With about one-third of olive oil sales in Italy going to the restaurant sector, the shift of tourists to the countryside is likely to impact consumption.
Restaurants and farmhouses in Italy are reopening their doors to tourists after the emergency lockdown in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic was partially lifted by the government.
More than 170,000 small and large businesses in the Horeca (hotel, restaurant and café) sector have resumed business throughout the country in the last few weeks.
However, an analysis published by the farmers association, Coldiretti, said lifting these restrictions would not allow the sector to return to normal completely. Bars and restaurants have only been allowed to restart outdoor dining and a nationwide curfew, spanning from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., is still in place.
While the prohibition on indoor dining will have the most significant impact on urban businesses, the loosening of restrictions has created new opportunities for farmhouses in the countryside.See Also: Greek Producers Await Reopening of Restaurants, Tourism
According to the latest projections, more than half of Italians will spend their holidays in domestic food and wine tourism hot spots in 2021, primarily in the countryside.
The yearly report on the sector, authored by Roberta Garibaldi, a member of the board of advisors of the World Food Travel Association, predicts that the average holiday budget for 2021 will be comparable to 2019.
Outdoor activities are expected to play a significant role in the summer holiday season, with 86 percent of tourists focusing on food and wine holidays also showing interest in visiting farmhouses and 59 percent looking for holiday stays in the countryside.
The report also hints at the growing interest in traditional food products, which will also lead many tourists toward “farming holidays,” focused on tasting local food and participating in production activities.See Also: Agritourism is about to get real. There’s still time to prepare.
The shift of tourists from the cities to the countryside and the continued uncertainty of international travel may also positively impact olive oil consumption in Italy.
The Italian Association of the Oil Industry (Assitol) estimates that about one-third of all olive oil sales in the country were to restaurants before the pandemic.
The reopening of many businesses is likely to relaunch sales to the Horeca sector, which suffered extensive economic damage during the repeated emergency lockdowns.
The fast pace of the vaccination campaign in Italy, combined with the government’s plans to re-open for national and international tourism and the potential implementation of a European-wide “vaccination passport,” is stimulating a return to live events.
Last year, pandemic containment measures led to the cancellation of the traditionally rich spring calendar of wine and olive oil-related festivals and events throughout the country.
Many towns, where the local economy depends upon olive production, are promoting a new initiative called Merenda nell’Oliveta, which translates to “a snack among the olive trees.”
Their association, Città dell’Olio, or City of Olive Oil, which represents olive-producing municipalities nationwide, announced that more than 40 towns are actively promoting Merenda-related initiatives.
“But we have room for more,” Michele Sonnessa, president of the association, told Olive Oil Times. “Subscriptions are still open, and, judging from the growing interest for this event, we believe that Merenda will be announced in more than 70 or even 80 cities throughout the country.”
“While the initiative is thought of as a way to rediscover social events and live community walks in the beautiful countryside of our olive-producing districts, every local authority is in charge of its own version of the event,” he added.
Running from May 21 to June 27, Merenda will host tasting courses, educational workshops, meetings with olive growers, agronomists, olive mills and historians in at least 13 regions. Activities will involve reading olive oil-themed poems, dance performances, live music and theater events.
“This is our first Merenda, but it comes on the heels of our established initiatives traditionally held in October when thousands of tourists walk through the Italian olive groves to see and participate in the harvest and keep in touch with a centuries-old culture,” Sonnessa said.
Other outdoor initiatives connected to local food and traditions are popping up in several regions as well.
Near Lake Garda, special events have been announced for the upcoming weeks to meet the producers and taste extra virgin olive oil with the local Protected Designation of Origin certification and the many other local specialties.
In Tuscany, Umbria and Puglia, associations and farmhouses are also relaunching traditional events and announcing newly formed ones.
While a 2020 law that favors the development of olive oil-related tourism is fueling optimism among local organizations and agri-businesses, the pandemic continues to hinder re-openings.
Among the events still being sidelined by the pandemic is Puglia’s Enoliexpo, which has already been delayed for several months. Organizers have now confirmed that the 2021 edition will not occur because of the uncertainty of whether national and international stakeholders will be able to travel for the event.
Confirming the government strategy, Prime Minister Mario Draghi told the parliament that his cabinet “is aiming to re-opening the whole of Italy to tourism, both national and international… as soon as possible.”
Draghi has also confirmed that €114 million will be used to create a “digital hub” dedicated to tourism and to assist in holiday planning from abroad.