Wine tourism is increasingly being sought out by travelers. But, is the wine industry ready?

When you combine tourism with wine, what do you get?  Well, it’s called “wine tourism”, “vinotourism” or “oenotourism”. It’s an opportunity for both the tourism and wine industries to connect. For this to happen, much of the wine industry may need to think about their businesses differently, as not only producers of wine but how they can enhance relationships with new and existing customers by delivering on great wine experiences.

It all starts with the consumer

Consumers these days are savvy and they want to know more about the wine they are buying that what is written on the label. Wine, is one of those purchases that tells a story, every bottle comes from somewhere and is unique to the region and place it was made. In the case of wine, consumers want to know where the wine comes from, the terroir or something about the producer.

There is nothing romantic or interesting about picking a wine from supermarket shelves – but, if that’s where the consumer wants to buy it then the wine industry should be thinking about how they can differentiate themselves by marketing the tourism aspects of their businesses and encouraging people to visit. Once they visit they will be a lifetime buyer of their wine.

So let’s take a look at the wine tourism industry:
At the global level, wine tourism is growing and is considered to be a driver for the economic and social development of many rural areas. This is a big deal. What other industry is fostering the economies in many of these small towns? It seems like an excellent opportunity for small communities to benefit from tourism dollars.

If we look at the US alone, the U.S. Travel Association estimates that 17%, or 27.3 million travelers, have engaged in “culinary or wine-related activities while traveling.” It is also good news when you factor in what they spend on travel (hotels, car rentals etc) as well as the estimated $3 billion they spend while they are in the region on wine and other items.*

In California, almost 21 million travelers visited wine regions in 2008, and Napa Valley alone received 5 million of them. What’s even more interesting is the money they spend and how the economy as a whole benefits. Napa generates over $1 billion dollars each year through wine tourism.** The potential for this to grow is strong: California’s tourism industry as a whole generates $95.1 billion per year.

Let’s look at the global situation. Last month, Great Wine Capitals Network recently unveiled the results of their global study at Vinexpo. This network represents 454 vineyards in 9 different countries and could be used as an indicator of the profile of the global wine tourism market.
Some interesting takeaways (granted, this is just an indicator as it is a survey of specific regions in 9 countries):
• The local/domestic tourism market is huge and equates to about 40% of wine tourists
• It’s still largely male dominated. Only one third of wine tourists are female.
• 75% are over 36 years old
• They travel in the best times of year: 70% of tourists come in summer, 15.3% in autumn (attracted by the wine harvest). This indicates that they may be less influenced by off season rates and more likely to spend to be there in peak season.
• People spend more in Italy and Napa: Average spend in Florence, Italy is €141 & Napa Valley, California at €131. Bordeaux was lower at €52.

So what are vineyards offering tourists?
83% offered a tasting, 75% offered a vineyard tour or a tour related to wine production, 40% offered a pairing wine with food or similar, 29% offered accommodation ( e.g. chambres d’hotes or gite).

Wineries are benefiting from tourism by selling more wine:
32% of total volume was sold by the winegrower on the premises
18% of local wine is sold in bars & restaurants, 16.8% at independent wine retailers (cavistes), 16% in supermarkets and 4.5% via online sales.

So on the winery side, for those not incorporating a tourism experience into their business, they should be. Packaging wine tastings and tours add value to vineyard visits and are what consumers want, particularly international tourists. This all benefits the winery by increasing the number of sales at the premises and increasing the average spend per visit.

The world’s wine-producing countries are taking this segment very seriously. The South African tourism industry sees the strongest growth and highest profitability in the sector of wine tourism. In 2009, wine tourism contributed €440 million to total tourist income in South Africa.*** In New Zealand, 37% of international tourists participate in wine tourism and spend more than other international travelers ($3,543 NZD compared to an average spend of $2,710 NZD). Malbec’s worldwide success has led to an increase in wine tourism in Argentina. Over 500,000 tourists went through Mendoza wineries, an increase of 68%, compared with the same period in 2009 and a 10.5% more than the national average.

Wine tourism is definitely on the rise. Wineries and vineyards need to consider what they are offering as the tourism aspect of their business and be savvy about marketing to the wine traveler. For many, this is an untapped business, but surely will help them ultimately drive more wine sales and generate lifetime customers. Regions and marketing agencies should be actively seeking out ways to raise awareness for their wine tourism infrastructure and engage with wine and food enthusiasts. This savvy audience spends more and is more interested in coming to rural areas to seek out unique and authentic wine experiences.

If you have any comments I’d love to hear them. Please post below.

Sources: * US Travel Association 2007 data, ** The Vine Route, ***Vitisphère – 20 April 2011

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12 Comments on “Wine tourism is increasingly being sought out by travelers. But, is the wine industry ready?”

  1. travelwithlaughter July 11, 2011 at 7:13 am #

    Great article. I live in Bucks County, PA and there is a group who have started to develop the wineries in the area. They are doing a pretty cool job.

  2. Per-BKWine July 11, 2011 at 11:16 am #

    Interesting article. You can look at wine tourism from many different perspectives though: You have the wineries who set up tasting rooms, you have specialised tour operations (we, BKWine, is one), restaurants and hoteliers etc. One of the things that tends to be over-emphasised in the reports that you refer to are the “big scale” investments by wineries. Personally I think it is important to emphasise that a winery does not have to invest a lot of money to be successful in wine tourism. It’s all a question of what you want to do and what market you want to be in.

    • Mindy Joyce July 11, 2011 at 11:16 pm #

      Hi Per,
      Thanks for your note. Yes, I agree. There does seem to be an opportunity though for wineries to market the tourism side of their business, especially as they can target these consumers directly now with niche ecommerce sites… either in wine or travel. Would love to hear more of your perspective. Having checked out your site there could be a way for us to work together. I emailed you already but in case you didn’t get it my email is Many thanks!

      • Robbin Gheesling September 24, 2011 at 11:30 am #

        Hi Mindy!

        I certainly agree with Per. Part of the mission statement of my wine tour company is to support the places that have NOT put this kind of infrastructure in place. Some of my regular wineries here in Campania have been happy to have me be their tourism department while they concentrate on the rest of the business.


  3. Mark Norman July 11, 2011 at 9:05 pm #

    Mindy…great trying to reach you on LinkedIn through Rodolphe Boulanger. Might be some interesting things to chat about.

  4. Wine Pleasures July 12, 2011 at 5:03 pm #

    We’ve seen the GWC survey results reported in several places but would suggest that the conclusions are hardly representative or indeed of any use as they are based on just 454 wineries around the world.

    One clear conclusion would be the apparent lack of interest in wine tourism (enoturismo in Spain and Italy) hence the poor response rate to the survey.

  5. Vinocations July 12, 2011 at 9:41 pm #

    Again, great article!

    Can you provide the links to the articles/reports you used as a source for the stats in the article?


  6. Carol July 16, 2011 at 12:52 pm #

    Great Article Mindy! I just launched a California wine country travel website and I was looking for travel trends. Thanks for the information.

  7. 5 star hotels in kent January 3, 2012 at 5:15 pm #

    Excellent website. Plenty of helpful info here. I?m sending it to several friends ans additionally sharing in delicious. And of course, thank you to your sweat!

  8. Calistoga Wind country February 21, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    Hello Mindyjoyce,
    On a similar note,, Italy is, with 98 wine routes, by significantly foremost the high checklist of wine rising nations around the world. Becoming wine an gigantic pleasure for our palates, it gets continually significantly more imperative, and Italy has set up a actual platform for its wine tourism by connecting diverse kinds of institutions and recommendations of its wine routes.
    Keep up the posts!


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