Wine Therapy Spa Tours Anyone?

Jochen Erler, a freelance foreign correspondent, hopes to pair his strong background in the spa industry with the wine tourism industry.  In attending this conference, Mr. Erler hopes to learn more about wine tourism and the role it plays on the travel market at large.

As one of the journalists at the conference and part of the Fam Blogger-Media Trip, Mr. Erler hopes to both discover the wide world of wine tourism and discuss how it can be paired with other unique travel activities.  Please see Mr. Erler’s responses to our questions below:

1) As the 2011 Wine Conference takes place in Porto, Portugal this year, how do you view Porto, Portugal as a wine destination?

Porto is certainly a destination for wine tourists, thanks to the Duero valley with its steep vineyards and its famous wineries, subject to wine tourism requirements (wineries and vinothèques open for visitors, good infrastructure i.e. hotels, roads etc.). There are not only fortified wines, but also excellent red wines made from indigenous grapes. Another attraction is the nearby white wine growing area to the North.

2) You have mentioned an interest in combining wine tourism and spa experiences, could you describe what you envision in this combination and the advantages it would provide to the chosen destination?

A combined promotion of wine tourism and spa wellness could be launched for wine growing areas suitable for wine tourism (requirements as above, including an airport nearby, beautiful landscape etc), where thermal or Thalasso spas are located. It would offer to wine tourists the additional attraction of having some rest and wellness during their travels and continuous wine tasting which can be rather tiring. Thermal and Thalsasso spas which are chemical free have always been popular with the older generation. In recent years the health conscious younger generation has also become interested in spa resorts. Accordingly some holiday travel agencies have started successfully to combine activity holidays, such as walking holidays, with stays in spa resorts. If wine therapy (skin care based on grape seed oil) is available in the resort visited, this would be of special interest to wine tourists. The chosen destination of the wine tour would not only benefit from having attracted an additional group of customers, but would also benefit from the higher expenditures incurred by the tourists.

3) With wine tourism growing across the globe, how would you describe the differences between the old world and new world wine cultures? What do you view as the strengths and weaknesses of each?

There is no significant difference in wine consumers’ culture between the New and Old Worlds. However, wine tourism which is part of wine culture, is quite different. It is far advanced in the New World, because it serves as a means for family outings or even holidays. In some areas it offers the only venue for cultural and social entertainment. The big wineries are well equipped and make available a great number of amenities. In the Old World wine tourism is more an affair for wine lovers who visit their wineries they already know, to buy wine there, or who wish to discover other wineries, grape varieties, or to learn more about wine in general. Wine tourism as a recreational activity, to be used as a means of a family outing or for vacation, is in the Old World only in its beginning stage. The strength of wine tourism lies in its potential to appeal to people who look for an activity holiday. Its potential weakness lies in the importance of the quality of the service offered by the travel agency/ tour leader/ vinothèque staff/ monitor of the tastings. The success of any wine tourism depends heavily on the input provided by the people at the serving side of its activities.

4) As an experienced travel writer what have do you feel are the biggest challenges to overcome in promoting wine tourism?

As there are various modes of wine tourism, the challenges are different. To attract individually travelling wine tourists, the information of the area to be visited must be complete and easy to understand. Many Wine Route brochures are lacking in this respect. They should also mention wine festivals, vinothèques, overnight accommodation and spas, wineries to visit etc. For tourists travelling by car, short circular walks through the vineyards of the villages visited should be created. This would also be beneficial to visitors on a bus tour. One or two stops at a spa would be the ideal solution to give these travellers a rest. If the spa offers wine therapy, this would be especially appropriate.

5) What wine destination would you suggest as the site for the 2012 International Wine Tourism Conference?

First requirement for a venue for the Conference: a nearby airport which is served by a low-cost airline. Second: it should be located in an area well suited for wine tourism. To my mind come two places: Northern and middle Italy, and the Mosel/Saar/Ruwer area in Germany – aside from some wineries in Spain, this is the wine growing area most advanced in promoting wine tourism. I don’t know if there are suitable airports near the wine tourism-orientated wineries in Spain. Third: an important point for the organizer: to get support from the local tourist- and wine- related industry. I would think that cash-rich Bordeaux, with support from SOPEXA, would also be suitable.

Join the International Wine Tourism Conference and network with Jochen and 200 – 300 more attendees. Thea will be delivering a talk at the Wine Tourism Conference titled: Wine Therapy Tours