"Wine tourism does not exist."
Well you can imagine the bewilderment hearing that caused for an auditorium full of tour operators, winery owners, media and tourism professionals at the 2012 International Wine Tourism Conference in Perugia, Italy. Many of the attendees were expecting to hear just the opposite. But that was the opening volley posited by Michael Wangbickler of Balzac Communications & Marketing.
Michael went on to explain that aside from a small minority of wine tourists (and wine bloggers of course) visitors do not plan their vacation or travel days around visiting wineries. They are focused on where they will stay, where they will eat, what historic or cultural sights they will see. Visiting a winery is usually low on their priority list.
Wine tourism is essentially a very American concept pretty much created by Robert Mondavi. And except in a very few places like Napa, wine tourism does not exist. It’s just tourism.
Tourism is not a panacea for winemakers looking to sell more wine, nor is it an imperative for all wineries. But wineries that are seeking visitors and want to create more tourism must get on the radar (or on the map literally) in terms of choices that visitors make when planning a trip. That's why wine alliances and collaborations with tourism regions and local tour operators are key to promoting the industry as a whole. It’s important to make it easy for visitors to find you, know what your hours are, and what kind of experience they can expect when they visit.
During Michael's session and through out the conference, Twitter was a fire with the many views being debated on the subject. With a slate of speakers tilted rather heavily to the American view of tourism, there was bound to be some controversy. Some sessions got quite heated, arguing the point. A seemingly lopsided view of wine tourism was prevalent this year, and I think were I not an American, I too may have felt rather defensive if I repeatedly heard how to cater to the American wine tourist.
But I think many sessions proved there are several small but important steps that can be taken and still remain true to your culture and regional practices. It's a balance.
I believe that Italian wineries looking to increase tourism need look no further then to their compatriots who are already doing an excellent job. Family wineries like the Lungarotti, Arnaldo-Caprai, Terre Margaritelli and Goretti (to name just a few in Umbria) are creating environments and programs for their visitors and working with the region to promote tourism. And the outstanding efforts of regional Wine Tourism Movement organizations such as Movimento Turismo del Vino Campania, Movimento Turismo del Vino Puglia and the Associazione Nazionale Le Donne del Vino (Women of Wine) are setting new standards in promoting and creating regional branding strategies for wine tourism throughout Italy.
Collaborating with those who have well-established programs and working to cross promote regional wine tourism with local organizations is the key. And in the less defined wine regions, it seems relationships with local guides and tour operators are even more important to facilitate the interaction between the wineries and visitors.
I think there is much to be learned from Wine Tourism Italian Style, and it certainly exists! The winemakers and family winery owners I met were the most convivial group. Each demonstrated in their unique way how wine tourism can be grounded in family traditions and also incorporate modern marketing techniques and practices including using new media such as FaceBook and Twitter.
As the concept of wine tourism continues to grow, more people will seek to gather and discuss the merits and the issues surrounding it at conferences such as the International Wine Tourism Conference by Wine Pleasures and the Wine Tourism Conference organized by Zephyr Adventures. All sectors of tourism and wine tourism in particular can benefit from sharing ideas and learning from one another, and most important of all, a growing segment of tourists with an interest in wine will benefit from awareness campaigns that cultivate the desire to travel to regions that are also wine destinations.
|Hotel Gio, Perugia|
The host Hotel for this years IWINETC was the Hotel Gio in Perugia. @hotelgio on Twitter. The Gio with décor and accents that highlight both Jazz and Wine is a good example of a how a hotel can promote the concept of wine tourism with their Camera Cantina (Wine Room) program. I stayed in wine theme room devoted to one local wine producer – Terre Margarettili --which turned out to be a delightful coincidence as I’ll explain later.
|Croatia to host 2013 IWINETC|
Next year from March 18-20th the IWINETC conference will be held in Croatia-- a place that’s become very near and dear to my heart and palate too! I have a special post about the wine of Croatia tasting held in Perugia coming up soon.
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