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UK set to be major player in wine tourism

Wine tourism is rapidly expanding in the UK, with vineyards and wineries across the country attracting more visitors than ever before and many adding restaurants, cafés and even accommodation to their premises to keep visitor numbers growing.

With the bulk of English vineyards within an hour’s train journey from London, wine tourism could be key in helping to grow the UK tourism industry. During the most recent 12 months, 13.5 million holiday visits took place in the UK, close to record levels. The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) however believe that wine tourism remains an untapped asset for continued growth in the tourism sector.

In July, the Prime Minister set out a five-point plan for Backing the Tourism Sector - including plans to protect the tourism industry in the UK, and to ensure that the benefits of the industry are felt outside of the capital, particularly in the South.

Tourism is now the UK’s third largest service export and in 2014 tourism directly contributed £60bn to the UK economy. With the average wine traveller in the US spending £650 per trip on wine-related activities, it is clear that the UK’s wine industry has the potential to deliver fantastic growth for UK plc.

Sam Linter, Bolney Wine Estates, comments: “We have seen a marked increase in the number of visitors to Bolney Wine Estate since 2013, with around 10,000 people coming through on tours, wine tastings and visits to our shop and café last summer. This summer, we are experiencing a similar volume of visitors and next year, we are looking to expand further. 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. Looking to the future, we’d love to see wine tourism here growing into an even more prominent feature of the wine industry.” 

Mark Driver, Owner, Rathfinney, adds: “As a new vineyard, we are currently expanding both our winery and our facilities for visitors. We offer guided tours of our vineyard and winery, bed & breakfast stays surrounded by vines on our vineyard, have created a new footpath to allow visitors to explore our busy vineyard and encourage visitors to head to our Cellar Door in the local village to taste our first wine and local products. Year on year we expect the visit numbers to increase but we are keen to do it in a sustainable way, focusing on our customer experience. We aim to be a destination for wine lovers both home and abroad.”

Julia Trustram-Eve, MD, English Wine Producers says: “With well over 100 vineyards across the country that are open to the public in some shape or form, the burgeoning wine industry here in the UK is embracing wine tourism. Vineyards are using increasingly creative methods to host visitors, from guided tours and visitors’ centres to places to stay and on-site restaurants. The growth in awareness and enthusiasm in locally-sourced and produced food has heightened the interest in rural tourism and the exciting work being done at vineyards across the country. As English wines become available in pubs, restaurants and retail outlets, it is great to see visitors given the chance to look behind the scenes. Wine tourism, in whatever guise, is something that is a growing area in the UK wine industry.”

Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association agrees: “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. With an ever-increasing number of tourists, as well as a growing export market for English wine, it is an exciting realisation that our vineyards and wineries are competing with the best in the world.”

27 August 2015 - Felicity Murray The Drinks Report, editor