This week-end in Sitges (Barcelona), it has taken place the 1st International Wine Tourism Conference, the first of this kind in Catalonia. This conference (see the blog) was organized by a private organization, Wine Pleasure and has been very succesful.
The growth of Wine Tourism in Spain is not corresponding to the increasing international prestige of our wines. Though the leading position of Spain in the Tourism market, Wine Tourism is not among it’s leading attractions. There are several reasons for that. First of all there are structural reasons due to the small dimensions of the wine companies and their capacity to assume initial investments to offer guided tours and wine tasting sessions. In second place, there exist a wrong understanding from these wine producers of the positive impact that wine tourism con cause to their business and to help economic development in their wine regions.
Wine tourism is strongly dependent on the structure and characteristics of the wine regions: the communications and infrastructures, the dimension of the wineries, the coordination of local agents, the involvement of local citizens and local companies, the existence of a coordinated an coherent offer, the quality of their professionals and the capacity of hosting tourists and offering them complementary services, etc.
In Spain the most famous Wine Region, la Rioja, is one of the most visited Wine Regions profiting from the prestige of their wines, the warmth of their people and the beauty of their landscape.
Wine tourism existed long time ago in Jerez, because of their famous wines , and due to the proximity to the Costa del Sol, one of the main attractive and most visited Sea and Sun destinations in the Mediterranean.
The case of Catalan Wine regions is especially interesting because they are located at the immediate “hinterland” of the most visited coastal resorts and close to the big Metropolitan area of Barcelona, except for the Costers del Segre Wine Region, producing excellent Cavernets and other red exquisite wines. Except for the 3 main Wineeries (Torres, Freixenet and Codoreniu), which had wine tourism since the second half of the last century, the rest have not developed yet a coordinated strategy of wine tourism that could be integrated in to the catalogs of wine tourism travel agents.
Wine regions and wine destinations have an opportunity to get a position in the market by taking advantage of the most closest Touristic Icons like Barcelona or the Costa Brava, and should consider the possibility to create a collaborative network that is ready to structure a common strategy to gain position in the market.
Another challenge for these wine regions is to create a cohesive image of the local wine destination by organizing cultural tourisj events related to wine tourism.
My presentation in this first International Wine Tourism conference dealt about the strategies and considerations that organizers have to take in mind and should learn from the cultural tourism events that are running now in Catalonia