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Is tourism for me?

Genuine “wine tourism” involves more than simply offering tastings at the cellar door and hoping this will lead to immediate sales, an ongoing relationship via newsletters and wine clubs or, at very least, a lasting impression made. That is not to say that the traditional cellar door is dead; far from it.

If your current operations meet your needs, and you have neither the time, money nor inclination to invest in an expanded range of activities or facilities, that is fine. Tourism is not for everyone. Be aware, however, that times are changing, and the simple attractions of the cellar door are waning.

There are other (perhaps more accessible) ways to get a wine experience, cheaper ways to buy wine, and plenty of other options for a good day out, particularly if people are thinking about driving home. Unless you have a well-recognised, aspirational brand that consumers will seek out, visitor numbers are likely to fall, and those that do come will probably be more opportunistic, less targeted and less likely to purchase.

The good news is that if you are interested in expanding your tourism horizons, you can start small and you don’t have to work alone. But you do need to be committed to doing things well, and accept that tourism is about offering experiences, not simply selling product.

Research shows the best winery tourism experiences have a number of things in common:

  • The experience is authentic, not contrived
  • The hospitality is absolutely and consistently first class
  • Extensive consumer and tourism research has been conducted
  • Local culture and heritage has been incorporated in the experience
  • The experience is multi-dimensional
  • A distinctive point of difference is articulated clearly and consistently.

Read more about Wine and tourism

The first steps

Running an effective wine tourism operation can boost your brand awareness, increase your profits and secure new sources of cash flow - the key to survival for any business. The key factors to consider are:

  • A realistic assessment of the potential numbers of visitors your business could attract, based on the tourism visitation statistics for your region
  • The capacity of your business – e.g. the number of cases you have to sell
  • Current sales avenues – wholesale, export, on-premise, direct, cellar door
  • Legal requirements – licenses etc
  • Brand positioning and unique selling points – what makes you different?
  • A marketing plan – whom are you targeting, how and why?
  • An action plan – key opportunities, dates and responsibilities
  • Administrative resources - development of resources to support your objectives
  • Human resources
  • Financial resources – mastering the money game

Once the decision has been made to start or expand a cellar door / tourism business, all romantic notions need to be set aside while the real business takes place: a business plan, budgets, potential markets, licensing requirements and resources.

Before you even consider what facilities you are going to offer, take a good hard look at what is already available in your region, and visit other wine regions as well to find out what operators are doing. Make a list of how many cellar doors there are and what services they offer.

Can you identify any gaps? How would you rate the current levels of service? What about the facilities available? 

You need to be able to create a point of difference - a reason for people to visit you - so you need to either improve upon the current offerings or create a totally new experience. Whilst having objectives is necessary, it's also important to allow room to simply evolve as you implement strategies and measure the outcomes.

Find out from your local and state tourism authorities how many tourism visitors come to your state/region and what percentage of those is likely to be interested in wine tourism experiences.  Then realistically estimate the percentage of those wine tourism visitors you’re likely to attract to your business and think about or ask for advice on what channels they’re likely to come from.

Do your homework
Products and services

Strength in numbers

The most important starting point is to work co-operatively and strategically as a region. Very few wineries have sufficient appeal to attract significant tourist numbers (and dollars) in their own right, and even regional appeal is diluted if all wineries offer more of the same – each good, but not distinct.

Read more about Working with others


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