The other biggest opportunity in the wine business

Marketing tips for wineries in the hospitality business

The US Travel Association estimates that 27 million* Americans travel each year for the purposes of culinary or wine-related tourism.  This is a big number, and it’s certainly big enough for many wineries to realize the opportunity and decide whether some fine-tuning is needed in their marketing strategies.

With the inaugural Wine Tourism Conference (#WineTourismConf) underway in Napa this week, the leaders of this ever-growing and substantial niche of the travel industry, and still underrated subset of the wine industry, are coming together for the first time.

At Lot18 we’ve just completed two successful hospitality marketing webinars where we had almost 40 wineries participate.  Since then, I’ve had so many people reach out to me, from winery owners to tasting room staff for additional sessions.  Wine tourism has never been in the limelight more than it is right now.

If you’re not involved in the wine business, you probably think the wineries are doing okay with this.  The truth is that most wineries in America are not big names that have big marketing budgets.  There are thousands of wineries with fabulous wines and/or winery experiences but they don’t have promotional budgets. Some of them focus their marketing activity solely on their wines, and by default this attracts some visitors, but many of them are looking at new ways of approach this – and they should. The most successful wineries see hospitality marketing this as a long-term approach to building their brands, which includes selling wine and getting people to visit.

Most of the wineries I talk to are small family-run businesses who are not looking to be tourism destinations. They just want the right people. One of the biggest reasons that wine tourism in this country hasn’t developed to its full potential is because there is a gap in knowledge.  When it comes to visiting wine country, many travelers don’t know what they don’t know and go to the wineries they have heard of, or whatever is near the hotel.  And, there are a lot of wineries that don’t know or haven’t thought about marketing strategies to reach today’s traveler.

I was really thrilled that so many wineries attended the our webinars and I’ve had a lot of requests since, so I thought I’d post some of what we covered here.  This is the first of five posts geared to wineries.  Most of this can be applied to other tourism businesses, and marketing in general.

Who do you want walking through your tasting room door?

Now, if you’re not in the wine business, here are the basics:  Wineries want to: 1. Reach a large audience of actual wine buyers, 2. Introduce wine buyers to their brands, 3. Get people into the tasting room, 4. Turn them into lifetime customers.

There is a big difference between the connection a consumer feels about your product when they see it on the shelves, versus coming to the place it was made – and meeting the people who make it. In the case of many wineries that have a long-term vision for their businesses, appealing to an audience of travelers is critical to building a long-lasting, high value brand.


  • Many travelers are “Destination Collectors”: Luxury travelers particularly may have either already visited the region, or may be considering visiting, but need a compelling reason. What will it take to get them to return to your region, then your winery?  Developing an experience that is unmatched and highlights what is unique and special about your winery (and wine brand) will get this on their radar.
  • Travel marketers will tell you that travel decisions tend to be heavily influenced by women (usually about 70%) and the destinations they visit are heavily influenced by family and friends (81%).  Think about it, how often have you heard about a friend’s great trip then planned your own trip to that place?
  • Put yourself in the shoes of someone planning a trip to wine country:  Where would you start? What are the touch-points online and offline, and in-destination?  What are their expectations of a tasting room visit?  You really need to walk through this process and then evaluate how your winery does in each of these consumer touch points.

Stay tuned for more tips & updates from the Wine Tourism Conference. Please post your feedback below.

* US Travel Association 2007 Survey

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