Wine Tourism is Growing – New Opportunities for Hotel Management Companies
Who would have predicted that Americans would choose wine over beer for casual and formal occasions? Yet that’s exactly what has occurred as the popularity of wine has skyrocketed in the U.S.
Perhaps this is in part due to the new perception of wine being a beverage for the masses as opposed to a snobbish cocktail indulged in by only the elite. Additionally, the medicinal qualities of red wine in particular have become well known.
However, the focus of this new popularity trend has not resided exclusively on wine itself, but on the various wineries that have become well known all over the world. In the U.S. a new type of tourist has emerged in recent years, the wine tourist also known as vinitourists, vinotourists or oenotourists.
Vinotourists may tour vineyards and wineries, frequent restaurants known for serving rare vintages, or participate in organized wine tours, wine festivals and other wine events. Yet, to date, these new tourists have represented a largely untapped source of revenue for the hospitality industry.
Wine Tourists Visit Exciting New Wine Regions
Today the idea of touring a winery it often included in a vacation or serves as the primary destination. Many consider it romantic but there are also increasing numbers of people who want to know about the region or hear about a particular vineyard and the origins of the grapes. Every bottle of wine has a story and more people are becoming interested in hearing those related to their favorite wines.
While most people think of France when they think of great wineries, there are several new regions in the U.S. that are creating a sense of enthusiasm among vinotourists. These include the Central Coast and Sonoma Coast of California which are known for Rhone-style wines; and Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs respectively. Washington State is drawing large numbers of visitors to their vineyards which produce award winning Bordeaux-style reds.
Wine Tourism Promotion Exploding
For those who’d rather not set out on their own or research what are the best regions to visit, a new industry has sprung up as of late to promote some of the better known wineries. Guided tours are bringing thousands of wine tourists a year to wineries in many States.
• In California popular tours include Sonoma Valley, Napa Valley, Healdsburg, Russian River, Guerneville, Sebastopol, Mendocino, Petaluma, Calistoga, and Santa Rosa. In southern California, one of the most frequently visited regions is Temecula Valley, an area encompassing 35,000 acres dotted with vineyards among the rolling hills. Temecula Valley hosts numerous types of tours including one which provides transportation on a fully restored authentic San Francisco Cable Car and includes a tour of the facilities where you can learn about how wine is made.
• The most requested tours in Washington State include Columbia Gorge, Lake Chelan, Leavenworth, Tri-Cities/Red Mountain, Spokane, Walla Walla, Whatcom County and Woodinville. Washington is known for tours of small family operated wineries and tours which conclude with a special tasting of a variety of private label wines while enjoying a summer concert held in the midst of one of the local vineyards.
• Among the most scenic tours are those that visit some of the 100 wineries along the Finger Lakes. While these tours can’t encompass this 10,000 acre wine region, most do provide up close views and stops along each of the four lakes and some hold special tastings offered by nearby wineries along the shorelines.
• If you would enjoy some exercise with your tour, try a New England Winery Bike Tour. These multi-night tours make stops at wineries in several states such as Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. A guide leads the group along scenic roads on the way to various wineries where tastings are held. Accommodations are provided at Bed and Breakfasts or Inns along the route and gourmet meals are served to allow tourists to sample regional specialties.
Guided tours of other popular regions are also available. Many try to draw customers away from the competition with specialty packages including a free bottle of wine of with personalized label, cheese plates and other hors d’oeuvre following the tasting, and gift baskets. In addition, sunset tours, moonlight tours, and special limousine tours are offered.
Multi-faceted tours include visits to nearby natural features such as cascading waterfalls, stunning mountain lookouts or visits to well-known state parks. With a little research anyone interested in a wine tour should be able to find one that excites their inner oenotourist.
The Growth of Wine Restaurants and Resorts
In addition to visiting wineries, wine tourists often search out restaurants known for their extensive and unique wine lists. In response to this growing trend, many restaurants have altered their brand reputation to reflect a focus on providing special wine lists. For example, one restaurant in Santa Monica boasts a 165 page wine list, which is constantly added to such that the owner found it impossible to stick to his goal of limiting his holdings to under 200,000 bottles.
Wine focused resorts have also begun to be developed by wineries to attract more visitors. At an award winning winery in Central Washington they have established a resort which includes tours of working vineyards, apple and cherry orchards; an inn with top of the line amenities; a wine restaurant featuring tastings of wines produced at the winery and regional and alternate wine selections; and a spa with numerous packages available; all surrounded by stunning views in a pastoral environment.
Opportunities for the Hotel Management Industry
The explosion of interest in wine tourism provides unique opportunities and challenges for hotel management companies.
Hotel management companies can contribute to the success of hotels and resorts located near wineries by helping them take advantage of this new wine tourism trend and turning them into one of the most popular establishments in the area. A few ways to accomplish this include:
• Placing quality first in regards to all aspects of the business; analyzing customer preferences to provide the best experience for each visitor; establishing a wine related atmosphere that is sophisticated yet comfortable
• Creating a national and local online marketing campaign to establish brand recognition and authority; build a high quality reputation that places the establishment in one of the top spots when compared to competitors; create a website with quality content, and links to social media sites, blogs, and an interactive review system
• Establishing collaborative relationships with nearby wineries, restaurants, tour companies, and attractions by promoting their businesses in exchange for them promoting the represented establishment
Additionally, there are numerous opportunities for hotel management companies to help entrepreneurs who are seeking to establish a new hotel or resort within a wine region. A few of these might encompass selecting the best location, architectural firm, and contractors; recommending potential appropriate structural styles and decorating schemes, aiding in hiring decisions, employee training and the initial steps to attracting customers, among many others including those listed above.
Overall, with the exponential growth of wine tourism, it is an exciting time for hotel management companies as new opportunities are provided to expand their skills base to meet the challenges of this new industry sector.
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