Wine related tourism is becoming increasingly important for wineries. For example there are around 4.5 million visits to wineries in Australia annually. Domestic visitors make up the majority (4 million) and international visitors, the remainder. The overall value of wine tourism has been estimated at nearly A$1 billion annually, of which over A$400 million is spent in wineries and another A$550 million spent elsewhere by winery visitors.
Although smaller and still in its infancy, the South African wine tourism industry employs an estimated 60,000 people and an estimated R 4,2 billion is generated through wine tourism activities focused in the wine regions. Based on international experience South Africa has not even scratched the surface of the potential of wine tourism.
For many smaller wine producers, cellar door sales play an important role in the marketing mix and their ability to build and successfully manage wine tourism will determine their viability. However most employees working in wine tourism have been trained on the job in a fairly ad hoc way. In order for the industry to maximize its potential, it is essential that its workforce have the necessary skills and knowledge as tourists expect no less than a great experience and high standards of service.
But to create and sustain this level of performance requires on-going training and innovation. Enter the recently opened Queensland College of Wine Tourism, a new A$6.5 million purpose-built education and training institute for the Queensland wine industry. This project is sponsored by the Queensland government in partnership with the Queensland wine industry and is located at Stanthorpe, centre of the Granite Belt, Queenslandâ€™s first and premier wine region. Stages B, C, and D are under construction and include a training kitchen, teaching restaurant and laboratories.
The College is designed to be a lead centre and showcase for the Queensland wine tourism industry, providing on-going training for existing industry employers and employees, with a particular focus on new technologies. The College is working closely with the Wine Tourism Industry to meet training needs in skill shortage areas.
One of the most serious constraints to the development of the wine tourism industry worldwide is the availability of trained and qualified staff. However the education and training needs of the industry requires a considerable amount of investment. This demands both government and industry support and a clear vision to maximise opportunities. The potential for growth is huge.
By Mike Carter.