the oil mill, 52% would like to participate in the olive harvest, 44% would like to participate in artistic activities in the olive groves”.
However, we still need to understand how the wine and food tourist is changing, and what changes in demographic characteristics, needs or desires are taking place. “The wine and food tourist is increasingly active, demanding and innovative”, Professor Garibaldi concludes. “They look for places characterised by beauty and integrity, they search for culture and traditions (food and wine and other), without ever forgetting quality and sustainability. The food and wine experience is often combined with cultural and recreational activities, where the visit is interconnected with a sense of belonging, a desire to experience the community and the territory.
They want to feel more involved, for example by spending a day with local producers: 66% of Italian tourists would be more inclined to visit production companies if these opportunities were available, from collective harvesting to sowing, pruning and milking.
They are also looking for ever greener ways of holidaying: not only trekking and cycling tours with a food and wine theme, but also the possibility of using eco-friendly transport.
They also want to be stimulated, to have fun, to test themselves. That's why activities such as treasure hunts, escape rooms and gaming in production facilities to discover local products are particularly popular”.
In this scenario, an international event such as BIT can become a showcase for Italy’s wealth of food and wine, increasing its visibility and the variety of its offerings, emphasising the close link with its culture, identities and landscapes.