Does Covid scare wine travelers? Evidence from France and Italy

Giulia Gastaldello, Dept. Land, Environment, Agriculture, and Forestry (Tesaf), University of Padova

Florine Livat, Kedge Business School, Center of Excellence Food, Wine and Hospitality, France

Luca Rossetto, Dept. Land, Environment, Agriculture, and Forestry (Tesaf), University of Padova

As past studies highlighted, tourism is vulnerable to shocks. Natural disasters like tsunamis, earthquakes and floods have an inevitable impact on tourism flow. In addition, the industryis affected by terrorism like 9/11 in the U.S., or the increased frequency of terrorist attacks in France from 2010 to 2017, and by war. A global economic crisis as the Covid-19 pandemic can also impact on tourism. The latter has indeed highlighted the susceptibility of tourism to measures implemented to counteract the circulation of the virus, mainly restricted mobility and social distancing. Being wine tourism a tourism branch, the present article aims at offering a first comprehensive analysis how the pandemic influences wine tourism intentions in a post-crisis context. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), international arrivals in Europe dropped by 68% between January and August 2020 compared to 2019, leading to the worst negative peak since the 1950s. In the past, research has shown that international tourism has been damaged by other health emergencies such as the Avian flu, with more significant damage on local (i.e. Asian) tourism.

Kuoet al.also showed that the local number of cases has affected international tourists’ arrival in SARS -affected countries but not in Avian flu-affected countries. A similar result was obtained by McAleer et al.. Tourism in developing economies is subject to the epidemic crisis because of induced effects due to their geographical or physical proximity to the outbreak’s source (e.g.,14 in the case of Ebola). Nevertheless, different tourist populations can react differently to epidemics. For instance, pregnant women or travellers of reproductive age travelled significantly less to Zika-affected regions after the Zika-birth defects association became well known. Lastly, eradicating infectious disease risk associated with Malaria, Dengue, Yellow Fever, and Ebola could increase international tourism demand and increase tourism expenditure. Due to its strong vulnerability, the tourism industry has become more flexible and increasingly resilient to crises. Some shocks are transitory, even if returning to pre-disaster levels can take years. The speed of recovery depends on the extent of the damage caused by the disaster, on the ability of tourism stakeholders to rebuild facilities and infrastructures, and on effective communication stating clearly that the destination is safe.

This is the case of Malaysia (a developing country and second destination in Asia), subjected to the Asian financial crisis, the outbreak of Avian flu and SARS, Asian tsunami, and threat of terrorism. In Taiwan, visitors’ arrivals had not fully recovered 11 months after an earthquake. Cultural differences play a role in the recovery of disaster-hit destinations. In the path toward recovery, the destination’s attribute can also change and attract some dark tourism. Shocks can also lead tourists to substitute destinations. However, with the Covid-19 crisis, the tourism industry faces a pandemic, i.e.,a global crisis in which substituting destinations is not feasible because of mobility restrictions.Lastly, tourism can respond to shocks and become an engine for economic recovery. Wine tourism can be seen as local tourism substituting non-local (i.e.,international) tourism. This local tourism can be favoured in a context of restricted mobility and fear of contagion due to the lack of immunization coverage, or fear of travelling abroad due to a lack of knowledge. Moreover, with an economic downturn, tourists might privilege short breaks instead of more extended stays. Proximity has been identified as a critical factor for the success of wine tourism. Wine tourism has also been acknowledged as a substitute for urban tourism, as it is perceived as safer in the case of a terrorist threat. Moreover, as tourism stakeholders make a claim formore sustainable practices and for the need to question the volume growth of the international tourism industry in a climate change context, wine tourism could be a possible answer. Following the pandemic, clusters of wineries relying mostly on foreign tourism like those identified in Conegliano Valdobbiadene area can strongly benefit of these behaviours. In this respect, it is worth understanding post-lockdown domestic wine tourism intentions.

To the best of our knowledge, though, the impact ofthe Covid-19 pandemic on wine tourism has not yet been analysed. Therefore, the present work aims at exploring how the Covid-19 pandemic impacted wine tourism intentions both after the lockdown (ALWTINT) and in the long-run (LRWTINT), starting from the main antecedents identified by the sector’s literature such as involvement with wine (WI) while considering new negative and positive contingency factors, such as the effect of fear and anxiety towards the virus –further referred to as Covid Phobia (CPH) –,solidarity towards national winemakers (SUPLOCW) and acquired interest in wine during the lockdown (AQWINT), reflecting situational involvement. Changes in wine tourism travel patterns following the pandemic are also explored. Notably, we focus two major wine tourism players, Italy and France, hosting the highest number of wine tourists in Europe(14 and 10 million a year, respectively). Indeed, although the 2020–2021 overnight stays trend is positive (+19% and +7% in 9 months for Italy and France, respectively), 2021 records are still remarkably lower than in 2019 (-44% in the first 9 months of 2021 for both Italy and France).

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The University of Florence is an important and influential centre for research and higher training in Italy

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