Italy is the leading European food and wine destination, based on all parameters analyzed. All over the world, 53% of travelers (from a peak 81% in China to a 42% in the United Kingdom) describe themselves as “food and wine tourists”.
The food and wine industry plays an increasingly crucial role in tourism: 71% of travelers seek out unforgettable culinary experiences, while for 59% of tourists, themed experiences influence the final destination choice.
“In Western countries, tourists’ interest in food and wine is consolidating, and the trend is growing in China and Mexico too,” states Roberta Garibaldi, the author of the report. “From 2016, both have increased by 12% and 10% respectively. Travelers having been on at least one food and wine vacation in the past two years total 53%. Millennials are the leading generation, while new “super foodies” born of Gen Z are emerging – frequent travelers who have already shown interest in cuisine.”
The 2020 edition of the “Italian Food and Wine Travel Report ”, carried out by Roberta Garibaldi for the World Food Travel Association and the Associazione Italiana Turismo Enogastronomico, traces a comprehensive, thorough overview of a tourism sector that has shown a continuously growing trend in the past few years. An overall 735 pages of analyses and data describe Italy’s supply compared to Europe and other countries, and outline international tourists from France, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States of America, Mexico and China.
The report is composed of two volumes: “L’offerta” (“the supply”) by Roberta Garibaldi, supported by UniCredit and PromoTurismoFVG and endorsed by ENIT (the Italian national agency for tourism), Federculture, Fondazione Qualivita, ISMEA and the Touring Club of Italy, and “La domanda” (“the demand”), an Italian version of the Food Travel Monitor 2020 issued by the World Food Travel Association, co-authored by Matthew J. Stone, Steven Migacz, Erik Wolf and Roberta Garibaldi, with Quebec as the main sponsor.
NEW ECLECTIC TOURISTS
With regard to food and wine, tourists may be classified into two major categories. Around 50% are “omnivores”: on holiday, they look for varied enriching experiences, and food and wine – a multisensory, emotional and cultural experience in itself – is what better meets their needs. It is more likely for these travelers to pair food and wine experiences with different activities, such as shopping (85% compared to 68% of general tourists) or music festivals (66% compared to 45%). Food and wine tourists look for integrated options including a variety of culinary experiences and cultural or entertaining activities. International tourists of all mapped nationalities mainly describe themselves as “eclectic” in their holiday choice, with the French being the only ones to prioritize the authentic, the local, and the gourmet.
FLAGSHIP EXPERIENCES IN ITALY
“By combining data on the experiences that were most appreciated, most searched online, most frequently chosen, and most promoted by tour operators with Italy’s positioning, we have identified a few aspects to build on”, explains Roberta Garibaldi. “Food trucks are the most frequently sought experiences, and the most searched online, alongside traditional restaurants and cafés, historical dwellings turned headquarters of agrifood businesses, and cooking classes. Pizza is a key product for our country, and the UNESCO recognition it has received should encourage us to make it a stronger tourism asset – maybe with a dedicated museum, or diversified experiences. Wineries remain important, but our supply needs to evolve towards segmentation and a more effective positioning”.
ITALY AS EUROPE’S TOP DESTINATION
The comparison with the major European competitors gives positive results, with Italy topping seven of the analyzed parameters: excellence producers, wineries, oil producers, catering businesses, food museums, breweries, and UNESCO Creative Cities tied to food and wine.
In the past three years – despite France registering the highest absolute increase in certified agrifood products and micro-breweries, and Spain in certified wines and catering businesses – Italy led the sector for its growing wine and oil production, which proved dynamic regardless of the crisis. Since 2016, Italy has also been hosting the most UNESCO-recognized material and immaterial assets and Creative Cities tied to food and wine.
Food and wine are what Italy mainly stands out for, even abroad: out of all Italian certified products, gorgonzola and pizza were the most searched online between 2017 and 2019. From November 2019 to January 2020, online trending searches in the United States, China, France, Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom covered traditional, local Italian products including pizza, arancini, ossobuco, Parmesan and pecorino, in addition to sparkling wines from Alto Adige and Chianti (source: Semrush).
SCOPES FOR IMPROVEMENT
In Europe, the direct competitors’ added value is how they enhance their supply by engaging in comprehensive development and promotion efforts at a national level. In Italy, information lacks both on official websites and regional platforms. This was confirmed in a direct report carried out by foreign tour operators, which rated the quality of our food and wine supply and experiences as good or excellent while flagging that information is often hard to find, and bookings hard to make.
Agrifood and winemaking excellences are widespread all over Italy. The Emilia-Romagna region boasts the highest number of certified agrifood products; the same applies to Piedmont for wines, and to Campania for traditional agrifood products.
Lombardy is the leading region for catering, both in terms of businesses and excellent restaurants featured in the major guides (the Michelin Guide Italy, Gambero Rosso’s Top Italian Restaurants, “I Ristoranti e i Vini d’Italia” by Espresso), and hosts the most micro-breweries and brewpbus in Italy.
Tuscany is the Italian leader for number of farmhouses, both at a national level and in terms of the different types of services they offer – catering, accommodation, tastings, educational farm visits, MTB and trekking tours, sports, etc.
As the trend showed in the past three years, Central and Southern Italy were the most dynamic macro-areas, with the highest increases in the supply.
As Roberta Garibaldi (photo) stated, “our research has resulted from a long work to combine the supply and the demand, in order to provide food and wine operators and professionals with a strategic business tool to act proactively according to the visitors’ identity and preferences.”
During the presentation, Massimo Costantino Macchitella, Head of Small Business & Financing Products at UniCredit, introduced MADE4ITALY, “a new program aimed to promote an integrated tourism-agriculture system, and to support local development projects. With Made4Italy, Italian SMEs will have the opportunity to rely on UniCredit’s expertise and know-how, in addition to a 5-billion-euro financing program from 2019 to 2021 to encourage business development and enhance the regions’ traditional identities.”
Roberta Garibaldi is a Tourism Management university professor. She is on the World Food Travel Association and the World Gastronomy Institute Boards, and is also part of the Presidential Council of the Italian Society of Tourism Sciences (SISTUR). A keynote speaker for food and wine tourism at UNWTO (the United Nations World Tourism Organization), she takes care of reports and on-field projects for regions and businesses working in food and wine tourism.