Image and Imagination in Wine Tourism
Here is why, how much, where and how wine tourism – virtual and real – influences the perception of the value of wine, its appreciation and its sales
By Donatella Cinelli Colombini for OICCE
Two thirds of the value of wine perceived is not wine. Price, sales position, packaging, history, places, personalities… Each of these elements signifies a perception of value. In this post we will talk about vineyards, winery, the area where a wine is born and the people who help to create it. We will see how the territory of origin can, if well used, increase the appeal and increase customer loyalty towards a wine region or towards a single producer. Wine tourism is the instrument for this process and it is powerful. The first element to be understood is the dimension of this instrument.
Since 2012 the world travellers have become more than 1 billion and they increase at a rhythm of 4% per year. In Italy, in 2013, the arrivals of travellers from abroad were 46 million, finally our tourism has begun once again to grow even though with a modest 1,9%. Wine tourism increases more rapidly (around 3% per year) but not in a uniform manner. The 5-6 million travellers who every year visit wine regions over here generated business esteemed at about 3 billion euro between direct turnover and generated; for every euro paid in a winery, the wine tourist spends another 4 in the same area.
We must also consider the item, “wine and food “ in the totality of consumption of tourists,
or rather meals, tastings, and shopping for bottles of wine, cold cuts and cheese… equivalent to 11% of the total expense, a head-spinning amount equal to 7,6 billion. In other words the tourists are the first “exportation” market of Italian wines and when the go back home to their nation of origin, they take back with them the memories and a story to tell about what they have eaten and drunk.
They open new export opportunities, so much so that a new low cost route must be considered also for a major penetration into exportation and not only for wine but also for cheese, cloche, ceramics articles … Everything that the tourist learns about in an area where he spends his holidays.
To conclude the economic study of wine tourism, once must consider the buying for home in the production area. On this front, recently, a real boom in increase in sales in wineries with direct sales (21.000) and in clients with a desire to buy good quality wines while saving money and in the meantime having more security regarding the origin and production system. In other words during this period of economic crisis, buying in the winery is perceived as acquiring with a better rapport quality-price. A short distribution chain in wine where the advantages are appreciated but also the pleasure of an experience, because, together with the wine, one receives information in a convivial and entertaining context, completely different to the anonymous character of a supermarket.
Wine tourists are prevalently males, between 30-50 years of age, the travel with one or
more friends. The use social media 6 times more frequently than others. Among them there are different targets: chance tourists who have no precise interest in wine, real wine tourists, which are a numerous bunch (1.770.000) the talent scouts and the lovers of luxury. What is common to all these groups- except a segment of the first – is a noticeable inclination to spend, wine tourism is in fact among those with a highest daily expenditure.
Regarding what is on offer, wineries which are organized in welcoming guests are still few and far between (just over 1000) even though the new production structures are all made with an area for visitors. Even the well organizes Wine Routes are a minimal part compared to the existing 170; on this front, we could actually say that there has been a real and evident flop regardless of the public investments.
However, even without efficient territorial networks, what is on offer in goods and services in wine areas continues to increase and diversify, and be organized: restaurant where the client finds tastings by the glass but also local cookery lessons, incoming agencies with minibus or chauffeur/sommelier driven cars, hotels, country inns and wine resorts, wine stores that sell accessories, wine tastings and even mini courses, spas with wine therapy…. An increase in employees and trade which transforms the wine areas and creates a parallel economy to that which is truly connected to wine. The Associazione Nazionale Città del
Vino has created an observatory which year after year, photographs the evolution of this sector. Wine alone has never created tourism but now less than ever. To attract tourists a wine region must associate to a distinctive and high level of winemaking a beautiful and intact territory, with important cultural elements and excellent typical food, and lastly but not less important the ability to make a wine experience fun.
The necessities for a wine tourist are in fact no longer those of ten years ago; as the sociologist Fabio Taiti has found out, there is a new desire for unique experiences that are memorable and fun. The destination is perceived as something whole where the wine and food is a key to the understanding and a component of the local culture. This aspect, already underlined by Mara Manente from CISET in her report on tourism in the Siena territory carried out in 2008, is more and more true and I would like to explain this through using Marsala as an example. In the visitors memory the wine is connected in an inseparable way to the super luxury hotel in the old convent, to the kindness of the guide, to the raw fish served on slice of orange, to the isle of Mozia, to the landscape with the salt mines, to the fantastic cantina Florio, to Garibaldi … In the end that Marsala wine , which before the trip, was not very enticing but in fact seemed “out of fashion”, begins to be perceived as something completely different, to be preferred, appreciated and to talk about.
This is how the “destinations” which have known how to build on their wines a distinctive, diversified and qualified offer, have got a head start tank to these circumstances in terms of tourism business but also in terms of wine business. At this moment Tuscany holds a strong position, and in the list of wine tourism destinations in the world, is always among the top 10, sometimes even at the top of the list such as in Travellers Choice Award 2012 or in the Wayn Award 2013. Results which signify a constant and wide spread investment often of high quality of which some excellent examples are the Antinori winery in Chianti Classico or the museum in Castello di Brolio with 40.000 visitors in 2013. Investments and events which together have a great effect on the image of Tuscan wine and its sales prospective. Something that is born from the real visits of millions of wine lovers but also from the virtual visits or rather the knowledgeable and frequent use of the social media. In this case I will use Montalcino as an example of online
diffusion of news that increase and give value to the Brunello myth: important visitors, awards, events…..news that Montefalco or Alba for example could use but that only Montalcino spreads daily among its lovers al lover the world. The Vinitaly 2013 conference “Vino e social media, Netnografia per un approccio strategico al nuovo marketing del vino” has well emphasized how Brunello dominates the virtual wine scene and most of all how its messages coincide with the semantic associations bound to wine: beauty, classy, food lover, relax, amazing.