A visit to wineries, a variety of sips during the wine tasting while diving deeper into the world of viticulture. For decades, wine tourism has been a significant element of the wine industry. It contributes to the economic development of a wine region while also maintaining and enhancing its cultural legacy. Wine tourism could thus be a critical component in ensuring the long-term viability of wine regions around the world.
“Wine tourism” or “Eno-tourism” are popular terms within the wine business. Both refer to tourism that gives authentic touring experiences to guests visiting vineyards/wineries as well as tasting, consuming and/or purchasing wine. It also gives an opportunity to discover untold stories of wineries, resources used and processes, while allowing travellers to immerse in the historical journey, culture, heritage values and culinary diversity of wine.
Wine connoisseurs now have the opportunity to peer into the once enigmatic wine world, making the entire wine experience more visual and pleasurable for them.
Can sustainability be wired into luxury?
Consumers today are more aware of and concerned about the negative impacts that the products they buy leave on our climate and environment – even for luxury items like wine. They want to know about the activities involved in product creation and whether the process is environmentally friendly and socially equitable.
The efforts put forth in winemaking, resource utilisation, engagement with the local community, preservation of local culture and traditions, and promotion of these to tourists have all grown increasingly significant in recent years. Hence, it is critical not only for wineries to follow sustainable winemaking practises, but it becomes exceedingly pertinent to integrate wine tourism experience with showcasing effective sustainable practices to tap into the psyche of the modern consumer.
If wine tourism is properly planned and managed, it can provide an opportunity for growth in the wine value chain. It creates more value and brings an immense advantage to both operators and visitors. The presence of wine travellers is a guarantee of sustenance for the community and other local businesses.
The challenge canvas
Wine tourism, like any other industry, also faces several challenges. The challenges are multi-fold and encompass environmental, socio-economic and climate factors. This is also coupled with a lack of financial and human resources, infrastructure, information/guidelines, strategy, knowledge, collaborator movement, top management engagement, commitment, and interest, to name a few.
According to a recent survey conducted by WineTourism.com and Hochschule Geisenheim University, sustainability plays a critical role for wineries. A whopping 93% of all wineries that participated in the survey stated that sustainability in wine tourism is either important or very important.
The survey findings also revealed that the main barriers to achieving the sustainability parameters in wine tourism are the lack of financial resources (48%), human resources (35%), infrastructure (35%), and information/guidelines (18%), among other factors. All of which need to be addressed for sustainability to take centre stage.
To prioritise these, awareness isn't enough when it comes to adopting sustainable wine tourism activities. A need for focused efforts and execution to meet the exact requirements is the call of the hour. Due to a lack of knowledge, guidelines and procedural documentation, wine tourism operations become less successful with limited outcomes. To flourish with a high pace, a thorough understanding of sustainable standards and practices is unavoidable and should go hand-in-hand with educating all important stakeholders.
Towards making wine travel businesses more sustainable and secure
Tourism is one of the world's fastest-growing sectors, as well as a key source of foreign exchange and employment, according to the United Nations. It is closely connected to the social, economic, and environmental wellbeing of many countries, especially developing countries.
Without a doubt, tourism industry significantly contributes to local employment and wealth, strengthens local communities, preserves local cultures, and helps in the conservation of heritage, including architecture and natural sites. These are only achievable when tourist sites are managed responsibly.
As it can be challenging for businesses to kickstart and refine their sustainability journey, Preferred by Nature has developed the Standard for Sustainable Travel Activities. The standard helps guide travel businesses and activities to run their systems in a more responsible way while keeping their promises to protect and preserve biodiversity, cultural heritage and the welfare of local communities.
The Standard includes four principles - designed to help businesses focus on improving their performance regarding business management and operation, environmental, sociocultural and climate practices.
This structure is based on the Preferred by Nature’s Sustainability Framework and the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) Industry Criteria. It is used to build sector-specific tailored requirements for organisations who are concerned about sustainable business practises.
The case study: Concha y Toro
Concha y Toro, a Latin American wine producer and exporter, is a significant example of a company that has proved its capabilities and dedication in securing a sustainability certification in wine tourism. The company has a long history of wine sustainability advancement. For many years, they have been a pioneer in various aspects, including water and carbon footprint measurement and management, as well as certification of forest conservation. The company has also been a part of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for the past seven years.
The philosophy of Concha y Toro is to manage responsible tourism that is connected to local communities, traditions, and cultures, while ensuring their welfare and safety. As a result, they decided to get certified against a well-recognised sustainable tourism standard to exemplify that they are committed to protecting and keeping their natural and cultural assets for future generations. They also learned that by using Preferred by Nature's Standard for Sustainable Travel Activities, they could effectively communicate their commitment to their travellers and other stakeholders.
In February 2022, the Winery's Tourist Centre of Concha y Toro, located in Pirque, close to Santiago de Chile, received the Sustainable Travel certification from Preferred by Nature. The Pirque centre has been putting together a unified set of policies and procedures to help protect biodiversity, preserve cultural heritage, and provide better long-term livelihood options for the local community. Additionally, they are making their efforts visible to guests as a form of assurance that their enjoyable experience during the visit is also sustainable.
Concha y Toro has transformed their park guided tours into an educational experience that promotes the sustainable practises of the winery in wine production, while also delivering a delightful experience and immersion in the world of wine to their guests or visitors.
"The wine industry must bring sustainability closer to its consumers, as well as to those who desire a complete wine experience,” said Valentina Lira, Sustainability Director at Concha y Toro.
“When visitors come to visit us, they will appreciate our approach, which is backed by good tourism practises. We believe that our certification will serve as a boost to help raise awareness of the importance of sustainability in the wine industry," added Valentina.
As many wine-producing regions are interested in becoming new tourist destinations, the wine tourism is expanding as a lucrative industry. Investing in emerging aspects of wine tourism as well as wine production practices is, therefore, equally important.
To achieve sustainability goals in wine tourism, wine businesses can begin exactly where they are now. They can harness the new knowledge and optimise their capacity on various parameters through a systematic approach. By adopting sustainable business, environmental and climate strategies as well as innovative wine production methods and techniques, they can help mitigate the effects of climate change. They can also conduct continuous reviews to improve their conservation efforts. Involving the local community, participating in local festivals and events to promote local culture and heritage, and improving working conditions for workers are among several solutions that can be thought of.
"Our Standard for Sustainable Travel Activities can be used by wine tourism businesses who want to make a positive impression on stakeholders through their activities on the path to achieve sustainability parameters,” explained Saúl Blanco Sosa, Director of the Sustainable Travel Programme at Preferred by Nature.
“The standard can help wine tourism businesses improve their efforts by providing a framework on which they can build further. The standard will assist them in educating, guiding, developing capacity and strengthening their efforts to meet sustainability goals," he added.
Preferred by Nature is a mission-driven organisation that offers sustainability services and implements development projects that promote the responsible use of natural resources. “(Hence), by verifying against the Standard for Sustainable Travel Activities, wine tourism companies will be able to market themselves as a reliable, responsible travel activity in the global tourism sector,” explained Saúl.
Note: The short version of the article was first published at TravelDailyNews.