The Val di Non and Val di Sole Apples and Flavours route: a successful territorial marketing strategy
Numerous traditional agri-food supply chains, strongly linked with the territory, are present in the area. Some of them are well-structured but, very often, appear isolated and not well connected with the classic tourism offer of Trentino Alto-Adige, focused mainly in two seasons: summer for trekking and winter for skiing. "The Val di Non and Val di Sole Apples and Flavours route", founded in 2004, is a mixed public (tourism office) and private (local companies-facilities) initiative created to connect (by a virtual road) the different local producers and promote an alternative tourism offer, involving all actors included in some specific local agri-food supply chains.
Diversify the tourism offer in Trentino Alto-Adige (Italy), a famous destination that attracts thousands of tourists for its mountain trails and hundreds of miles of ski slopes. A diversification of local tourism offer, involving local stakeholders and supported by a specific territorial marketing strategy, can bring benefits to small farmers, restaurants and many other local actors, especially in the marginal area of the region. One of the main goals of the "route" is to assure a constant flux of tourists all year long, offering interesting activities and events in all seasons.
"The Val di Non and Val di Sole Apples and Flavours route" was designed to integrate the offer of agricultural and wild products, food and wine, hotels and restaurants under one all-embracing itinerary. Apples constitute the most famous product of these valleys, but many others, such as aromatic & medicinal plants, cheeses are involved in the activities carried on by the "route". Food and board facilities, farms, companies and all stakeholders should pay a fix annual fee (around 100 euros) to join the route, that will promote their products and services during local events and fair. To date, more than 200 companies are included in the "route", whose activities animated the valley throughout the year.
The success of "The Val di Non and Val di Sole Apples and Flavours route" demonstrates that the synergies between the public sector (tourist promotion agency) and private companies are essential to diversify the classic tourism offer of a region. The branding of a territory should be comprehensive and multidisciplinary, including all its peculiarities, also the gastronomic ones. Utilize the most iconic product (apples in this case) to promote secondary ones, such as aromatic and medicinal plants, mushrooms, wild berries, wild nuts, honey and several others, is a smart and effective promotion strategy.
Impacts and weaknesses
With a low annual fee, organizations/companies (regardless the size), can join a structured network, capable of ensuring visibility and numerous opportunities for partnerships. The activities organized by "The Val di Non and Val di Sole Apples and Flavours route" contribute to animate the area all year long and not only during peak tourism season. Right now, the leading partner of the initiative is represented by an entity, made up by public and private companies. This can be a weakness since specific public political interests can obstacle the correct development of the initiative. Nevertheless, so far the relations between private and public entities have been positive, thanks to the succes of all the initiatives proposed, able to improve business opportunities.
To date, apples constitute the real driver of "The Val di Non and Val di Sole Apples and Flavours route". However, even now, the network includes actors and supply chains from other local products, such as chestnuts and aromatic & medicinal plants, wines, processed meat and many more. In the close future, the initiative will organize more activities and keep animating and promoting the valleys, maintaining and increasing its attractiveness. Some activities are proposed yearly and will be maintained also in the future, such as: "Pomaria", an autumn apples fest, the "Adopt an apple tree" initiative, the thematic tour in the field "Al meleto" and "Aprile dolce fiorire", an event done during the flowering season of apples trees. Furthermore, the "route" maintain synergies and common promotional channels with the other two "routes" present in the province: the wine and the cheese ones.