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Wine tourism, in wineries wins tasting with a tour. But online needs to grow

Divinea: in Italian wineries, hospitality relies on women, but too many weekend closures. Average spending is between 21 and 50 euros per person

As much as winery activities are becoming more and more diversified, to date, the proposal in Italian wineries is still mainly based on the classic tasting between 3 and 5 wines and including the winery tour, which is present in almost all wineries and corresponds to 71% of the total wine tourism offer, as told by the data collected and analyzed by the latest Divinea report, the main Italian wine tourism portal, with more than 350 wineries and 1,200 experiences. Behind the tour, exclusive experiences, that is, those that go beyond the classic tasting, such as picnic, trekking among the vineyards, truffle hunting, cooking class or lunch with tasting, which in total correspond to 14% of the offer. Events account for 7% of wine tourism offerings and are particularly concentrated in the summer season. Online tastings that continue after the health emergency period account for 5% of the experiences, while the remaining 3% are long-term experiences that include overnight stays, such as winery weekends, which are particularly popular for birthdays and anniversaries.

Each winery offers an average of 4.2 experiences, a figure that is up from previous years mainly due to the fact that more and more wineries have organized themselves to promote original experiences that go beyond classic tastings and that some wineries have decided to promote online tastings to continue to maintain contact with customers even during periods of low wine tourism flow. Another relevant point of the wine tourism proposal concerns the distribution of bookable days: 98% of the experiences are bookable during the week from Monday to Friday; on Saturdays and Sundays 78% of the experiences are available compared to the totality while, if only Saturdays are considered, this figure drops to 55%. These percentages are certainly up from past years, however, they still denote a clear mismatch with demand, as wine tourists prefer to travel on weekends.

Looking at the price per person of the tastings, it varies depending on several factors such as the number of wines being tasted, the time of the experience, the type of winery, and the territory it belongs to. However, it is possible to identify three levels of tastings: entry level ones, usually with 3 wines and with just breadsticks to accompany and with a value per person of up to 20 euros, which account for 37 % compared to the total number of tastings offered; mid-level ones with 3-5 wines being tasted often accompanied by local products and with a price per person ranging between 21 and 50 euros. These are the majority of bookable experiences, 55% of the tastings to be precise; the premium ones, which involve special attention to the customer, are usually always private tours with the producer or winemaker and are priced above 50 euros per person, and currently represent 8% of the total tastings, although growing year after year.

On the other hand, analyzing the prices of the proposals of winery experiences other than tastings, here the value per person turns out to be much higher than tastings. Specifically, how 43% of the total presents a price per person higher than 50 euros. Events are always a viable alternative for wineries with almost half of the proposal concentrated in a range between 21 and 50 euros. In addition to having a higher average number of people per booking than typical experiences, they allow wineries to handle a higher total number of participants and with attractive margins.
Looking at the staff involved, it emerges that 55.7% of companies providing wine tourism services employ entirely or at least predominantly female staff. Moreover, as more than 85% of the companies present good part or no less than half of their workforce of the fairer sex, proving that wine tourism is increasingly female-driven. The survey also showed that the most common form of booking is payment at the winery provided for 87.7% of respondents while payment by credit card and/or Paypal is provided in 58.3% of cases. For those who do not have an online payment system but still prefer to receive the amount in advance, 33% said they also accept bank transfers.

In addition, Divinea data on Fivi wineries, so usually small and medium-sized wineries, showed that 4.6% of wineries do not have a facility set up to welcome visitors, while 68.2% conduct tastings but do not have a dedicated resource. Just under 1 in 4 wineries have a person focused on hospitality while only 3.1% have a structured team for wine tourism. What’s more, 53.5% of wineries do not have a dedicated section for wine tourism on their website, 21.2% have a section for visits but with partial information and not clearly displayed, 19.6% have a booking form but without the possibility to indicate the date and/or pay online, while only the remaining 5.7% have a website set up to sell wine tourism experiences and linked to the winery’s availability calendar. Data that show that there is still ample room for improvement in both human resources and technology to support wine tourism management.

The distribution of visits over the months of the year returns to roughly the same pre-pandemic pattern. Net of different seasonality depending on the different wine regions, August and September remain the most popular months at around 20% each while July and October account for 70% of bookings made during 2021. On the other hand, looking at the distribution of bookings by day, time and form of payment we observe that: most bookings are made during the week with a preference on Tuesdays, since people are less at the computer during the weekend; the preferred time to book a winery visit is early morning and around lunchtime. In any case, given the distribution over all time slots, it is always better to have an online booking system than to lose potential customers; more than 3/4 of visitors, regardless of nationality, prefer to book online, disproving once and for all the theories of some wineries that believe wine tourists are not predisposed to online payments.

Also stable is the number of people per booking, which is confirmed to be 2.8 as well as the average booking receipt, which returns to pre-pandemic values, 85.5 euros to be precise, after dropping to 77 euros in the second half of 2020. Analyzing in detail the change in the average receipt according to the type of experience, we find confirmation that experiences such as a picnic, dinner in the vineyard or trekking among the vineyards are on average 25% more profitable than classic tastings. After the lockdown, the time lag between the time of booking and the day of the winery experience is also reduced from 23 to 10 days. This time frame remains almost unchanged in 2021, stabilizing at 12 days. As was already evident in the 2020 data, the majority of bookings came from a female audience. In 2021, however, there is a further increase of 12%, bringing bookings made by women to 2/3 of the total. Another element to highlight is still the high rate of refusal by wineries, which stands at 11.1%. The fact that more than one in 10 bookings are not confirmed by the winery still confirms the limited organizational capacity on the part of wineries, which do not have careful control over their agendas and end up rejecting some visitors, in some cases after the latter have already made their reservations. Finally, the growth of experiences acquired as gifts, which in 2021 will stand at 17.2% of the total packages sold with peaks of up to 40% close to holidays such as Christmas.

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