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News Article

California wine tourists


Survey of wine country visitors released

A Wine Institute (WI) press release on 21 September reported the results of an online survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults who recently visited California wine country. The study, supported by the USDA, offers insights to wineries and local wine associations in understanding and enhancing the experience of visitors to wineries and regions. Fielded in late 2016, the survey gathered responses from an equal number of visitors from out of state and within the state in recognition of the importance of in-state visitors to wine regions. A California wine tourist was defined as someone who had visited a California wine region for leisure within the past three years to capture both high-involvement and casual wine tourists.

The survey shows the average age of visitors to California wine country is almost 44, split by gender 53.7 percent female and 46.3 percent male; more than two-thirds of visitors are married and their average annual income is more than $86,000. Around 58 percent of visitors to California wine country hold a college degree. The visitors are mainly from urban and suburban areas, with rural residents comprising just 10.4 percent of winery visitors.

Among the interesting stats in this study is that Baby Boomers seem to still be driving the California wine market, at least as it relates to tourism: they account for 39.5 percent of the traffic in wine country, followed by 36.3 percent millennials and 21.9 percent Gen Xers.

More than 70 percent of California wine country visitors surveyed drink wine at least once a week with 36 percent drinking wine several times a week and nearly 20 percent imbibing daily. Nearly 60 percent consider wine "important" or "very important" to their lifestyles and see themselves as "very knowledgeable" about the beverage. About 30 percent have been a member of one or more wine clubs in the past three years, suggesting the potential for growth in wine club sign-ups but also serving as a reminder that while many wine tourists may not join clubs they do purchase wine from other outlets and recommend them to others based on winery visits. The average price paid for retail wine purchases by survey respondents was just over $29. Nearly two-thirds buy wine from supermarkets, but 38% also buy from specialist wine stores and about 30% direct from wineries.

Not surprisingly, California wine visitors highly value winery and restaurant experiences with three-quarters noting tastings, tours and food pairings at wineries to be "important" or "very important" and 70 percent identifying exceptional and interesting restaurants as a priority. Nearly 50 percent stayed in luxury hotels (48.3% four-star, 25.6% five-star) versus a national norm of about 15 percent staying in the equivalent of five-star properties. Visitors use a variety of resources in deciding which regions and wineries to visit and most often rely on word-of-mouth recommendations (62.3%) and general internet searches (43.9%). While most California wine region trips are driven by leisure vacations (32.6%) or weekend getaways (26.2%), nearly one in ten trips (8.5%) is an add-on to a business or convention trip.

Word of mouth was by far the leading source of information (62%) for deciding what regions to visit, followed by general online search (44%), suggesting that social media and search optimization are very important communications channels for wineries and wine regions. Interestingly, wine magazines edged out travel magazines as an information source, while printed wine region maps came out higher than both.

According to the WI’s Discover California Wine website, California produces 85 percent of U.S. wine and is the number one U.S. state for wine and food tourism with dozens of distinct wine regions, 138 American Viticultural Areas and 4,700 wineries. The California industry generates 786,000 jobs in the U.S. and attracts 24 million tourist visits to the state’s wine regions each year, who leave behind an economic impact of $7.2 billion, including retail wine, hotels, restaurants, and other venues, which works out to 21 percent of California wine’s retail value.

Article details

  • Author(s)
  • David Simpson
  • Date
  • 03 October 2017
  • Subject(s)
  • Tourism