By the time the 50th edition of Vinitaly concluded last week, it had taken the title of the world’s most visited wine fair. Over four days, 130,000 wine professionals from 140 countries flocked to Verona in Italy, increasing attendance by 23% over 2015. And this was despite a new ticketing system, specifically aimed at curtailing the number of non-trade visitors.
"This edition provided interesting signals from abroad, as well as from the domestic market," said Giovanni Mantovani, CEO and Director General of Veronafiere, the company behind Vinitaly.
A combination of Vinitaly’s push into the Asian markets, along with the increasing popularity of Italian wine in key markets, has helped the trade show grow. Mantovani’s figures showed that attendance from key markets was up significantly, with an increase of 25% from the USA, 130% from China, and 21% from Japan. Even more mature markets such as Germany increased their participation, being up by 11%.
One of the most notable organisational changes was the implementation of a new ticketing system. In the past, producers were able to buy unlimited tickets at €17.00 each, to distribute as they liked. While many tickets went to trade colleagues, a number always ended up being distributed to friends and other on-professionals, some of whom treated the trade fair as a source of free drinks.
This year, the price of pre-purchased tickets went up to €30.00 each, while tickets bought at the fair itself went up to €80.00, specifically to prevent an influx of consumers. But to keep everybody happy, consumers were catered for in a different way.
“We worked very hard this year to expand our off-site consumer event, ‘Vinitaly and the City’, to move wine lovers out of the expo halls and into the center of Verona,” said Stevie Kim, managing director of Vinitaly. “We created a full calendar of events including food and wine tasting, live concerts, DJ’s, and historic walking tours.” She said the idea was to have something for everyone available at the low ticket price of €12.00, while the entrance price to the fair itself rose from €55.00 to €80.00, to discourage those merely seeking a good time. “Vinitaly International has also begun offering pre-registered members of foreign trade free entrance, because international sales are crucial to the future of Italian wine, but the applications were rigorously checked,” said Kim.
The response to the new system was generally positive. “This year the fair imposed a stricter ticketing where all trade and all those receiving tickets had to register on the Vinitaly database,” explained Sandro Boscaini CEO and owner of Masi Agricola. “We were pleased to see an increase in trade and fewer non-trade around the pavilions.”
“It was a great Vinitaly,” said Lamberto Frescobaldi, president of Marchesi de’Frescobaldi winery, remarking that his company had seen a notable increase of foreign trade. “However, I think it is also important to have some consumers attend Vinitaly. It adds to the festive sense of the event and it’s important to touch base with consumers,” he added.
“There were a few changes that helped to make things run a little more smoothly for the exhibitors,” said Ian Downey, senior vice president and general manager of the USA’s Leonardo LoCasio Selections, which exhibited at Vinitaly. “I anticipate a continued effort to improve the organization of Vinitaly, as other fairs such as ProWein, grow and attract participants. As an example, transportation and fair access continues to be a challenge for Vinitaly, as participants experienced longer lines and heavier congestion getting in and out of the event.”
Outside the fair, some 29,000 wine lovers and members of the trade were attracted to Verona, one of Italy’s most historic cities. Producers based in the surrounding hills also benefited from the increase in visitors. “Vinitaly provides us with a great stage in which we can educate and inform the trade on our point of difference that Prosecco DOCG offers with its single vineyards and hilly areas of production,” said Giancarlo Vettorello, director of Prosecco DOCG consortium. “This greater interest and knowledge, and the number of visitors visiting our wineries after the show, is an important result for us.”