INTERVIEW WITH DONATELLA CINELLI COLOMBINI,
PIONEER OF THE ITALIAN WINE TOURISM, WHO REVEALS
HER FEARS AND POSSIBLE STRATEGIES FOR RECOVERY
By Mariella Dubbini
In 1993, you conceived “Open Cellars” and founded the “Wine Tourism Movement”, foreseeing the great potential of food and wine tourism. Today, how do you think the sad economic crisis caused by the effects of Covid-19 can be overcome and which strategies can be implemented for the recovery of tourism and consumption?
The future is worrying, especially as regards Tuscany which is characterized by international tourism. The first critical issue to solve is to ensure safety for workers. In my company nobody got sick. In the province of Siena, at the end of April, a maximum of seven positive cases per day were found. If I had to open the doors to tourism, how could I guarantee the safety of my employees and collaborators? As an employer, I have a duty to protect their health first. If the contagion from Covid-19, as intended by the Cura Italia decree, is considered as an accident while working, how can I take the risk and expose myself to possible proceedings and criminal prosecutions? We have activated the anti-contagion security protocol, but respecting all measures may not be enough. I therefore find it conflictual to conciliate the attention to the health of my employees with the acceptance of the tourist and I ask for clear and prompt information, since tourism is organized months in advance. In any case, even if I do decide to accept the risk, I would have to bear the burden of the higher management costs due to the application of the rules, while the income would be halved. Many tourism and catering businesses will not reopen, to limit risks and losses. After the health issue, this is the second major problem. To cast out the specter of poverty, job loss and being forced not to reopen, families will need a great deal of income support, while companies will need incentives to support employment.
The European Commission has announced the launch of exceptional measures to support the wine sector, in particular for countries which are particularly affected by the Covid-19 emergency. Do you think these measures will save producers from the crisis?
Among the public interventions to support producers, there are the Crisis Distillation, the Green Harvest, and the adjustment of the reporting of unused funds due to the pandemic. There is a great deal of political confrontation over these proposals. Some regions are demanding that funds should be diverted to distillation. This drastic resolution, which benefits large companies, leaving little or nothing to help smaller winemakers, is in my opinion wrong since it would convert a combination of circumstances and events into a structural problem. Unused funds should be invested to support wine marketing: we are talking here of saving the most important product of our agri-food export.