Working with others
Working with others to enhance your tourism appeal falls into three categories: collaborating within your region; making use of the support of national, state and regional tourism organisations; and marketing (usually at some cost) through other tourism operators.
Working as a region
The most important starting point is to work co-operatively and strategically as a region. When it comes to tourism, neighbouring wineries are commercial partners not competitors and their aim is to increase the size of the pie they share, not their share of an existing pie – or a diminishing one if another group has collectively baked a more appealing pie.
Regions don’t have to radically change what they are and what they stand for to attract a broader range of tourists, but they do need to think more laterally about why people might want to visit.
Successful wine tourism regions are those that have built on the reputation of their wine. Over time, other tourism enterprises recognised this success and sought to capitalize. Along came tourism infrastructure in the form of accommodation, restaurants, golf courses, conference venues, health and wellness facilities, food producers, general attractions and related service facilities.
Gradually the focus shifted from being primarily “wine” to being a “weekend getaway”, or a golfer’s paradise, or a convention destination. Suddenly wine became part of a differentiated tourism offering and the entire region looked and felt very different to its humble beginnings as a viticultural region.
The key is destination marketing – a cohesive, regional approach that incorporates the needs of all stakeholders based on a thorough understanding of visitor needs and expectations.
“Wine trails” are just one approach, and the concept has broadened to include food, accommodation and other attractions. As a single winery, you get to be part of a broader promotional strategy for a fraction of the cost. The trail becomes a product in its own right, usually with a distinctive name and a marketing campaign funded by the participants and possibly the regional tourism association.
However, it’s also possible to do this less formally. You could work through a local tour operator to create a package that includes a visit to you, lunch at a local restaurant, a visit to a food producer, a winery tour and visits to local attractions.
Read more about Cross-promotional opportunities
A supportive local council is vital for ongoing tourism success in your region. Many now recognise the economic and social value that tourism brings to local communities and some have dedicated personnel to develop this sector. Talk with yours.
Visitor Information Centres
Many visitors don’t make decisions about their activities, experiences and accommodation until they arrive. Visitor Information Centres (VICs) are a key source of information and sometimes even make bookings. It is therefore very important that VIC staff know about your business and ideally have first-hand experience of your product. Invite them to take part in a visit and tour of your facilities, show them what prospective tourists can experience, and keep them up to date with new developments and events.
Tourism Australia is the government agency responsible for international and domestic tourism marketing. It works closely with Wine Australia, and the two bodies signed a formal MOU in late 2012 to promote wine in Australia as well as in key international markets. Dedicated Business Development Managers can help you gain a better understanding of market conditions and connect you with relevant programs, but in general Tourism Australia’s focus is on communicating with consumers.
State and Territory tourism organisations (STOs) spend a greater proportion of their time and budget on working with industry to develop and market tourism destinations and infrastructure, as well as increasing awareness and attracting visitors. All STOs have a tourism plan (and in some cases a specific wine and food industry plan) and a dedicated development unit that can assist operators in developing their product for the international market. This may include marketing consulting services, advisory services for new operators, workshops and accreditation schemes. Some have international offices.
Local Tourism Associations (LTAs) are generally run by or are closely associated with local government and focus on assisting visitors once they are in the area. They usually run the Visitor Information Centres, help operators develop products and improve service standards, and liaise with state authorities on their behalf.
In some regions, Regional Tourism Organisations (RTOs) bring together the LTAs and local tourism operators to develop regional strategies and work cooperatively with STOs to market the region. Many are membership based and some are part funded by relevant STOs.
Read more about Tourism organisation services
Working with tour operators can offer significant benefits; they help promote your winery and hopefully bring visitors directly to your cellar door on a regular basis.
But this must be in line with your overall marketing strategy. Before approaching or responding to a possible partner, talk with your regional or state tourism organisation and/or the Council of Australian Tour Operators or the Australian Tourism Export Council.
There are many operators across the country and most are professional and have a good feel for what visitors want. Like any kind of partnership, it’s about creating a relationship that is mutually beneficial and defining the terms clearly from the beginning. If you don’t want tour operators bringing in large groups unannounced, you need to say so and back it up with a clearly articulated policy.
Remember, too, that tour operators are in business to make money and their clients have paid a fee to take part in a tour. You need to make sure you’re being compensated for providing an experience – whether by directly charging for the service or as a result of sales. If you rely only on sales revenue, make sure you’re familiar with the type of clients the operator is likely to bring your way or you may find yourself pouring lots of wine for clients who just take advantage of your amenities.