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IWINETC Session: Role of the Wine Festival in Wine Tourism…

At the 2012 International Wine Tourism Conference, John Hudelson from Central Washington University in Washington presented “Role of the Wine Festival in Wine Tourism and Regional Identity.” The information he provided from a survey may help festival planners increase attendance at wine festivals.

His focus was on a wine festival in the Hudson River Valley region of New York State. This wine region of New York stretches between Albany (New York’s capital) and New York City. Each year a Hudson Valley Wine & Food Fest takes place.

Hudelson noted that in recent years attendance at the festival has fallen. There was a survey of more than 300 fairgoers. Those surveyed included more women than men, most were at the festival for the first time, most were local, most bought wine and intended to buy wine before they came.

John presented the reasons people attended the wine festival.

  • To learn about wines
  • To support the local wine industry
  • To compare and buy wine
  • To taste food with wine
  • To socialize with the winemakers
  • For other reasons

In attempting to increase visitors to wine festivals, festival planners should look at the reasons why people attend festivals. Learning about wines is an important reason for people to attend a wine festival. Why not offer short sessions not just on how to taste wine but perhaps on the varietals grown in the area, history of wine in the area etc. For many people it’s important to taste food and wine. Don’t just have fast food vendors; ask cheesemakers and other gourmet food makers to provide a presence at the festival.

One of the points, to socialize with winemakers, is more difficult to address. Many winemakers choose not to attend wine festivals instead sending staff or volunteers to man the booths. However, these same winemakers may offer “dinners with the winemaker.” Perhaps wineries at festivals should provide signup sheets or a raffle for special dinners that would give wine enthusiasts the opportunity to talk with a winemaker.

An important comment that Hudelson made was that most of these festivalgoers heard about the festival through word of mouth not an expensive advertisement.

Note: For those who attended the presentation on “Best Practices for Increasing Traffic to Wine Regions,” by Terry Sullivan, a key word was ambassadors. Perhaps wine and food festivals should focus on creating ambassadors to increase attendance at festivals. After all who do you trust your friends and family or a glitzy advertisement?

The 2012 Hudson Valley Wine & Food Fest is scheduled for September 8th and 9th.

Cheers! Kathy

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