What does it take to bring more high-end travelers to your destination? Offer them more high-end experiences. That's the aim of two new projects stemming out of Italy's luxury goods industry.
Given Italy’s reputation as a style trendsetter, it’s instructive to look at how the country’s major fashion houses and luxury purveyors are starting to develop exclusive travel experiences to promote la dolce vita.
The aim of two of the most buzzworthy projects is to connect high-end travelers to the heart of the Italian lifestyle, and with excellence in craftsmanship, creativity and design.
The family behind Salvatore Ferragamo S.p.A. has been in the tourism business for many years, as the owner of the Lungarno Hotel Collection. But recently, the Ferragamo name has popped into the travel spotlight anew, with the introduction of Tuscany Again, a non-profit concern offering a curated selection of luxury travel experiences.
“In our family, we cherish and respect the heritage of our region, Tuscany. We have invested in the preservation of its beauty and uniqueness, [in part] through our projects in the tourism industry,” said Leonardo Ferragamo.
He said Tuscany Again was specifically “established as a non-profit organization with the goal of giving back to the region, and to help Tuscany promote and preserve areas, historic sites, artistic traditions, food and wine experiences, and the beauty of its nature.”
Fondazione CR Firenze sponsors the non-profit. The foundation designs and contributes to projects that foster culture and art, and conserve and enhance the cultural, landscape, environmental and agricultural heritage of Tuscany.
According to Ferragamo, each experience is built around an aspect of quintessential Tuscany, such as craftsmanship, art and architecture, nature and wildlife, and food and wine. Specialists — including chefs and chocolatiers, jewelers and perfumers, and art historians and botanists — lead the tours and contribute their expert insight.
“Our mission,” said Ferragamo, “is to offer a world of opportunities for travelers to discover or rediscover the region in a tailor-designed style with local experts, masters in their field, who will ensure they will experience the real and authentic and lesser-known Tuscany.”
Many of the experiences allow guests to work with master makers to create their own keepsake, whether that be a piece of jewelry, a bottle of perfume or a bar of chocolate. The hands-on aspect “is a sign of the distinctiveness of the Tuscany Again project,” said Ferragamo.
“To gain a deep understanding of the values of Tuscany, of the dedication of its master craftsmen and of the tension between tradition and innovation, we invite our guests to take an active part and become a real participant, get involved in a day in the life of an oenologist, a master jeweler, a chef, a gold leaf framer and an artisanal wood carver to discover the soul of Tuscany and its know-how.”
In getting travelers to explore beyond the beaten track, Ferragamo is also looking, in part, to combat overtourism. One of the program’s pillars is reducing seasonality and promoting sustainable tourism.
“Our goal is to create an ecosystem of the highest quality, to fight mass tourism and create meaningful journeys of discovery,” he said.
“Tuscany Again promotes the idea that many activities are best enjoyed away from the high season. [For example,] October and November are fantastic months to come to Tuscany and discover the harvesting and making of extra virgin olive oil, or go foraging in search of the precious white truffle.”
Salvatore Ferragamo S.p.A. is just one of the scores of members of The Altagamma Foundation, an Italian association made up of luxury goods brands in the areas of fashion, food, jewelry, hospitality, automotive, yachting and wellness. Its mission, according to its website, “is to increase the competitiveness of the high-end industry, contributing to Italy’s economic growth. As an ambassador to the world of the Italian lifestyle, Altagamma is a creative and cultural ecosystem and one of the most important accelerators of Made in Italy.”
In 2017, the foundation started offering Altagamma Italian Experiences (AIE), designed to attract more luxury travelers to Italy and to familiarize them with Made in Italy brands. The experiences provide exclusive behind-the-scenes access to ateliers, design houses and vineyards. Guests can also check out company headquarters and production areas, and meet with executives and entrepreneurs to learn about products and process.
“Altagamma Italian Experiences bring to life and give value to the renowned quality and reputation of our brands, but also represent an extraordinary opportunity to promote the entire country,” said Paolo Zegna, vice president of Altagamma and project leader of the AIE program.
“They are an answer to the International tourists’ growing interest for heritage and craftsmanship: two distinctive elements of the Italian most loved brands.”
Zegna said during the 18 months the tours have been available, 25 high-end brands had developed experiences, but so far, only 200 visitors have taken part. A source at a travel agency previously involved with AIE said the project was not as successful as they had hoped, but Zegna is satisfied with the numbers to date.
“This is not a project of volumes, but of quality,” said Zegna.
“[Therefore, 200] is a significant number, in line with the objectives, if we consider that each experience is often tailored with the specific requests of very demanding travelers.”
That inside insight is the key to success. “Our goal is to offer to the most sophisticated international travelers a deeper understanding of our companies,” said Zegna, “and, while so doing, let them appreciate some of the values that define Italy.”
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Photo credit: Foraging for Tuscany’s botanical delicacies. Tuscany Again launched in 2018. Tuscany Again