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Did the Financial Crisis Have a Catastrophic Impact on the Wine Tourism Sector in Italy

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Introduction

While much of the focus may be on the United States, the recent financial crisis has impacted countries around the world and Italy appears to be one of the hardest hit in Europe. After decades during which the Italians as well as the international industrial, agriculture and financial sectors raked huge profits without investing anything in innovation and competitive interventions, now companies are claiming the state rescue and support. According to initial estimations made at the OIV (International Organization of Vine and Wine) Italy, the world's second-biggest wine producer after France with an output of about 4.5 billion liters per year, had in 2009 a decrease in domestically demand, price and export which reflects the effects of the world economic crisis. Average price of Italian wine dropped 20 percent last year with ordinary wine prices plunging 25 percent and special denomination quality wines losing 13 percent. In 2009, Italian wine sales to export markets, the United States and Britain, fell 7 and 10 percent respectively hammered by the crisis and advance of rivals from Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, according to UIV estimates based on data from Italy's statistics agency ISTAT (Istituto di Servizi per il Mercato Agricolo Alimentare). Tourism can be an important resource for an economy and Italy is the fourth highest tourist earn and fifth most visited country in the world, behind France (76.0 million), Spain (55.6 million), United States (49.4 million), and China (46.8) with more than 43.7 million tourists a year. People mainly come to Italy for its rich art, cuisine, history, fashion and culture. Tourism is one of Italy's fastest growing and most profitable industrial sectors, with an estimated revenue of $42.7 billion (Osservatorio Nazionale del Turismo 2009)
Finally both the Italian industrial and agriculture economies have been badly affected by the world financial crisis having a negative impact on the Italian market. Tourism is important resources for the country and the objectives of this essay will be to investigate if the financial crisis had a negative impact on the “Wine Tourism”.

Tourism in Italy
Story of Tourism in Italy
People have visited Italy for centuries, since Rome as the capital of the powerful and influential Roma Empire attracted thousands to the city and country from all over the empire, which included most of the Mediterranean, Northern Africa, mainland Great Britain (England). The real "tourism" only began in Italy in the second-half of the 1600s, with the beginning of the Grand Tour. This was a period in which European, notably British, aristocrats travelled parts of Europe, most famously, to study architecture and the culture of those places. Tourism’s importance to Italy’s economy has increased enormously in the last 50 years, and today tourism contributes a larger portion to the economy (http://it.wikipedia.org)

Wine Tourism
While the wine sector has fairly developed in some countries such as Italy, France, Australia, America (California and Chile) and South Africa, in the last decade a market has developed taking wine into consideration such as a resource for characterizing the tourism supply of a destination (Zanni, 2004). Wine, as many other typical products, constitutes an important component of the tourist market and wine tourism represents a particular type of tourism, whose principal feature is given by the wine and the wine-production territories (Gez. D. 2000). In a Resource-Based View approach (Barney, 1991; Conner, 1991; Peteraf, 1993; Grant, 1991), the ability of a destination to attract tourists mostly depends on the stock of factors within natural resources, geographical position, morphological features but, above all, the assets represented by social resources which are the result of the traditions and habits of the local community. Charters and Ali-Knight (2002) continue that the wine tourism experience can be provided in a number of ways, the most notable being events and festivals, cultural heritage, dining, hospitality, education, tasting and cellar door sales, and winery tours. More recently Getz and Brown (2006) argue that wine tourism is simultaneously a form of consumer behaviour, a strategy by which destinations develop and market wine-related attractions and imagery, a marketing opportunity for wineries to educate and sell their products directly to consumers. Competitive positioning of wine tourism regions has become an important strategic issue (Williams, 2001), as the volume of wine tourism has been increasing and numerous regions are now aggressively marketing to attract tourists..

Wine Tourism in Italy
Wine tourism in Italy is certainly a complex phenomenon, because it doesn’t end with the visit to the cellars, to the places of production and with the tasting, nor it is associated only with forms of rural tourism or of agro-tourism, and directly involves a whole territory and its various components (Asero and Patti 2009). A number of authors of the Italian literature (Antonioli Corigliano, 1999; Pastore, 2002; Zanni, 2004) have also emphasized the increasing importance of establishing links between firms and other agents operating within the wine system, and the importance of connections between wine systems and related businesses. CENSIS official data of the year 2007 estimate that the number of wine tourists in Italy is about 4,5 million with a wine industry turnover of 2,5 thousand millions Euros.

Wine Tourist Profile
In the past few decades, wine has become much more than a drink embodying values and meanings going beyond its functional nature. In addition to sensorial pleasure, linked to the organoleptic features of wine, embodied symbolic values and psychological attributes of the products have become the main determinants of consumption (Odello, 2003). The tourist profile outlined by Cinelli Colombini (2003) shows that those who visit Italian wine destinations are not only wine-lovers but are also serious, demanding, intellectual people. They are members of social clubs, have a particular life-style, environmental sensitiveness, and like visiting important vineyards as if they were a site for ‘pilgrimage’. The wine tourist’s profile is that of a consumer-connoisseur-discover, male, aged between 26-45, with a middle-high social and economic level, who travels by car with his family (CENSIS study 2006).
Factors moving the Wine Tourism in Italy

Italian Wine Quality
The importance of wine production in Italy has been growing to such a point that a system of relations between local actors, organizations, clubs, institutions and associations of wine experts and lovers, which promote wine and wineries has been created. These associations that deal with wine and tourism are mainly constituted by the Wine Tourism Movement, the National Association the Women of the Wine, the National Association Cities of the Wine and National Association the Routes to Wine and to Food. The quality of the wine is considered the ‘driver’ for Wine Tourism (Antonioli Corigliano, 2000) and Italian regulations on wine quality standards are much more restrictive than those of the European Union (EU).

Wine Routes
During the last decade in Italy there has been a growing awareness on the importance of valorising and promoting the territory through the creation of thematic itineraries that can be considered as ‘localising tourist packages’ (Valdani and Ancarani, 2000). The new organisational formula of wine tourism in Italy is called the “Wine Route”, which mainly involve areas of quality wine production and offer the tourists the opportunity of knowing other cultural and naturalistic resources characterising the territories visited (Antonioli Corigliano, 2000). The same formula has largely been developed in different countries as documented in many researches including Europe (Hall et al., 2000), South Africa (Bruwer, 2003) as well as Australia (Charters and Ali-Knight, 2002). Today in Italy there are 140 wine roads which are helping to highlight Italian wines and wine regions.
According with “Strade del Vino di Italia” (the Roads of Wine of Italy association), the factors that determine the success of the Wine Routes are:
- The ability to stand out among other subjects differently than offering wine and food tourist products.
- The ability to make the most out of the network. To liaise with the network enables each single member to improve constantly its quality standards with particular regard to the fields of marketing.
- The ability to ease the sharing among different levels of the tourism industries.
- The ability of the members of the network to innovate, anticipating market trends. The network is made up of different elements that, according to market requests, gather to put forward new tourist proposals tailored for different targets: tasting week-ends, cuisine courses, high-quality farm holidays, biological farm holidays, the harvest rite, festivals and events, seasons, “the sea on your table”, itineraries between b&b and pastries, sport and nutrition and so on. (www.selezionedelsindaco.it; www.stradedelvinoditalia.it; www.cittadelvino.it )

Wine Festivals
Also Italy is one of the leader for the Wine Festivals and during the 2009, many wine festivals took placed such as VINITALY in Verona, (April 2-6, 2009), Vitigno Italia in Naples, (May 2009), Sicilia En Primeur (Spring 2009), Oscar del Vino in Rome, (June 2009), Mi Wine, (Milan June 2009), Alla Corte del Vino at the Fattoria Le Corti di San Casciano in Val di Pesa (Tuscany, May 22-24, 2009), Vino Vip Cortina (August 2009), Salone del Vino in Turin, (October 24-27 2009), Merano Wine Festival, Trentino Alto Adige (November 2009), and Fiera del Bue Grasso, (Piedmont, December) (http://www.cellartours.com/). These festivals welcome thousands of international tourists and Italian wine lovers who travels around the country to attend these events.
High numbers of Wineries The importance of wine industry for the local economic development of Italian regions is also confirmed by the growth of wineries in the last nine years. According to the ISMEA (Istituto di Servizi per il Mercato Agricolo Alimentare) data Italian wineries increased from 1,903 to 3,909 units during the period 2000 – 2009. Tuscany and Piedmont regions prevailed, with respectively 749 and 605 wineries, representing the 19.16% and the 15.48% of the total amount. Veneto follows with 467 wineries that represent the 11.95% of the Italian wineries.

Open Cellars
The annual “Open Cellars” events organized by the Wine Tourism Movement (in Italian the acronym is MTV), was done for the first time on May 2008 offering an opportunity to see where and how wine is made and discover the difference of tasting it at its source. Although wine is the chief focus, Open Cellars also offers tourists a chance to sample other farm products, especially olive oil, and feast on an array of regional foods and cuisine (Olsen et al., 2008). The initiative, organized by the Wine Tourism Movement (MTV), originally began in Tuscany but then spread quickly to Italy's other wine-producing regions. A study by the social research group CENSIS found that every 10 euros spent in the vineyard generates 50 euros in earnings for the local economy. According to another CENSIS report, wine and food have become the second most important reason why tourists come to Italy and are considered the treat which gives the greatest satisfaction to visitors.

Limitation
Lack of information: because the economic crisis begun in 2009 and it is still on in many courtiers, no many documents were found on the topic and especially on the impact on the financial crisis on the Italian market.

Conclusion
The recent financial crisis has impacted countries around the world and Italy appears to be one of the hardest hit in Europe. After decades during which the Italian industrial and financial sectors raked huge profits without investing anything in innovation and competitive interventions now companies are claiming the state rescue and support. The Italian wine industry sector is a multibillionaire business but due to the financial crisis the average price of Italian wine dropped 20% as well as the exported in important markets such as United States and Britain. So “Did the financial crisis have a catastrophic impact on the Wine Tourism sector in Italy? No, it did not.! In point of fact, Italy achieved in 2009 a growth of visitors from 5.5 to 6 million and the wine lovers had as a result of increased traffic in the value of 3 billion Euros (+20% in 2008). Differently from the industrial and financial sector, these are results of a synergy of traditional activities such as taking good care of vineyards and wineries, giving hospitality and producing high quality wine and innovations and investments such as increasing the number of wineries, opening traditional wine cellars to the public, having wine festivals and events related to wine around the country, and connecting the wine regions with the “Wine Roads”. Today the “Wine Tourism” is one of the most emerging and profitable business in Italy.

Bibliography
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ASERO, V., and PATTI, S., (2009b). Developing the Tourist Market through the Exploitation of the Typical Products. In: The Annals of “Dunărea de Jos” University of Galati, Fascicle I/2009, Year XV: 5-14.
BRUWER, J., (2003). South African wine routes: some perspectives on the wine tourism industry’s structural dimensions and wine tourism product. Tourism Management, 24: 423-435.
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Wine Industry Comparison: France vs. Italy

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