Italy Sees Significant Growth in Culinary Tourism

The 2023 Wine and Food Tourism Report showed a 37 percent increase in food-related travel experiences.

Watching how food is produced increases the price customers are willing to pay. (Photo: Roberta Garibaldi)
By Paolo DeAndreis
Jun. 22, 2023 14:22 UTC
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Watching how food is produced increases the price customers are willing to pay. (Photo: Roberta Garibaldi)

Fifty-eight per­cent of Italian tourists in 2023 are choos­ing hol­i­day des­ti­na­tions linked with food expe­ri­ences, a 37 per­cent increase from 2016, a new report has found.

The trend ben­e­fits olive millers and farm­houses, offer­ing tourists olive oil-related expe­ri­ences.

This trend gen­er­ates vir­tu­ous economies, which rep­re­sents the best oppor­tu­nity for the small farm­ers to see the value of their prod­ucts finally rec­og­nized through direct sale.- Mauro Rosati, gen­eral directo, Qualivita Foundation

According to the 2023 Wine and Food Tourism Report, 9.6 mil­lion Italian tourists who plan at least one of their trips to a food-related des­ti­na­tion said these tourism oppor­tu­ni­ties are among their top pri­or­i­ties.

Approximately seven out of 10 Italian tourists trav­el­ing domes­ti­cally this year con­sider food expe­ri­ences part of their vaca­tions, a 25 per­cent increase com­pared to 2021.

See Also:A New Project to Promote Olive Oil Roads in Puglia

Olive oil plays a sig­nif­i­cant role in tourists’ inter­ests, with 64 per­cent plan­ning an olive oil-related expe­ri­ence.

According to the data of more than 320,000 tourists, one in three plans to spend more than in 2022 on food and wine tourism.

The report, sup­ported by numer­ous insti­tu­tions in Italy and abroad, is built on the con­tri­bu­tion of sev­eral food and tourism experts.

In the last 10 years, food and wine tourism became increas­ingly rel­e­vant,” Roberta Garibaldi, author of the report and pres­i­dent of the Italian Wine and Food Tourism Association, wrote in the intro­duc­tion. New meth­ods, places, forms have con­quered the mar­ket and sprung new expe­ri­ences.”

Culinary tourism

Culinary tourism refers to the explo­ration and expe­ri­ence of dif­fer­ent food and bev­er­age offer­ings in a par­tic­u­lar region or coun­try. It involves trav­el­ers seek­ing out local cuisines, tra­di­tional dishes, culi­nary tra­di­tions, food fes­ti­vals, local mar­kets, cook­ing classes, and din­ing at renowned restau­rants to immerse them­selves in the gas­tro­nomic cul­ture of a des­ti­na­tion. Culinary tourism allows trav­el­ers to dis­cover the unique fla­vors, ingre­di­ents, and culi­nary her­itage of a place, mak­ing it a sig­nif­i­cant aspect of cul­tural explo­ration and travel expe­ri­ences.

The involve­ment of the senses became rel­e­vant and a means to enjoy the cul­tural her­itage of the dif­fer­ent loca­tions actively, let­ting tourists immerse in the life and the tra­di­tions of the local com­mu­ni­ties,” she added.

Walks in nature and through olive groves and vine­yards, olive oil and wine tast­ings asso­ci­ated with events com­bin­ing nature, music and art are some of the most sought-after activ­i­ties.

The wine and food touris­tic growth inter­twined with qual­ity local food pro­duc­tion might boost the growth of the smaller agri-food dis­tricts,” Mauro Rosati, gen­eral direc­tor of the Qualivita Foundation and con­trib­u­tor to the report, told Olive Oil Times.

This trend gen­er­ates vir­tu­ous economies, which rep­re­sents the best oppor­tu­nity for the small farm­ers to see the value of their prod­ucts finally rec­og­nized through direct sale,” he added. And that hap­pens because going to the region, tourists can under­stand much bet­ter why a wine might cost €20 or an olive oil €40.”

Due to a European Union reform, the con­sor­tia pre­sid­ing over pro­tect­ing local cer­ti­fied agri-food pro­duc­tions, such as the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), are rec­og­nized for their grow­ing role in wine and food tourism.

business-europe-italy-sees-significant-growth-in-culinary-tourism-olive-oil-times

Nearly two out of three tourists to Italy say they are planning an olive oil-related experience.

For small pro­duc­ers, adher­ing to the con­sor­tia might be com­plex and even expen­sive, but in the new sce­nario, it might lend a unique oppor­tu­nity to stay in the mar­ket,” Rosati said.

Consortia cer­tify qual­ity,” he added. Recognizing a cer­ti­fied sta­tus to their pro­duc­tion might give small pro­duc­ers a chance to sur­vive in a com­plex mar­ket.”

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Locally, con­sor­tia pro­mote spe­cific cer­ti­fied prod­ucts of the region, engag­ing tourist fluxes and cre­at­ing new direct sales oppor­tu­ni­ties for small pro­duc­ers,” Rosati con­tin­ued.

According to the report, 63 per­cent of food tourists said they are specif­i­cally look­ing for des­ti­na­tions that allow for direct expe­ri­ences at farms and winer­ies.

A grow­ing num­ber of tourists also seek worka­tion’ oppor­tu­ni­ties, which allow them to work remotely while trav­el­ing and explor­ing rural areas.

Foraging and sur­vival courses are also becom­ing pop­u­lar and are often sup­ple­mented by con­sum­ing inno­v­a­tive food options in olive mills, wine cel­lars and beer brew­eries.

Food cul­ture is essen­tial for most tourists. Seventy-six per­cent want to know more about their des­ti­na­tion’s wine and food cul­ture, and 61 per­cent ask for anec­dotes and the his­tory of the farm or pro­ducer they are vis­it­ing.

According to the report, farm­houses, restau­rants and oper­a­tors in rural areas might ben­e­fit from offer­ing health-related food and well­ness expe­ri­ences, with 71 per­cent of the tourists inter­ested in healthy food and the Mediterranean diet.

In recent years, the oppor­tu­ni­ties trig­gered by the new vaca­tion trends gen­er­ated many dif­fer­ent offer­ings from local pro­duc­ers. As a result, the report under­lines how these tourism ten­den­cies must fol­low sus­tain­able gov­er­nance.

Today, we need to evolve the orga­ni­za­tion of the tourism fluxes so that tourism sus­tain­abil­ity ensues,” Rosati said. We can­not send loads of tourists to local qual­ity pro­duc­ers just like we would to a shop­ping mall. Quality and prod­ucts require time to be under­stood and per­ceived; activ­i­ties must be sus­tain­able.”

According to Rosati, tourism oper­a­tors look­ing to take advan­tage of new oppor­tu­ni­ties must meet spe­cific cri­te­ria. The land must be respected,” he said. Activities must be well-thought. Everything starts from the pro­tec­tion of the cer­ti­fied regional pro­duc­tions.”

To avoid impro­vi­sa­tion and dam­age to the rep­u­ta­tion of locally cer­ti­fied prod­ucts, we need qual­ity in the touris­tic activ­i­ties,” Rosati added.

According to Rosati, the adop­tion of qual­ity prod­ucts, ded­i­cated tourism courses for pro­duc­ers, and safe­guard­ing of the land should con­sti­tute the basis of the new food-related tourism in the coun­try.

We need to avoid what hap­pened in some Italian cities, reached by masses of tourists who come in such large num­bers that at times sus­tain­abil­ity and qual­ity can­not be granted,” Rosati said.

Sustainability must be the foun­da­tion of the expe­ri­ence,” he added. For exam­ple, if we want to reach the younger gen­er­a­tions, sus­tain­abil­ity becomes cru­cial, as it is part of their inter­est and way of liv­ing.”

Today, many, even more in larger oper­a­tions, seem to embrace sus­tain­abil­ity only as a means for mar­ket­ing their activ­i­ties, though,” he con­tin­ued. We need to make a step for­ward, a leap to make sus­tain­abil­ity the basics of the activ­ity.”

Rosati empha­sized that social and envi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity are, after all, the basis of the PDOs and other geo­graph­i­cal cer­ti­fi­ca­tions.

According to the report, other areas where improve­ments should be made to meet the grow­ing demand include an improved bureau­cracy for local pro­duc­ers, bet­ter ways to inform the tourists, eas­ier tools for book­ing touris­tic oppor­tu­ni­ties, and help smaller farms adopt dig­i­tal tools.

Opportunities lie ahead for often neglected loca­tions in the coun­try. Responsible, con­scious and sus­tain­able tourism might give life to a region, espe­cially when it is based on wine and food… it is a vehi­cle of iden­tity, a uni­ver­sal lan­guage for con­nec­tions, a form of hos­pi­tal­ity,” Sara Roversi from the Future Food Institute wrote in a ded­i­cated essay in the report.

For the regen­er­a­tion process orig­i­nat­ing from the food and wine her­itage to be fea­si­ble and replic­a­ble, a con­crete invest­ment action (not only eco­nomic, but also sym­bolic) is needed in the mar­ginal areas,” she added.


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