Felicity Carter, editor-in-chief of Meininger’s Wine Business International, the world’s only global, English language wine business magazine tells us about the importance of staff training in the wine tourism industry. She also gives a few pointers on press trip organisation and management.
Better staff training…can you clarify this for us?
One thing that successful wineries have in common is they train staff thoroughly. This isn’t just a matter of teaching staff to serve better, but also to be able to understand who the customer is who is standing in front of them. Far too many tour operators and cellar door staff have a script they adhere to, that either treats everyone as a complete beginner – which can be insulting for some customers – or which relies on stereotypes, such as automatically offering women sweeter, cheaper wines, when they might be serious connoisseurs.
Staff also need to understand the wine they’re working with – even the back end and administrative staff. There needs to be a culture of wine and hospitality inside the whole organisation. Staff not only need to know about their particular product, but also how the wine fits into a regional and international context.
For example, if an Australian winery is serving Shiraz to international tourists, it’s important they understand what other styles of Syrah/Shiraz that tourist has been exposed to, so they can explain how their local style differs from that of the Rhone Valley, for example.
The reason it’s important that all staff learn about wine, is because it can turn them into advocates for the brand or region. If they have a good understanding of wine, and it becomes part of their own life, they will talk about it in their own time, to their own friends and relatives. They will have even more pride in the place where they work, and that also communicates itself.
Who trains? It may be the case that the winery management are not very good pedagogically speaking and therefore poor at training themselves. That being the case should the winery employ an external trainer?
Not investing in staff training and professional development is a key weakness of many European and some New World wine businesses. Any staff who are involved in any type of sales, including at the cellar door, should absolutely have professional sales training; customer and hospitality staff need professional training as well.
It may seem like an unnecessary expense, but proper training will pay off again and again. Sometimes people worry that sales training will turn staff into aggressive salespeople, but it’s not the case – good training will help staff understand when to continue the conversation and when to back off.
As for wine training, there is no better place to start than the WSET.
At IWINETC 2029 in Spain’s Basque country you talked about media in wine tourism and highlighted Google as the big player. Would you say Google Travel is having or will have any impact on wine tourism businesses worldwide?
Any business, whether wine or travel, needs to understand Google search, because this is how tourists will find them. Every website needs to be SEO and search optimised, so it rises as high as possible on Google rankings.
We often hear about a wine region’s tourist board organising a press trip for journalists, writers, bloggers….Can you give a few tips from a journalist point of view about what to do and what not to do for tourist boards organising and running a press trip?
The most important thing is not to overfill the day. There are some press trips that start early in the morning and go to late at night, and then do it all again the next day. Professional communicators need time to go over their notes and start composing stories. If the pace is relentless, everything just blurs together.
The other thing to watch is over-feeding. Nobody needs to have a gourmet lunch and then a five-course dinner. Days of over-feeding leads to everyone feeling sick and sluggish, particularly if there is long bus travel involved.
You talk of TikTok as the next big thing in media. Can you expand on this statement?
TikTok is mostly used by a very young audience, meaning it’s not a suitable platform for companies involved in alcohol. However, TikTok has been a game changer for online communications, pushing people to do clever, funny things in just 15 seconds. People love the format – if you can make a quick film highlighting one funny, warm or cute moment, do it. It’s much more likely to get traction than the usual expensive, glossy tourist video where the drone zooms across the beautiful landscape and… well, you know what happens next. We’ve all seen those productions and they’re boring. Fifteen seconds of fun beats them all hands down.
Meet Felicity at IWINETC 2020. Felicity will be delivering a talk titled Turn your staff into your best advocates.