Thinking Wine Tourism in Italy’s Friuli Venezia Giulia? Think Vitinera.

Friuli-Venezia Giulia – where’s that?

Friuli-Venezia Giulia is tucked into the far north-east corner of Italy, between the Adriatic Sea and the Julian Alps, on the border with Slovenia to the east and Austria to the north. It is a young and dynamic wine producing region of extraordinary diversity, internationally recognised as a source of premium and super-premium wines.  The region is renowned for its interpretation of the international classics, from Sauvignon Blanc to Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay, but it is arguably Friuli’s unique local varieties which best crystalize the flavours and aromas of the terroir and project a sense of place.

Vitinera – what’s that?

Vitinera is a place where the DIY wine tourists can plan and book a wine tasting day or two by connecting to www.vitinera.com and selecting a specific winery to visit in one of the several sub regions of Friuli Venezia Giulia region as per the Vitinera web site namely: Gorizia, Pordenone, Trieste and Udine. The platform is currently available in English, Italian and German.

Before a wine tourist can start to create a personalised wine tasting tour the user first has to create an account (takes about 60 seconds to complete the process) which is free and then the user is able to search the directory of wineries to visit on a region by region basis.

Each listed producer has a profile page in the platform  which shows which kind of wine tourism experiences they have on offer, availability and a price per person. Wine tourism experiences include visits to vineyards, visits inside the winery, tasting, wine and food matching, vineyard picnics, treasure hunts for kids, whole lunches and dinners and even sleep over at certain wineries. A location map is provided to avoid getting lost.

Vitinera came about by a chance meeting of 5 people at the MIB School of Management in Trieste, united by their passion for wine tourism. The start-up is in fact the final project work of their Master degree. The team is as follows: Luca Buccino is the CEO of Vitinera; Francesco Bacarini is the Chief Operating Office; Mario Arnoldo is Chief Marketing Officer; Fabrizio Lesca is Chief Financial Officer; Enrico Codognini is the Chief Technology Officer.

CEO, Francesco Bacarina presented Vitinera at the 12th annual International Wine Tourism Conference (IWINETC) October 2020:

Vitinera presented at IWINETC 2020

Vitinera plans to add the neighbouring Veneto wine region and other Italian grape escape destinations such as Lombardia and Trentino in the near future. Vitinera also plans to make the platform available for tour operators and agents to use as a tool to help create wine tasting tours for their clients. Agents interested in know more should contact Mario Arnoldo

Wine Tourism battle plans for Covid 19 revealed at IWINETC Virtual 2020

Knowledge & Business have been the International Wine Tourism Conference’s (IWINETC) 5 day theme this year for close on 300 registered delegates from some 25 different countries tuning in from diverse grape escape destinations such as Austria, Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Moldova, Portugal, Spàin, Slovenia, Serbia, UK, USA to name a few and from host region, Friuli Venezia Giulia and many other regions of Italy.

The 2 day Wine Tourism B2B Workshop between agents and media and wine tourism experience providers had more than 700 appointments scheduled and proved to be the business highlight of the 5 day event with many more meetings conducted after the meeting schedule through online meeting platforms.

IWINETC was scheduled to happen in person 27 – 29 October 2020 and to be hosted in the beautiful and spectacular grape escape destination that is Friuli Venezia Giulia with the support of Premium sponsors Promoturismo FVG

The 3 day conference programme saw a line of up of world class speakers providing excellent and relevant presentations for attendees to savour in these difficult times. Anthony Swift event Director provides some of the salient points from the conference talk programme:

“On day 1 Lucio Gomiero uncorked IWINETC giving delegates a taste of the Wine and culinary delights of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region. Chris Torres kept our spirits up by suggesting that the way forward at least in the next 12-18 months is to focus on domestic markets – staycation to coin a new word for the Oxford English dictionary. Jonathan Gomez Punzon of the United Nations World Tourism Organization gave a bitter taste of the new reality, the new normal but then served up that wine tourism and rural tourism are one of the safest kinds of tourism and will thrive during these challenging times but we have to adapt by providing safe experiences, by partnering up within a given destination, by providing excellence – a reason to travel he stated.

Day 2 saw WTM’S Responsible Tourism Advisor, Harold Goodwin present “The Business Advantage of Responsible Tourism”. Responsible Tourism is important for providing authentic experiences and ensuring that wine tourists do not have negative experiences. Caring for customers tailoring to their needs – show respect and care. You are only strong as the weakest link in your chain he said. Bubbly Judith Lewis gaves us food for thought when it comes to Post-Covid Website Optimisation and Digital Marketing in the Wine Tourism Industry. Cristina Mascanzoni Kaiser live from a winery on Lake Garda defined the luxury traveller of today as being a person seeking tailor-made experiences according to culture, a wine lover looking for a unqiue offer and for a wine tourism experience provider to be trained and responsible. She coined the phrase Be hospitalian! Francesco Bacarini topped up day 2 showing delegates the online booking platform Vitinera where a DIY wine tourist can book a winery visit in the Friuli Venezia Giulia and in other wine regions of Italy. A useful tool still in the fermentation stage.

Day 3 saw Marianna Sigala give a seminar  on wine tourism Innovation during COVID-19 and this was followed by  a seminar on “How to  Improve Customers’ Experience for Wine through Technologies” with speaker Roberta Garibaldi. Peter Syme stressed the importance of understanding the customer journey and a few dos and don’ts when it comes to using Online Travel Agents.Champagne Tourist Board Director, Philippe Harant presented the Winetourism Lab project which aims to assist (coaching, financial advice….) wine tourism business iniciatives in the the region. Following on was a presentation of The Lower Austrian Wine Region.

Swift in the closing plenary session ended the IWINETC 2020 conference programme by saying “Despite the challenging times we find ourselves in, the wine tourism industry is clearly on the rise and people are looking online for wine tourism, accommodation and complementary activities to do in a wine region such as wine country bike tours, trekking and tasting, yoga, a place where kids can run around doing treasure hunts and so on. Chris Torres showed us this in his talk on day 1”.

Swift went on to address the audience by saying: “You right now are in the right business. We must now invest in our marketing efforts, take heed of all the advice given by our expert speakers, sit down with a glass of your favourite wine and watch the conference replays, take notes, think, action. You will win. You will thrive. You will be enjoying the new vintages when others with their heads in the sand will not or may well not. The future is bright for all who understand that wine tourism is a sustainable business opportunity”

Lara Persello in charge of the Area Enogastronomia – Strada del Vino e dei Sapori del Friuli Venezia Giulia and on behalf of Promoturismo FVG said a few final words and extended an open invitation for all conference delegates to discover Friuli Venezia Giulia as soon as travel restrictions are eased or removed.

Swift finished up by saying that “IWINETC will be back in 2021 and an announcement will be made in the New Year”.

The International Wine Tourism Conference (IWINETC) is the world’s leading conference, exhibition and B2B Workshop for the wine and culinary tourism professionals. Organised by wine tourism professionals for wine tourism professionals, the IWINETC includes a conference programme of around 25 talks, an exhibition area for providers to show grape escape destinations from around the world, a B2B Workshop for agents to meet with wine tourism experience providers and networking events to discover the host destination for the duration of the event. IWINETC attracts professionals working in travel agencies, wineries, hospitality, tourist boards, regional govenrment, associations, universities, wine import and activity organisers.

For the first time, IWINETC was run virtually from 26 – 30 October 2020 (3 day conference and 2 day B2B Workshop). 

www.iwinetc.com

IWINETC 2020: What’s next for wine and culinary tourism?

In the second part of the two-part IWINETC webinar series, two experienced tourism sector speakers for the upcoming IWINETC conference shared their opinions of what the future looks like for wine and culinary tourism. 

IWINETC speakers and tourism industry moguls Peter Syme and Chris Torres took a look at the likely future of wine and culinary tourism. They gave helpful advice on getting back on track with tour marketing and operations for the “new normal.” With host Anthony Swift, the panel discussed group sizes, vehicle considerations, locations, hygiene, virtual tours and answered questions from some of the 200+ live attendees.

Chris: what’s next for wine and culinary tourism?

Chris believes one of the best forms of tourism is what brings people together and as soon as restrictions are lifted, bookings will increase for flights and accommodations because people are going to want to get together with friends and family.

People are currently spending time at home, on their laptops and smartphones, fantasizing about travelling, so give them something to read or a video to watch. Inspire them, entertain them and give them useful content that helps them plan their post-crisis trip. Don’t sit back and wait for leads to come in. You have to go out and let people know you exist. You need to attract your demographics and markets. You should be putting out more articles and marketing now to get your content out for free during lockdown. It will help inspire new and existing customers to find things to do when they come out of lockdown.

According to Chris, one of the best ways of targeting key demographics is on Facebook. Facebook is one of the best targeting platforms and one of the cheapest forms of target advertising. Chris’s key demographics to target online for future travel include:

  1. Small groups. Small groups are the future of tourism because of physical distancing. Make sure you’re getting across in your product promotions that you’re following the right guidelines to keep people safe from COVID-19.
  1. Over 60’s. A lot of the over 60’s age group have created Facebook accounts, have been on Zoom meetings and are using technology more than ever before to stay in touch with their family and friends during this time. We are currently finding more of the mature generation spending time online, so now is a good time to target this demographic.
  1. Students. Students have been saving money for maybe the first time in their lives because they can’t go out with friends. When they’re able to, they’ll want to reconnect with their friends and may look for new experiences.
  1. Corporate/Business. Employees and employers have been stuck at home or working from home for months. Team building activities to bring people back together after they’ve been apart will be a goal for companies to reconnect those bonds. 
  1. Milestones. People are celebrating milestones like birthdays and anniversaries, but they have had to share these important celebrations over video chats instead of in person with friends and family. Once travel is possible, they may want to celebrate belated events in a bigger way.  
  1. Front line staff. The people who have been working throughout the COVID-19 crisis including doctors and nurses will want to take a break when their work with COVID-19 patients slows down. You could target those specific professionals and could offer a discount as a thank you for their services. 

Peter: what’s next for wine and culinary tourism from your eyes?

Peter just reopened his business and is learning as he goes to navigate this tricky time operationally. 

Positives of tourism right now: 

  1. $$$. Pre-COVID-19, the tourism sector which includes wine and food tourism was annually grossing $254 billion dollars. Within tourism, the fastest growing sector was food and drink before COVID-19. Although, you can get a off license near me and contact this company that delivers wine all the way to your house.
  1. Technology. He’s seen vastly more innovation in food and drink than any other sector. The adoption of digital products, services and technology by tour companies has been impressive and important to target consumers during this digital time.
  • Partnerships. He as an adventure tour operator has begun partnering with more food and drink tourism operators. There are lots of opportunities for food and tourism companies to partner with other sectors because everyone needs to eat and people like to drink, so there are opportunities to combine these tours and activities. 

Challenges of tourism right now:

  1. Chance of shut down. There is the possibility of needing to shut down again after reopening your business due to the unpredictability of the virus. 
  1. Planning. There are questions of when to reopen, how to reopen and what travel opportunities are available based on government regulations. Also consider what sorts of protective measures need to be taken by your business to be able to reopen. 
  1. Marketing.When do you start going from marketing to customers about their hopeful plans for the future to marketing to get paid clients? 
  1. New customers. Past customers might not be your current customers. International customers may be harder to obtain due to travel restrictions. You may need to change your products to target local clients for local activities.
  1. Affordability. Businesses need to understand their breakeven point and margins to be able to reopen. Volume will be lower because fewer people are traveling and those who are will need to travel in smaller groups. More time will be needed to allocate to cleaning and discussing cleanliness and physical distancing protocols with guests. You may also need additional transportation to allow for fewer guests per transport vehicle.
  1. Selling Direct. You may need to reshape your sales approach to focus more on selling direct to customers rather than losing commission to distributors of your products.
  1. Virtual tours. Virtual tours and digital tours can include wine tasting and virtual events. They aren’t as profitable as regular tours but they open up your business to a larger market.

Since reopening, the feedback Pete has received from clients is they are very understanding. They accept that there are lots of different new procedures and are just happy to be able to get out and do something. 

Questions & Answers

Attendees of the session asked questions in the live chat forum. Their questions have been answered by IWINETC and the two speakers for the upcoming IWINETC event, Chris and Peter. 

Question: What are, let’s say, the predictions about the wine tourism for the nearest future after lockdowns and generally, after the COVID19 situation? Have tourists’ interest in “tasting new cultures” increased or maybe decreased? And has their taste changed about wine (I mean new and old worlds, or maybe they look for new experiences)?

Answer: Chris – Generally, people have been stuck at home for so long, for whatever bit they are allowed to travel, they will want to get away to explore and experience something new. Their tastes may not have changed, but they may have to try new experiences based on where they’re allowed to go.

Pete – Trends from the last 10-15 years show that people want to go to more developing nations. COVID-19 has put a break on that for a period of time, but people will likely want to get more adventurous and look at new destinations that are less crowded than more popular tourist destinations in the future.

Question: How do you access wine tourism? People shouldn’t drive if drinking but can you get them in minibuses?

Answer: Peter – Yes, mini buses are a good solution. Right now, you may need more of them than before so your guests can physically distance. Tour businesses are logistics business for the logistics of their customer. You have to take the driving barrier away. 

Question: Many regions have wine trails, whisky trails, brewery trails, etc. Is there a case to be made for combined drinks trails with different types of producers collaborating at a city, regional and country level?

Answer: Chris – Every time you combine products, you get increased customer satisfaction because customers perceive combined offerings as higher value. People need to eat every day so it’s good to combine an activity with wine and food. As a business, think about other sectors you can collaborate with. There could be more collaboration between different wine destinations, for example Italy and France could collaborate their wine regional tourism.

Question: What should be the content for those virtual tours? Meeting with the winemaker? Tasting the wines? Visiting the cellar?

Answer: Tell a digital story, so it depends on what your wine and food operation is. You want to make the story similar to what your in-person product is like. What are you focused on? If you can make an interesting digital experience, the benefits are huge because the reach is massive. Digital events and experiences can deepen relationship with customers online who may become a real-life customer in the future

Question: We opened a brand new winery in Tuscany just a few weeks ago and the heart and soul of the winery is related to tourism. We know that this year is almost over and we can’t expect anything. My question is: would you suggest to send emails/presentations/offers and such to international tour operators for 2021? Or do you think it’s too early for operators to plan for 2021?

Answer: Chris – It’s never too early; you should already be marketing for 2021 because people are looking now for things to do next year. You can have customers book now for a tour in 2021. You could ask for a small deposit for an undetermined date in 2021 and then pick out actual dates next year.

Pete – I’m not taking bookings internationally for next year but I am getting interest. People are concerned about the economic situation for next year because they don’t know what their situations will be. It’s possible tour businesses could shut down again next year if there is a second wave of the virus, so businesses should plan for what could happen if they’re shut down again next year.

Question: In the immediate future of wine and food experiences, will they be top and expensive or basic and cheap?

Answer: Pete – As volume starts to go up, there could be a price war and discounting war between tour operators. Every operator will have less customers so they have to think about their margins. Every operator has to determine what added value they can give to the customer to reach their margins.

Chris – Volume is going to be less, so you might have to raise prices.

For more from Pete and Chris, you can meet them at the conference over a glass of wine at IWINETC in Italy 27 & 28 October 2020.

If you have any questions after watching the webinar “What’s next for wine and culinary tourism?” replay or reading this post, please ask your questions in the comments section below.

Register to attend IWINETC 2020 here

IWINETC 2020: Safety Update for Prospective and Registered Delegates

July 2020 

IWINETC, its speakers and representatives from Friuli Venezia Giulia have prepared a two-part online event to provide wine and culinary professionals with not only an update on IWINETC but also insights and inspiration about what’s next for wine and culinary tourism. 

This summary of session one below provides an update on IWINETC related to the event, health and safety. Speakers in this session include Anthony Swift, IWINETC Director, Lucio Gomiero, PromoTurismoFVG CEO and Lara Persello, Area Enogastronomia – Strada del Vino e dei Sapori del Friuli Venezia Giulia. 

To kick off the session, Lucio Gomiero spoke on behalf of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region and the event. He stated that the region is recovering from the lockdown and is waiting for guests with open arms and open hearts. The event is very important for food and wine business, their region and Italy. They are excited to welcome guests at the end of October for IWINETC. 

Next, Anthony Swift provided three announcements for the event regarding health and safety: 

  1. In anticipation of potential travel restrictions, IWINETC 2020 is a hybrid event. If prospective or registered attendees are not able to travel or simply do not wish to, they are still able to attend the conference online. The sessions in the main conference area will follow the conference timetable and will be available to view online for virtual attendees. 
  1. Due to the current situation, some of the sessions will be revamped to address issues relating to wine and tourism in the new normal. 
  1. It is now possible to contact exhibitors prior to the event to request information or schedule meetings from the comfort of your own homes. Also, for the workshop providers, this contact feature will soon be incorporated so attendees can contact workshop providers as well. 

A safety controls PDF was shared with the group and is linked at the bottom of this post. It addresses safety controls and precautionary measures for the two-day conference, business to business workshop, the exhibition area, the FAM trips for the agents and press groups and the trips for the delegates who wish to stay longer after the event to enjoy and discover the region. 

To continue the conversation regarding conference format changes due to COVID-19, Anthony addressed what will happen before and during the events to keep delegates safe:

What will happen before the event to create a safe environment for delegates? 

  • Before the event, all registered delegates will be notified of new measures in place and of what to expect. These changes will be based on World Health Organization mandates and suggestions as well as European Union travel restrictions which are updated every fifteen days. 
  • The IWINETC safety document will be updated with any necessary modifications as they become available. 
  • Delegates will receive their badges ahead of the event so when they arrive, they will pick up their folder, lanyard and conference bag in a contactless registration. 

What changes will be made at the event to create a safe environment for delegates?

  • Day 1 of the conference is Monday, 26 October. If delegates are arriving at Venice or Trieste airports on day 1, there is a free bus transfer to the venue. A booking system will be in place ahead of the event so delegates can book their buses in accordance with their flight arrival times. The number of passengers for each bus transfer will be restricted to limit the number of delegates per bus to support physical distancing. 
  • IWINETC will employ a combination of measures to preserve physical distance at the events including extending opening and closing times, staggering conference session timings to avoid overcrowding, introducing barriers where appropriate and spaced seating at conference talks.
  • Sessions will be booked in advance to avoid overcrowding in any particular session.
  • Networking will take place in larger venues to allow for proper physical distancing.
  • In the conference venue, there will be messages from the podium which will remind delegates of physical distance measures, behaviors, and reminders about personal hygiene. 
  • Branded IWINETC face masks will be provided to guests to wear at the event and bring home afterward. 
  • In each conference bag, a personal hand sanitizer will be provided. Additional hand sanitizer will be available at the events. 
  • In the unlikely event that a delegate may need medical support, it will be available.
  • Delegate contact details will be collected at registration and can be used for contact tracing if needed. 

Questions & Answers

Attendees of the session asked questions in the live chat forum. Their questions have been answered by IWINETC and representatives of Friuli Venezia Giulia:

Question: Is Italy allowing Canadians into the country? Because Canada is on the safe travel list for the European Union but not for Italy.

Answer: What we know so far is Italy should be following the list from EU.

Question: What is the deadline to register as an attendee?

Answer: As soon as ticket sales finish. There are still some available so you should be able to continue to book your spot through August and September.

Question: How will safety measures affect the workshop meetings?

Answer: The workshop meetings will be managed on a one-way system. Delegates will meet with agents one on one at a distanced seating and then will continue on through the workshop.

Question: If we were on your list to be invited on the press trip will you contact us directly?

Answer: Yes 

Question: Will deposits be refunded if the event has to be canceled?

Answer: We hope it won’t be canceled. Refund policies are on the registration forms. Please review the refund policies before registering.

Question: Any idea when flights will be book for the press trip?

Answer: We will let you know as soon as they are going to be booked. 

Question: Will deposits be refunded if the United States is still on the ban list? 

Answer: We will have to wait and see what the situation is and come up with a suitable refund policy. 

Question: If we decide not to attend and be online, will there be any networking for those not attending in person?

Answer: As an online attendee, you will have access to ask questions to speakers. For networking events, you can use the Facebook page for present and past IWINETC attendees as the best place to network to make contact with journalists, MWs, producers and more.

Question: Assuming we can still come (USA), will the FAM trip we were originally confirmed on still stand?

Answer: Yes. all the FAM trips are confirmed in the same way. 

Question: How many buyers on the sessions meeting have already confirm?

Answer: If referring to workshops, the diary that we opened in February/March will be wiped, the same diary system will be used to set appointments before the business to business workshop. The reason it’s going to be wiped is because some of the agents aren’t going to be attending so new agents are going to attend in their place. Of the 50 who were confirmed, only 10 have dropped out. There will be 10-20 new agents in the diary system.

Question: If people from the United States are not able to travel to Italy then workshop will be severely hindered…why not make available b2b sessions online?

Answer: We firmly believe as of today the event is going to go ahead safely without any problems. So, the suggestion to have a business to business workshop online would be a good suggestion if we were starting from scratch, but as so many people are committed to attending in person, both agents and providers (none of the providers have canceled in the workshop – maybe 1 or 2 at most have dropped out), it will be in person on 29 October. 

Question: Will wine tasting be possible in the exhibition area? We are registered and intend to bring some wines. Also, are there any restrictions related to the Exhibitors?

Answer: We will answer that as soon as new guidelines are confirmed because new guidelines are coming every week. As for now, it is allowed. We will provide more space for every exhibitor so guests won’t que in front of exhibitors. We will provide more frequent change of glasses. All precautions will be taken. We will see what the new guidelines are leading up to the event. You will be updated through the website and through the PDF with the new information every time we have it. Continue to make arrangements to bring wine. 

Question: I was registered as an agent and had to take a refund less 20% because of the refund deadline.. just did not know if I could come. Can I apply that 20% to a new registration? Because I can come now…

Answer: If you opted for a refund, you simply pay back the difference to reregister. You don’t have to pay the registration fee again.  

*Please note, every 15 days the European Union travel ban changes so please keep looking to see what the EU says about traveling into the EU. Please also check the IWINETC website for updates to the safety controls PDF as this post may not be accurate over time.

Safety controls PDF>>

Register as a conference delegate here>>

Want to ask a question? Then please use the comments box below this post.

Article: Rachel Di Mattia

Take me to the vines: Wine tourism 2020 and beyond

IWINETC 2020 Friuli Venezia Giulia: Get ready for the future in wine and culinary tourism.

Wine tourism and safe distancing

Over the last few months, the future for wine and culinary tourism has been quite an uncertain prospect but now it is the time to move forward again. That’s why we have prepared this online event to provide wine and culinary tourism professionals with not only an update on IWINETC but also insights and inspiration for your business and career.

This exclusive two hour virtual event included 2 sessions:

Session 1: IWINETC 2020 Update.

Speakers: Anthony Swift, IWINETC Director, Lucio Gomiero, PromoTurismoFVG and Lara Persello, Area Enogastronomia – Strada del Vino e dei Sapori del Friuli Venezia Giulia, PromoTurismoFVG provide an update on IWINETC and answered questions related to the event, health and safety.

PDF Safety Controls & Precautionary Measures IWINETC 2020

Session 2: What’s next for wine and culinary tourism?

Travel and tourism is slowly beginning to happen again. IWINETC speakers Peter Syme, and Chris Torres took a look at the likely future of wine and culinary tourism and gave much advice and help on getting back on track with tour design and activities for the “new normal”. With host Anthony Swift, the panel will discussed group sizes, vehicle considerations, location, hygiene, virtual tours and were available to answer many questions from the audience.

Register to attend IWINETC 2020 here

Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake Working together

Eager to capture more market share of the wine and culinary tourism market? Better adapt: one of the keys to success is working together as a region and not as an individual player. Andrea Kaiser, Proprietor Drea’s Wine Co. presents the case of Niagara-on-the.Lake

You state that The ‘Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake’ is a self-funded collective marketing group that was established in Ontario, Canada in the early 80’s. How has this initiative evolved since then?

While the marketing collective has evolved over time and shifted when necessary in response to changes in the marketplace, the group is very unique in the fact they have never wavered from two key principles within the organization. Number one, the organization was founded and still operates on the basis that each winery has one vote, equal to all all others, so that all winery member opinions are valued equally. Also while all decisions are based on majority vote, the group is very collaborative in seeking consensus whenever possible. The second key principle that has kept our organization grounded is our steadfast commitment to one key mission, to drive visitors to member wineries in shoulder season. It is only recently that we have begun to have conversations around complementing this with a secondary mission, to establish our destination as premium wine producing region.

Presumably, at some point the regional tourist board has been involved in promoting the destination? That being the case what have they done/doing and how good of a job have they done or are doing?

The formation of our organization was rooted in the fact that our regional tourism board was lacking finances and was largely focused in the past on promoting historical attractions and theatre. Wineries were not identified as a primary driver of visitation until recently. Furthermore while our organization sought to work with the regional board and align strategies when possible, it was not until recently that a change in leadership has provided a renewed faith in the regional tourism board.

How successful has the project of encouraging all year round wine tourism been? Can you give us some figures on number of day visitors and number of visitors that stay and sleep?

The example of Reif Estate Winery, where I work as Marketing Director, demonstrates the significant impacts that our organization has had on member wineries since its inception. The winery was one of the founding member wineries of the marketing collaborative and has experienced exponential growth in shoulder season, primarily due to the Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake marketing initiatives. When the organization was established, summer visitation from June – September, provided for bulk of cellar doors sales and accounted for 90% of visitation to the winery per annum. Now peak season has been extended from May through November, bookended by Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake Sip and Sizzle tasting program in May and Taste the Season in November. Furthermore visitation during the ‘peak season’ now only accounts for approximately 75% of visitation to the winery in the course of the year, as Icewine Festival in January and Days of Wine and Chocolate in February are now key drivers in winter. Furthermore at that time of the organizations inception visitors to Reif Estate Winery would have been approximately 15,000 visitors per year. Visitation to the winery has grown to over 300,000 visitors per year. 

Reading through your abstract of your talk for the 2020 edition of the International Wine Tourism Conference (IWINETC) it feels like most of the wine tourists the region receives are Ontario based? Can you give some % numbers of where wine tourist are coming from and if they are DIY tourists or organized by tour operators and travel agents.

Each winery member has a very different business plan in regards to accepting organized tours. We have some very small members who are simply not able to host group busses due to limited facilities and others who choose not to accept large groups from abroad  and focus instead on domestic independent travellers. This is in part because visitors who arrive by air are hindered in making wine purchases due to restrictions in liquids in carry-on luggage and the costs associated with heavy weight and additional bags during travel. There are however particular markets that are desirable for Icewine sales and therefore those member wineries who specialize in Icewine  production target groups of all size from Asia Pacific. Many offer order fulfillments of wines from private warehouses in Asia, when the customer returns home from travel. We also have members who target bus groups (not air travel) from the U.S. who also have an interest in Icewine and also Quebec, as their Province enjoys wine of the highest wine consumption rates in Canada and are also within driving distance. 

I would estimate all member wineries receive approximately 60-80% of their visitors from Canada (depending on their own winery strategies), for all weighted heavily from Ontario. That being said, because of our proximity to the world famous Niagara Falls, there are a significant amount of International visitors in our wine growing region as compared to other wine regions in the province who might instead rely on 90% domestic travel.

Can you tell us about a Niagara-on-the-Lake wine you are particularly fond of?

My father loved to make wines with good structure and strong backbone of acidity so I have grown to love cool climate wines. In particular, I love white wines, especially sparkling wines from Niagara, but I also have a great fondness of our Sauvignon Blancs and dry Rosés. While I am not generally a red wine drinker, it is worth noting that Niagara-on-the-Lake is a designated ‘specialty crop’ area with the most growing degree days in Ontario, and as a result gaining recognition for its red wines as we are able to successfully grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, unlike some grape growing regions in our Province.

Join Andrea at IWINETC 2020 where she will be delving deeper in the topic of marketing collectives.

Andrea Kaiser

Time for Standardised Wine Tours?

Great wines with a poor visit or poor wines with a great visit or should we aim for the middlle OK wines OK visit? IWINETC speaker Djurdjica Jojic Novakovic, currently doing here Ph.D with a focus on wine tourism takes a look at standardisation in wineries and wine regions.

At IWINETC 2019 in Spain’s Basque country you talked about tourism standardisation in wineries. What do you mean by this exactly?

Wineries are complex systems and different areas of their activities can be subject of some sort of standardisation, such as technological operations with wine, or health and sanitary aspects of the wine making facility. The third one, being the main topic here, is touristic offer in wineries.

Many wineries provide some sort of touristic services – wine tastings, visits to the cellar, visits to the vineyards etc. The quality of these services does not have necessarily to reflect the quality of the wine, i.e. some excellent wineries can offer poor touristic experiences, or not so great wineries can offer quite memorable cellar experience. The main idea is to unify the quality of the touristic offer in wineries (NB: not the offer itself, but its quality) across a region.

How would a tourist board or a collective of wineries achieve such standardisation?

Setting up a standardisation procedure is done neither easily nor quickly. There are certain preconditions that need to be met, the most important ones being – defining sources of financing, and the vision & objectives.

Implementing this system has its costs, as well as its maintenance once it is realised. It is crucial to define in advance how these costs will be covered, in order to avoid conflict of interest or even more importantly, influence of member wineries on obtaining certain grade.

In my view, the most important is the vision. Idea of where the wineries see their region in the future, what they want it to become like. This image is inevitably connected with the current specifics of the wine region. What are the strengths, what are the areas for improvement? If the region is not well connected to international airports and corridors, is it realistic to expect to attract guests from abroad?

The stronger faith and passion in the vision, by all stakeholders involved in this process, the better results can be achieved.

What criteria would be used in order to achieve standardisation if indeed standardisation is desired by each winery?

It is not necessary that each winery is subject of evaluation. It is quite possible that some will be reluctant, especially in the beginning. It is of crucial importance to ensure fair, objective and transparent process of evaluation so that those entities which didn’t take part from the beginning, eventually join and increase the number of entities evaluated.

The specific criteria are derived directly from the vision i.e. from the objectives that are defined.

For example, if the region decided to promote itself as a place of traditional values, it may give more importance to the appearance and interior design of wineries and give higher grade to those whose architecture is in line with the old style houses. Or, if it decided to position itself as a place of high environmental culture, it will give more attention to whether wineries respect the nature, if they implement practices of sustainable development (e.g. usage of renewable sources of energy). If a region decided to brand itself as a modern place for young foreign travellers, it will pay more attention to whether wineries have website and are active on social networks, and how many languages staff members can speak.

Criteria can reflect general conditions such as availability of infrastructure and parking, presentation of price list and wine sheets, possibility to purchase wine, professionalism of the host presenting the wines, hygiene etc.

Specific criteria can be availability of tasting rooms and how well they are equipped, wine assortment offered, availability of additional services (food, playground for children, offer of other products typical for the region, conference room etc.), how well the staff is trained etc.

Can you give an example where a standardisation project is currently happening and indicating any tangible results?

In my presentation I presented two case studies, or two regions – Istria (Croatia) and Villany-Siklos (Hungary). Here I will shortly describe only one, so that these answers don’t turn into a real novel.

Hungarian Villany-Siklos Wine Route Association was established in 1996. This is today one of the most developed wine regions in Hungary, not only in terms of quality and number of wineries but also in terms of accompanying activities such as tourism in general, gastronomy etc. Out of top 10 Hungarian restaurants, 5 are situated in this region. Only in the period 2010-2015, number of tourist arrivals and number of nights spent increased for as much as app. 50%.

Their concept is based on evaluating not only wineries, but rather all business that have to do anything with the wine tourism, such as: wine museums, wine shops, restaurants, producers of local products and providers of other related services.

The result is a grade presented with 1, 2 or 3 grapes. The board with the grade is clearly presented at the entrance of each winery, shop, restaurant etc.

If a wine region is to achieve standardisation how would this benefit on the one hand tour operators selling a destination and on the other DIY tourists?

Benefits are numerous for any type of visitor. The main benefit is customer protection. Visitors can be confident that they will get certain level of quality and that they will get those products and services that are communicated. It cannot happen that e.g. foreign visitor comes to a highest grade rated winery and be served with bulk wine or to be hosted by someone who is unprofessional or cannot speak English. Visitors can be safe and confident not to be cheated or mislead and to really concentrate to maximizing their indulging and learning experience.

Djurdjica Jojic Novakovic speaking at IWINETC 2019 Basque Country Spain

Gastrodiplomacy in Wine Tourism

Historically, food has connected people across cultural and geographical distances and boundaries, going back to the ancient trade routes based on commodities such as nuts, grapes, spices, coffee and sugar. Tourism also links peoples and nations, playing a role in the building of national identity. IWINETC 2019 speaker Irina Gusinskaya takes us on an informative tour of Gastrodiplomacy.

Gastrodiplomacy – what’s that?

There are few aspects as deeply or uniquely tied to culture, history, or geography as cuisine. Food is a tangible tie to our respective histories, and serves as a medium to share our unique cultures. The subject of gastrodiplomacy is exactly that: how to use food to communicate culture in any context.

The concept is ancient, but the terminology is relatively new. The term gastrodiplomacy was first used in an Economist article on Thailand’s public diplomacy campaign to promote its food and culinary art to the world. Since then, gastrodiplomacy’s popularity has spread rapidly. In gastrodiplomacy, nations use food as a part of their efforts to promote their cultures, build their images, globalize their food industries, attract foreign tourists, and build relations with foreign publics — at the same time strengthening their national identity and pride. The actors are no longer limited to state politicians and their chefs but include food corporations, celebrity chefs, tourist agencies, public relations firms, public diplomacy practitioners, TV cooking shows, and social media.

Can you give us a couple of countries or case studies where Gastrodiplomacy is happening?

The region in which the most work has been done is South-East Asia, but there have been projects in other parts of the world, including South America (especially Peru), Europe and the United States. Apart from culinary nation-branding initiatives, there are other practical applications of culinary diplomacy that are performed by the mere citizens.

Gastrodiplomacy is a manner of creating greater soft power — the power of influence, by making distinct culture more attractive through better understanding of all the culture entails. For countries like Peru and South Korea, the benefits of gastrodiplomacy have been profound as each respective nation’s cuisine has topped the charts of the popular food trend lists.

Gastrodiplomacy helps under-recognized nation brands such as Taiwan or Korea, among others, to attract broader international attention for their culture through their cuisine, and thus indirectly enhance their soft power. Or it can help great powers like the USA ‘soften’ their image. And of course, it is an excellent means to boost economic development and improve the social situation and national self-awareness for countries like Peru. In the case of each nation, the cultural narrative acted as a cohesive social force, uniting neighbourhoods, villages, regions, and the nation, offering a sense of belonging and pride. The private, public and civil sectors have the capability to resurrect the positive narrative through a systematic approach to national gastronomy. As a relatively new discipline, gastrodiplomacy has already proven itself effective as a soft power instrument of public diplomacy. Its importance is highlighted by the general trend of globalisation, where it is becoming more difficult, especially for smaller countries, to showcase their national identity. It has the potential to reshape public diplomacy through its promotion of gastronomic exchange between nations, as well as its strengthening of cultures through accentuating a sense of pride for nationals. The number of ways in which a nation —and each citizen — can utilize gastrodiplomacy is endless.

What would you say are the conditions that a destination should have to make Gastrodiplomacy a success?

The most popular gastrodiplomacy strategies: quality, evidence-based content creation and storytelling, media strategy, brand ambassadors, fighting for official recognition, food and wine festivals, affiliations, agricultural product marketing, specific education, social and economic measures…

But the recipe of success requires only 5 quintessential ingredients:

  1. Consolidate the forces and create a powerful lobby.
  2. Include gastronomy in as many of the actions of the destination as possible.
  3. Reinvest profits and constantly improve the quality of the experience and guarantee it.
  4. Do not overdo it: nationalist ideas do not lead to anything good.
  5. Measure the results and correct the strategy respectively.

Food and wine seem to go hand in hand yet we hear about food tours and wine tours – are these two different types of tourism?

Definitely not. Wine is a part of gastronomy and should not be considered separately. At least if we want people to understand not only this wine in a glass but all the history and landscape required to make it.

Keep up to date with the wine and culinary tourism industry at the next International Wine Tourism Conference (IWINETC)

About Irina

Irina Gusinskaya — food, wine and tourism expert but still meticulous editor, enthusiastic publisher, accomplished blogger with 15+ years experience. For the last 7 years I’ve been working as deputy editor-in-chief in Alpina Publisher. (A short article about my publisher’s alter ego can be found here.)

In 2016 I moved to Spain to turn my passion into a new profession — to study the Master of Food Tourism in Basque Culinary Center, and the next year my Master thesis won the Gourmand Award in two nominations — Innovative and Embassies. You can download the whole thesis in Spanish here.

Since that time I’ve also become a certified sommelier and spirits master (Madrid Chamber of Commerce), whilst still working as an editor and organizing gastrotours — thus practicing the gastrodiplomacy.

Ref. my LinkedIn profile for more details.

Take a Holistic View of your Online Tech

Tourism tech is a hot topic – and a difficult one for wine and culinary tourism organisers: which to choose and when, how to integrate it into the planning process, the tourist experience, how to make people embrace it rather than resist it…. Roberta Garibaldi, responsible for “Food Tourism Research & Trends” for the World Food Travel Association, gives an appetizer of her talk scheduled for IWINETC 2020.

Your talk at the upcoming edition of IWINETC 2020 is about improving customer experience through technologies. What level of tech maturity do you see today in the wine and culinary tourism industry?
 

Wine and culinary tourism industry are currently embracing new technologies. A number of examples from different industries (restaurants, producers, themed museums, …) testify that such tools have been, and are being, adopted.  According with my experience, the level of maturity is slightly lower compared to other tourism sectors. Especially when considering producers of food and wine. It must be said that technology was formerly introduced to facilitate disintermediation and sharing of information; only in recent years, has taken on more sophisticated and relevant functions, becoming both enhancer and enabler of experiences in the co-creation value.
 
In the age of internet and DIY tourism can you give us a few tips on how tour operators and travel agents can remain relevant tomorrow?

 
It is now difficult to answer to this question, considering the health emergence that we are currently facing and is deeply affecting the tourism sector. Previously, providing customized holidays and focusing on niche products might have been considered appropriate suggestions.

What does it take to choose a new tech solution aimed at improving customer satisfaction? 
 
Technology can facilitate the development of enhanced experiences where customers actively participate and interact with virtual contents and places as well as enable a dynamic co-creation process with visitors allowed to create their own experience. Wine tourism operators should properly consider what they want to achieve and what are the most suitable technologies to be adopted for this purpose. Also evaluating the additional costs and future benefits. In covid 19 time, tech can help the wineries to be in touch with the customers, e tastings, e tourism could help in these months.
 
From your own experience would you say wine tourism experience providers embrace new tech or resist it? Can you provide an example or two of wineries that have embraced it?  

Wine tourism experience providers are embracing new technologies. Hennessy Maison (Cognac, France) and the “Living Wine Labels” project provide examples of the possible application.

Hennessy Maison offers the opportunity to enjoy different technologies during the guided tour. This experiences allow to discover the entire winemaking process, from ‘the birth of grape to the glass of wine”, and to be introduced to the range of products that can be appreciated in the tasting room.

Living Wine Labels is the updated version of the “19 Crimes” app, a project created by American Tactic agency between 2016 and 2017 for the Treasury Wine Estates group. By scanning the bottle label with the camera the user has access to a range of information in augmented reality. The content is told by different characters shown on the label, such as ex-convicts in the case of the “19 crimes” brand. Data testifies it success:
– 700+ Million impressions
– 8+ Million App Sessions
– 4 star rating in Apple and Google Play Store
– 22+ Million Total Screen Views
– 4+ Million App Downloads
– 2:57 Average Session Duration

How can co-creation help customer satisfaction when it comes to wine and culinary tourism?
 
Co-creation allows visits to actively participate and interact with people and places. A higher level of engagement can make the visitor more satisfied the experience he/she is doing. In this scenario technology mainly plays a complementary role, as it supports the tourism experience. New technologies can also empower and become an integral part of the tourism experience, enabling a dynamic co-creation process, can facilitate the edutainment; at this level, technology has a crucial role and needs to exist for the experience to happen.

Meet Roberta at IWINETC 2020 where he will be delving deeper in the topic of  How to Improve Customers’ Experience for Wine through Technologies

Time to take a look at your Digital Marketing

No small matter. Judith Lewis of DeCabbit a SEO, PPC, Social Media and Digital Marketing Training & Consultancy tells us about Digital Marketing in the wine and culinary tourism industry. Her experience and know-how will help you take a look at the way you market your winery tour services and get you motivated to battle through the Pandemic Covid-19.

Your upcoming talk at IWINETC 2020 is titled: Website Optimisation and Digital Marketing for Dummies in the Wine Tourism Industry. How would you define dummy?

The ‘dummies’ name is more in the style of the books ‘XYZ for Dummies’ as a way of expressing a value-based simplification of a difficult specialism. By focusing in on communicating only the really important bits, rather than everything, it enables businesses to focus in on the most important elements which have a real business impact. There is, of course, a lot that goes in to assessing and optimising, a website but there are some more straightforward fundamentals that, if you get them right, can have a really big impact on ranking and visibility.

You have talked in the past about leveraging Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for wine tourism. Can you update us on any new trends which may be of use for wine and culinary tourism professionals?

Facebook remains the place that everyone seems to reside but they have improved their platform with additional targeting. Email marketing is not only the best medium for sales but using email lists of your best customers can help you design lookalike audiences on Facebook to ensure your marketing budget is spent on targeting people most likely to want your services or product but who don’t already know your brand. Twitter can still be used with scheduling in place as I have spoken about previously. Linking Instagram, Twitter and Facebook is still straightforward using either the native app or IFTTT (If This Then That) so there are easy free efficiencies there or for a paid solution there’s Hootsuite, Sendible or others. Don’t try and leverage Snapchat for organic reach unless you have the time to invest but you can use paid advertising there now unlike TikTok.  This deck does not cover Tictik or the new Snapchat advertising but attendees of my 2018 session on “Getting Seriously Social” may remember this deck: https://www.iwinetc.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/1.4-Ballroom-IWINETC-Getting-Seriously-Social.pdf

Would you say Google Travel is having or will have any impact on wine tourism businesses worldwide?

I don’t think Google Travel is as big a threat to tourism as it is to travel. While Google has created a multitude of destination guides, wine tourism is in the enviable position is including guides with specialist knowledge, access to cellars that are inaccessible by the general public arranging their own journey, and expertise to visit the most relevant wineries for the region – not just those with the biggest marketing budget. Google did purchase a PSS solution (ITA software) and has had a comparison engine guilt in to the search results which outranks the brand itself, and has for some time. This is a serious threat to airlines and travel companies as this usually results in Google being paid a fee on the successful completion of a purchase even when the search was for the brand and the searcher had intended to purchase directly from the brand. That is a huge issue but thankfully wine tourism for the moment while there are specialists with a passion for communicating the story of their local wineries and wines, it will be less impacted by Google’s destination guides than other types of tourism businesses.

How can players in the wine tourism industry make their webs sites more visible to customers?

They need to follow the steps to properly optimise a website which are: research the topic; group the keywords into topic groups (small groups of keywords clustered around a tight set of keywords, not too diverse); decide which page related to which topic (if more than one, split the content up); write naturally; optimise the title tag for keywords but also make it attractive for people (ranking factor); optimise the mete description (not for ranking but for clicks); make sure you include the target keywords once on the page but otherwise write naturally; ensure internal links point to the page; write naturally (did I mention you should write naturally?).

For example, I just looked at a website that had duplicated title tags trying to rank for a single keyword across multiple pages. Not only did this not work, the title tag (the short title that Google uses in the search results, often taken from the headline of the page by Wordpress but this is editable using a plug-in like Yoast) was replaced by Google because it was so useless. This teaches us that each page should be targeted at one topic only, title tags should reflect the unique, single topic using our keywords, and the meta description should be compelling, making people want to click. It is important to utilise proper optimisation in order to make our websites visible.

For more tips, IWINETC attendees from 2016 will remember I did an epic masterclass on this. The slides for that masterclass are here: https://www.iwinetc.com/iwinetcspeakers/judith-decabbit-lewis/

We are starting to hear about online tours where the customer is sent wines or tapas, video links to guides and written and visual documentation to their homes. Do you think this will be the future for wine and culinary tourism after the coronavirus lockdowns? That being the case, how should web sites change so they stay relevant and in business tomorrow?

I love the new subscription boxes I see with wine or gin plus snacks that are coming out which enable people to discover the wines and foods of a region each month or two or whatever. I think that this approach is fantastic as an additional offering to core wine tours, enabling people who may not be able to travel for whatever reason (time, fear, budget) to still virtually tour different wine regions, experiencing the difference terroir makes to not only wine but also the other products grown nearby.

As to the optimisation, because this is so new, there isn’t quite the search demand but it could easily become something should the restrictions on travel not ease substantially. As to selling, I think it is the kind pf product that could be added as a virtual wine tour, where different packages are offered to people for different wineries or regions where they get the package of wine and tapas or food of the region and a recorded guided tour of the cellar, winery, and the different farms involved. Given these could be recorded solo with a selfie stick and mic, or with two people from the same household, it could be recorded now with proper social distancing. This is then referenced using a QR code or similar link that is password protected so it isn’t just accessible to everyone and the content held that way. By relating the virtual tour to the in-person tours, within the same suite of packages, you can cross-sell to people who were looking for the tours. The key thing would be getting creative with Facebook advertising through targeting those lookalike audiences and advertising the new virtual tasting tours to that group and selling through that way. Sadly the SEO side of things might not work as quickly but if the packaging is sorted with the alcohol shipping regulation issues ironed out, it could work very well.

Meet Judith at IWINETC 2020 where she will be delving deeper in the topic of Website Optimisation and Digital Marketing for Dummies in the Wine Tourism Industry