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Wine leads the way out of tourism slump for Portugal, Greece and Italy

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In this photo taken Sept. 12, 2018, the morning sun shines over rows of vines on the slopes above the Douro river near Ervedosa do Douro, northern Portugal.
In this photo taken Sept. 12, 2018, the morning sun shines over rows of vines on the slopes above the Douro river near Ervedosa do Douro, northern Portugal.   -   Copyright  Armando Franca/AP
By Ricardo Figueira  & Jez Fielder
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As the tourism sector recovers from one of its worst periods, it appears that wine tourism is becoming increasingly popular.

"Many people are travelling to discover wine routes," says Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), as the UN body held its fifth annual global wine tourism conference in Monsaraz, Portugal.

"We are creating new trends and one of them, which we started five years ago, is wine tourism development," Pololikashvili added.

UNWTO
UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili addresses the attendeesUNWTO

Rita Marques, the Portuguese Secretary of State for Tourism, said travel trends have changed since confinement ended. "We seek open spaces these days, spaces that are like this, idyllic like we find here in Monsaraz in our Alentejo. Rural spaces. That trend of demand will continue. These new reasons for demand will continue and wine tourism marries very well with these territories."

The recovery is already being felt in countries also highly dependent on tourism. This is the case with Italy which is hosting the next conference, and with Portugal and Greece.

Massimo Garavaglia, the Italian Minister of Tourism said he's seen growth in his country already. "This year there was a 17% increase in demand for gastronomy and wine tourism. It is a sector on which we focused a lot, but it still lacks a bit of organisation. If we work well on the organisation, both at the digital level and in terms of promotion and integration of touristic offers, we will be able to make the leap."

The UNWTO outlined their aims for nations regarding the promotion of gastronomy:

  • Enhance the value chain of wine tourism
  • Add value and value ‘localhood’
  • Innovate in partnerships
  • Bring the discovery of wine to the territory
UNWTO
A Wines of Portugal presentation at this year's conferenceUNWTO

Sofia Zacharaki, Greece's Deputy Minister for Tourism, told Euronews that wine tourism was contributing hugely to the industry's ability to stand firm.

"Let's talk about numbers. I will give you the exact number of a winery, one of the most prestigious ones, in Santorini. In 2019, they received almost 1.2 million guests. This year they had almost 50% of the guests," she said.

UNWTO
Wine Tasting at 5th UNWTO Global Conference on Wine TourismUNWTO

In terms of policy, the UNWTO highlighted its intention of helping nations build a national wine tourism strategy. Indeed the conference was organised in collaboration with the Great Wine Capitals network, an organisation that brings together the world's main cities and wine-producing regions.

Developed in 1999, the member cities in the network are: Adelaide (South Australia ), Bilbao-Rioja (Spain), Bordeaux (France), Cape Town (South Africa), Lausanne (Switzerland), Mainz | Rheinhessen (Germany), Mendoza (Argentina), Porto (Portugal), San Francisco | Napa Valley (USA) and Valparaìso | Casablanca Valley (Chile), Verona (Italy).

These cities cumulatively receive over 20 million visitors per year, and have an increasing number of wine tourism projects, from hands-on visitor experiences to tailored food-and-wine matching events.