Opportunities for Sustainability in Wine Tourism

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — As communities struggle to find normalcy after COVID-19, the much-neglected tourism industry desperately needs revenue. Estimated losses could reach “$3.3 trillion, or 4.2% of global GDP” in just one year. Moreover, because tourism involves multiple industries, a $1 million decrease in tourism revenue signals a net loss of $2 to $3 million to national economies. However, this crisis is also an opportunity to redress past shortcomings and to foster new perspectives. Specifically, there are myriad opportunities for sustainability in wine tourism to combat intractable rural poverty.

Role of Tourism

Previously, in a $7 trillion market by 2011, roughly one in 10 workers were employed in tourism-related industries, equating to 260 million jobs. Most of these service-oriented jobs require fewer skills and have enormous potential to gainfully employ uneducated rural populations. Additionally, tourism is highly infrastructure-dependent; therefore, active investment in tourism could bring much-needed resources and utilities to underserved communities.

Developing nations experienced a sixfold increase in international tourism income between 1990 and 2007. In fact, tourism became the “first, second or third-largest sector” in the world’s 50 poorest economies. Totaling $260 billion, the direct foreign investment had a multiplying effect on domestic markets as other industries profit from increased revenue as well. At its highest, tourism represents 40% of GDP in developing nations. Access to this market is a strategic component of poverty alleviation among developing economies.

Sadly, economic growth does not correlate with income equality as a tiny fraction of the global population increasingly consolidates revenue. Some African nations lose 85% of potential tourism income because it is funneled elsewhere. In the Gambia, the poor only receives “14% of in-country spending.” In Ethiopia, the poor receive almost none. Despite 30% tourism growth in Cambodian tourism in 2001, the absence of reliable domestic production sent $0.75 cents of every dollar went back to Thailand to purchase food, flowers and furniture.

Sustainable Wine Tourism

Opportunities for sustainability in wine tourism abound. In 2016, France alone drew 10 million visitors, generating €5.2 billion. Moreover, these direct sales bypass global supply chains, drastically increasing profit margins and providing access to new markets. Categorized as both rural and agricultural tourism, the industry is particularly well-suited to fight poverty as 65% of low-income populations in developing nations depended on farming as the primary source of income in 2016.

In 2019, $278.9 billion in tourism expenditures went to food services; this directly impacts jobs in hotels, restaurants and farms. Wine tourism also creates permanent employment in the notoriously seasonal industry. Most importantly, wine is a ‘territorial intensive product’ as it is deeply intertwined with the culture and region. This allows communities to protect their local heritage and identity in the face of globalism’s homogenizing influence.

South Moravia

For nearly two millennia, South Moravia produced the majority of Czech wine. However, lagging agricultural production prevents the region from entering global markets. A public-private marketing collaboration between CzechTourism and Moravia-based travel agency Znovin Znojmo promoted wine tourism, increasing cellar visits by approximately 20%. This active marketing and branding also helped Šobes Vineyard become a UNESCO world heritage site.

At the international level, the Ministry for Rural Development, in partnership with the European Union, financed Moravian Wine Trail’s 1200-km infrastructure investment for cycling or walking tours in culturally and gastronomically significant wine-producing regions. These various initiatives drastically impacted economic activity, leading 15% of all Czech adults to participate in regional wine tourism.

Spain

Spain is the third-largest global producer of wine but lacks the international recognition and branding of Italy and France, first and second on the list respectively. Without sustained international commerce, Spanish wine-producing regions cannot create opportunities for sustainability in wine tourism. For the ‘deseasonalization of demand,’ the Spanish Association of Wine Cities, consisting of 2000+ companies, develops regionally specific programs. Nationally, viticulture-related visits increased 3.9% in 2019, creating a 5.68% growth in revenue, helping communities transition from overreliance on agriculture to tourism as the primary source of income. Specifically, ‘transversal territorial discourse’ promoted La Axarquia producers hand-harvesting and traditional agriculture as a uniquely marketable brand. In as much, vineyards avoided expensive infrastructure modernization while simultaneously protecting cultural heritage.

Greece

The Peloponnesian wine region of Greece was slow in responding to the international wine trade. As the impacts of globalization progressed, however, the survival of the region’s 180 small wineries was imperiled. Producers pivoted to opportunities for sustainability in wine tourism while financing from the EU lessened the burden of expensive modernization.

Furthermore, subsequent increases in productivity created reliable and high-quality wine essential for global trade. A consolidated focus on sustainable agriculture practices for soil management and irrigation transitioned 48% of wineries to organic certification, an increasingly important certification for global trade. To further protect cultural identity, 66% of wineries pair local gastronomy during wine tastings.

South Africa

Surveys of wine regions in South Africa before and after active tourism initiatives credited the creation of 300,000 permanent positions attributed to growth in wine tastings and food-related services. By decreasing volatility, 68% of wineries encouraged investment in social development projects. The Solms-Delta vineyard created the Wijn de Caab Trust in 2005, allowing employees to purchase adjacent farms with 33% equity in the company. By providing housing and subsidizing education costs, Solms-Delta breaks the poverty cycle of child labor, preventing the all-too-familiar traditional agrarian dependent income for the rural poor. Employee ownership helped the vineyard thrive, resulting in the Delta Trust in 2007, an initiative promoting community development through social programs and culturally significant activities.

Countries around the world are taking strides to ensure sustainable wine tourism. Besides reducing negative effects on the environment and local communities, it continues to boost tourism revenue. As the world’s citizens increasingly receive vaccinations and travel starts to return, the benefits of these efforts will compound.

Kit Krajeski
Photo: Flickr

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