Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Wine and Tourism Give Italy a Boost of Optimism

It is well known that the current economic situation in Italy is anything but favorable. With an unstable political scenario, a growing recession and widespread public malcontent, these days when you open a local newspaper there is almost never any good news to be found. Italians are bombarded by the term “crisi” (literally, crisis) which is used to refer not only to the very difficult economic situation, but also to the deeper social and political turmoil that is plaguing the nation. To recover will require making some fundamental structural changes on all levels. Yet it is important to recognize that the population also needs to have hope – and determination  - to weather the storm and come out stronger. Right now there is a very high level of generalized pessimism regarding the future and this is one of the issues that needs to be addressed.

Castello di Monsanto
By trying to focus on those things that do work in this country, we can perhaps learn something. Despite the dismal local market, certain sectors have managed not only to hold their own but even to grow during the past couple of years. Wine producers are among the leaders in this fortunate community: the famous Antinori estate ranks among the top earning companies overall in Italy. Thanks to foreign investments and exports, the sales of Italian (and especially Tuscan) wine has increased. However, at the core of this success is the focus on excellence which has proven to be a winning strategy, not only for the big names, but even for smaller producers who have dedicated their efforts to creating a high-quality product.

The recent figures for tourism, although not what they could be – especially due to the decrease in domestic travel - are still not as bad as in other sectors, and in some areas they have been outright positive. Tuscany has become the nation’s leader, thanks to a growing effort to promote quality tourism accessible to all. The attitude of the locals has been changing and improving, as they strive to welcome visitors with a more genuine sense of hospitality and respect. This can be seen by the effort of both  public administrators and tourism operators to improve their services - and the positive results are evident. Sitting back and taking things for granted will get us nowhere. 

When I post all the lovely photos on my Facebook page, or promote Tuscany’s beautiful territory, I do so not only because of my business, but because I truly believe in this wonderful place. In fact, the business idea was actually born from my love of Tuscany. But I am not living outside reality. As an expat I have had (and continue to have) my share of frustrating moments and can easily see the shortcomings in many of Italy’s bureaucratic and public services. Yet, there are so many extraordinary things here that are worth sharing with others - and reminding the locals about. It is precisely the good things that need to become our compass during these difficult times. We must draw energy and inspiration from our surroundings and seek to capitalize on the potential that is there. Hopefully if everyone can tap into these resources, even if it is for a morale boost, there will come a day when the word “crisi” goes out of style.