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

Chris has provided a helpful “COVID Battle Plan” and you can request to receive a copy by completing the form below: