Italian Farmhouses Experiencing Post-Pandemic Boom, Report Finds

The latest report from Ismea showed that farmhouse stays are rising compared to other forms of hospitality, with a growing concentration on experience-based stays.

By Paolo DeAndreis
Apr. 5, 2022 11:55 UTC

A new report from the Institute of Services for the Agricultural and Food Market (Ismea) demon­strates how a cru­cial part of Italy’s agri­tourism sec­tor is evolv­ing.

Ismea’s report showed that touris­tic stays at farm­houses are grow­ing in value. Farmhouses also play an increas­ingly impor­tant role in pro­mot­ing local and tra­di­tional agri­cul­tural prod­ucts, includ­ing extra vir­gin olive oil.

Farmhouses need to look at what is hap­pen­ing in the mar­ket and how to change and upgrade their offer­ings and sat­isfy their clients.- Diego Scaramuzza, pres­i­dent, Terranostra-Coldiretti

In 2021, Ismea said about 25,000 farm­houses are actively oper­at­ing in Italy. Officials expect them to rebound after see­ing their rev­enues fall by almost 50 per­cent between 2019 and 2020. From 2010 to 2019, the sec­tor grew on aver­age 5 per­cent annu­ally.

Agricultural pro­duc­tion and farm­houses are con­sid­ered by Ismea two of the main dri­vers of Italy’s eco­nomic recov­ery in 2021, as 70 per­cent of farm­houses reported sta­ble or grow­ing income and 39 per­cent reported a ris­ing num­ber of direct book­ings from guests.

See Also:Just when Olive Oil Tourism Was Trending in Turkey, the Pandemic Hit

The first rea­son a farm­house is resilient is that it is a farm­ing com­pany. That means that it is an activ­ity that does not stop even dur­ing a pan­demic-caused lock­down, as sow­ing, tillage and har­vest­ing can not stop,” Diego Scaramuzza, pres­i­dent of the national agri­tourism asso­ci­a­tion Terranostra-Coldiretti, told Olive Oil Times.

But in this time, they also ven­tured into new fields, such as take away and home deliv­ery,” he added. Still, their home deliv­ery of meals, or even qual­ity ingre­di­ents for the home kitchen, does not fol­low the tra­di­tional com­mer­cial pro­file.”

Since 2020, the worst year of the Covid-19 pan­demic, farm­houses have seen the num­ber of total guests rise. The per­cent­age of reser­va­tions at farm­houses (com­pared with the rest of the sec­tor) increased from 3.2 per­cent in 2019 to 4 per­cent in 2020.

The Covid-19 pan­demic pro­vided farm­houses with new oppor­tu­ni­ties, allow­ing them to con­nect with clients who grew more con­scious about health and where their food comes from.

According to the Ismea report, farm­houses under­went sub­stan­tial changes dur­ing the pan­demic to address the evolv­ing con­cerns of poten­tial clients. They became ambas­sadors for tra­di­tional regional recipes and prod­ucts, such as extra vir­gin olive oil and wine, allow­ing vis­i­tors to taste and learn about the story behind these prod­ucts.

They fully entered a multi-func­tional approach and offered new oppor­tu­ni­ties, such as pro­vid­ing pic­nic bas­kets to their guests to let them eat among the olive trees or the vine­yards,” Scaramuzza said.

According to Gian Marco Centinaio, the under­sec­re­tary of agri­cul­ture, the pan­demic changed Italian tourism habits.

The pan­demic has led Italians to dis­cover or redis­cover tourism of prox­im­ity, which is sus­tain­able and envi­ron­men­tally friendly,” he said dur­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion of the Ismea report. Typicality, well-being, nature, edu­ca­tion and being social are all ele­ments that make the Italian model of multi-func­tion­al­ity a case of suc­cess and great poten­tial.”

Ismea reported that 53 per­cent of farm­houses grow olives as their prin­ci­pal agri­cul­tural activ­ity. By com­par­i­son, 43 per­cent said they mainly pro­duce wine. In addi­tion, one-fifth of all farm­houses reported being par­tially or entirely pow­ered by renew­able energy.

The insti­tute also found that farm­houses are diver­si­fy­ing how they earn income. Eighty-one per­cent reported two prin­ci­pal earn­ing activ­i­ties in addi­tion to farm­ing, 62 per­cent reported at least three and 45 per­cent reported four.

See Also:Ercole Olivario Celebrates 30th Anniversary, Introduces Oleotourism Award

Those activ­i­ties include accom­mo­da­tion, offered by 85 per­cent of the farm­houses, retail activ­i­ties (58 per­cent), restau­rants (54 per­cent), tast­ings (40 per­cent), cul­tural and recre­ational activ­i­ties (23 per­cent) and edu­ca­tional activ­i­ties (21 per­cent).

Covid-19 and now even the war in Ukraine are mak­ing farm­houses see that the old days when guests would come over just to eat and sleep are over,” Scaramuzza said. Now they are offer­ing true novel expe­ri­ence oppor­tu­ni­ties, from cook­ing courses to extra vir­gin olive oil tast­ings, becom­ing touris­tic guides con­scious of the excel­lency and unique­ness of their rural envi­ron­ments.”


He added that tourists increas­ingly seek authen­tic farm­house expe­ri­ences, from har­vest­ing fruit to mak­ing pasta.

However, there are still plenty of chal­lenges fac­ing Italian farm­houses con­nected with the uncer­tain­ties that remain for inter­na­tional travel and the grow­ing pro­duc­tion costs. Ismea reported that 5 per­cent see the increas­ing costs of raw mate­ri­als as a pri­mary hur­dle.

Other chal­lenges come from farm­houses’ rural nature, which some­times makes it dif­fi­cult even to have a strong inter­net con­nec­tion. Ismea reported that 66 per­cent of farm­house reser­va­tions were made online directly with the farm­house in 2020, up from 58 per­cent in 2019.

The trend sug­gests that farm­houses with less reli­able inter­net face a com­pet­i­tive dis­ad­van­tage as they rely on the ser­vices of third par­ties and the asso­ci­ated fees and com­mis­sions.

Todays’ farm­houses must be strongly con­nected to their her­itage, ter­ri­tory and tra­di­tions, but also have to wisely approach the future, to con­nect to the rest of the world with broad­band inter­net,” Scaramuzza said.

Farmhouses need to look at what is hap­pen­ing in the mar­ket and how to change and upgrade their offer­ings and sat­isfy their clients bet­ter,” he added. At the same time, they have to learn to nar­rate those tra­di­tions and express their her­itage.”

According to Ismea, 2021 has been the year of recov­ery, with 75 per­cent of farm­houses report­ing the devel­op­ment of new ser­vices. Eighty-four per­cent of farm­house own­ers believe that they will fur­ther imple­ment and diver­sify the ser­vices offered to guests in 2022.

A fur­ther 52 per­cent of agribusi­nesses also believe that prox­im­ity tourism and Italian tourists will remain the major­ity of the guests in 2022. Thirty-eight per­cent believe their pro­duc­tion value will grow this year, while 37 per­cent believe it will remain sta­ble.

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