Potential of Olive Oil Tourism in Promoting Local Quality Food Products


This work aims to highlight tourism based on gastronomy, heritage and olive oil-related activities. These activities enhance the knowledge about the product itself and its links with culture and local traditions. Olive oil tourism is based on a typical gastronomic product of internationally recognised quality. This type of tourism boosts sustainable destinations capable of introducing and promoting the consumption of local products. In addition, it favours the implementation of different activities in rural settings, such as routes through the olive groves, gastronomic markets, educational initiatives, historical events, etc. This study analyses the development of olive oil tourism in the district of La Serena in Extremadura (Spain). The study involved 208 tourists that were asked about their experience on oil tourism during their trip. The results emphasize the great potential of development that olive oil tourism can achieve in rural settings as sustainable destinations. From the results obtained, managers of rural settings with a great olive oil tradition can base their tourism strategies on the gastronomic and cultural context of this local product.

1. Introduction

In general, the indigenous and quality agricultural foods that are produced in a territory provide remarkable economic potential for this activity. Thus, the consumption of certified quality local foods can be an important component for the economic development of the territory where they are produced (Frisvoll et al., 2016), since they are sometimes capable of combining healthy, natural, local and traditional values (Perito et al., 2009), linked to areas with great gastronomic heritage (Veeck et al., 2016).

On the other hand, it is known that industrial food has environmental, social and economic problems associated with its production. New patterns of consumption focused on local artisanal foods made by small local producers, could help the sustainability of a territory. Therefore, indigenous food can be an element to differentiate and positively value a place (lonso and Krajsic, 201).

Olive oil tourism, also known as “oleotourism”, offers activities based on the olive groves, their history, the olive and the olive oil. In this way, olive oil has generated a new offer in tourism where visitors can enjoy the landscapes of the olive groves and taste different varieties of olive oil. Spain has become the world's leading producer of both olive oil in general, and extra-virgin olive oil. It is currently recognized, both for the extension of its crops and for the high quality of the product (Torres-Ruiz et al., 2018). The region of Extremadura, located in the southwest of Spain, accommodates, in its two provinces, 135 mills producing olive oil (85 in the province of Badajoz and 50 in the province of Cáceres). These facts suggest the importance of “oleotourism” for a territory traditionally recognized as a destination with large natural spaces and quality local cuisine. This differentiated tourism requires identifying and knowing the travellers who practice it, in order to determine strategies for the territory that favour the sustainable development and economic progress of the local community (Millán-Vazquez de la Torre et al., 2017).

The present study analyses the potential of tourism based on olive oil, and how it can contribute to the sustainable development of the territory where it is produced. This type of tourism has become an emerging model, an alternative to traditional tourism, since “oleotourism” provides the traveller with a more active and participative role around a high-quality gastronomic product. Tourism based on food, heritage and activities revolving around olive oil help to improve the knowledge of the product itself and to strengthen its links with culture, local traditions and sustainability (Robinson and Getz, 2016).

The main objective of this work is to identify the areas of development of “oleotourism” as a sustainable alternative of the territory, based on the profile of these tourists. To this end, the study evaluates the possibilities of tourism through the analysis of data derived from a survey of olive oil producers in the Extremadura region. The present study, therefore, focused the secondary objectives on analysing this type of tourism, the different variables that integrate it and the agents involved in its development.

2. Theory

2.1 Local Food, Tourism and Identity of the Territory

The local economy can be benefited through the development and commercialization of quality local foods that are produced in it. The territory can grow economically, the industry can create jobs, reinvest profits and contribute to the payment of local taxes for the community. Both the agricultural sector and tourism can create an identity for the destination based on culture and history in the place where a unique recognized food is produced (Henderson, 2009).

The features of the identity of a place are shaped by a set of beliefs, values and images that the tourist specially and unequivocally associates to a place (Dredge and Jenkins, 2003). This identity can be based on unique values such as its environment, its natural, historical and cultural heritage, or its gastronomy (ntunes, 200).

Traditional agriculture can preserve the specific way of life of different geographical areas, centred on the rural world, on gastronomy, cultural roots and traditions (Mitchell and Hall, 2006). As such, local markets give farmers the opportunity to diversify and promote their food to a wider public through tourism. For example, farmers' markets with local products are increasingly becoming a focus of attraction not only for the traditional local consumer, but also for tourists eager to known these types of products (Hall and Gössling, 2013). Agrotourism is related to the promotion of quality, respect for the local heritage and environment, and local character, although their practices may vary from territory to territory (Santa Cruz et al., 2019).

This trend is explained by the growing value of local products of recognized quality, such as organic foods like extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), since they have become a genre that fulfils other factors beyond their function to satisfy the basic need for food. They can be an experience and an opportunity for education and entertainment (Perito et al., 2009).

Consequently, the identity and territorial links of the product with the territory, provide a greater understanding of the contribution to the sustainability of a territory through gastronomy and tourism (Everett and Aitchison, 2008).

To promote the sustainability and identity of a territory combined with tourism development, it is convenient to analyse tourism offer and demand, and its impact. Thus, in the case of “oleotourism”, the olive groves provide a great landscape and environmental culture, where tourist activities can contribute both to promote its conservation and to promote regional economic development through the purchase of products.

In addition, food has a social dimension that arises when its consumption is shared or the preparation of a dish is done. This new context promotes the idea that quality local foods are part of the tourism and leisure sectors (Kivela and Crotts, 2006). In this context, the predominance of traditional cuisine in rural areas is an opportunity for development, since food can be offered to tourists to meet their culinary, cultural, historical and leisure needs during their trip (Hillel et al., 2013). This approach makes quality local foods become tourist resources in themselves, contributing to the development of tourism and the promotion and commercialization of it (rmesto and Martin, 200).

Tourist destinations with quality regional foods increasingly focus their promotion and economic development on the enhancement of their local gastronomy as an identity (Gálvez et al., 2017). Thus, for tourism to contribute to the sustainability of a destination, not only will it consist in the purchase and tasting of its local foods, it will also require that local producers to use specific smaller scale techniques or ones with less environmental impact than large industries. In this context, a change of mentality is possible where sustainability can become a successful strategy for the tourism sector (Santa Cruz et al., 2019).

As a result, this type of gastronomic tourism can consolidate the regional productive culture, while improving the economic development, identity and sustainability of the territory, since it is usually small producers that protect the environment and the local economy (Everett and Aitchison, 2008).

2.2 Experiences and Olive Oil Tourism

A tourist destination is more than a mixture of natural, cultural and artistic resources. It becomes clear that there is an ever increasing need to guarantee the experience that the tourist is looking for when visiting the destination (Cracolici and Nijkamp, 2008). In the case of “oleotourism”, tourist products based on experiences on olive oil are offered. Its enjoyment revolves around the world of sensations that the visitor perceives through their senses and emotions (Torres-Ruiz et al., 2018).

Thus, olive oil tourism is based on the set of activities created around olive oil. These activities may include visits to olive groves, historic and current mills (sometimes coinciding with the harvest of olives), routes (similar to those that have already been developed in the world of wine) and landscapes, oil tasting or tasting typical local dishes, in which olive oil is the star ingredient. So, “oleotourism” can include multiple cultural activities related to nature, local heritage, the environment and the culture of the territory (Millán-Vazquez de la Torre et al., 2017).

Olive oil routes are one of the most important products of olive oil tourism. These routes are defined as an itinerary that allows farmers, small producers and hoteliers to explain the production process of olive oil and its presence in regional cuisine. This cuisine offers traditional dishes based on the local primary produce of the area, which is considered an expression of the cultural identity of the territory (Schlüter and Ellul, 2008). As part of this cultural heritage, tourists can also take advantage of itineraries and tourist activities (Riley, 2005) as a means to learn how the product is transformed from the olive grove to become olive oil (Torres-Ruiz et al., 2018).

Food-based tourism is currently one of the best means to promote unique experiences in tourist destinations, due to the increasing importance that tourists attribute to knowledge of the territory's gastronomy. For these tourists, local dishes may be one of the reasons that people choose to visit a place. For example, to try a typical dish or learn more about cooking in a certain area (Tsai and Wang, 2017).

Tourism based on quality indigenous foods offers multiple proposals for travellers (Shaw, and Williams, 2004). Very often they consist of activities and experiences that cost more than other tourism modalities. Several studies suggest that there is a greater interest in gastronomic tourism for those tourists with greater purchasing power. These tourists are willing to spend more on their trip in exchange for being able to enjoy an authentic experience based on quality food from producers (Everett and Aitchison, 2008). In addition, through the experience lived at the destination, tourists can perceive an affective image of the territory (Baloglu and Brinberg (1997), which can be improved with the enjoyment of agri-food products and local cuisine (Peštek and Činjarević, 2014).

Sustainable tourism is practiced by those tourists that appreciate the preservation of the culture, society, environment and economy that is based on the local products of the territory they visit (Dinan and Sargeant, 2000; Lee, 2013). In this way, this tourist respects and values the local culture linked to the natural environment of the destination they visits (Mehmetoglu, 2010).

Finally, positive experiences in a sustainable destination where quality local food is produced can positively influence the tourist's loyalty. The possibility of revisiting the same destination in the future, or recommending food-based experiences, is associated with a positive overall assessment of the experience perceived by tourists at the destination (Hui et al., 2007). Thus, these experiences may have a greater role for the future intentions of the tourist, compared to other travel or tourist attractions (Kozak and Rimmington, 2000). In addition, the combination of quality local products in rural settings can further enhance the tourist's intentions when returning to the destination in the future or recommending their experience to their friends and relatives (Vujko et al., 2017). More