Some 100 of the UK’s 470 vineyards have opened their doors to the public and it has paid off according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), with a 65 per cent increase in visitors this year.
Vineyard owners have been offering a variety of services including tours, on-site eateries and shops, which have been popular with visitors. WSTA said a third of English vineyards have experienced a surge in overseas visitors – predominantly from Holland, Germany, France and China.
Tourism is the third largest service export and in 2014 it contributed £60bn to the UK economy. If wine tourism continues to flourish this could be boosted further still. WSTA’s research found the average wine traveller in the US spends £650 per trip on wine-related activities and with wine tourism an “untapped asset” in the UK, if utilised, it could be a route to continued growth.
There are currently 2,000 hectares of vineyards operating within the UK, producing 4.45m bottles of wine each year.
The owner of Rathfinny Estate on the South Downs said that as it is a new vineyard, he was expanding the winery and facilities for visitors. Mark Driver said: “We offer guided tours of our vineyard and winery, bed and breakfast stays, and have created a new footpath to allow visitors to explore.”
Sam Linter of Bolney Wine Estates also said there had been a “marked increase in the number of visitors” to his vineyard since 2013, with around 10,000 people visiting last summer. “With a more open space we are hoping to welcome even bigger groups to our vineyard and with a new balcony overlooking the vineyard we hope to provide the perfect location for visitors to enjoy a glass of wine and bite to eat.”
As vineyards seek to encourage visitors, many are assessing how best to improve the customer experience and make their offerings even more tourist friendly.
Miles Beale, chief executive of WSTA, said: “We have seen considerable growth in the wine tourism industry over recent years and it is fantastic that vineyards across the UK are starting to feel the very real benefits from this growth.”
He added that as tourist numbers are “ever-increasing” and there is a “growing export market for English wine,” the UK’s rural vineyards were competing with the best in the world.
English Wine Producers said the trend towards buying local has also drove interest in rural tourism. Marketing director Julia Trustram Eve said: “As English wines become available in pubs, restaurants and retail outlets, visitors want the chance to look behind the scenes.”
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