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Study provides insights regarding state’s winery visitors

Syrah_t_2.jpgBOONE—Visitors to N.C. wineries in 2007 tended to be middle aged, highly educated and have a higher than average household income. And they liked to spend money at wineries, with purchases averaging $176 per travel party.

These and other visitor profiles are part of a wine tourism study conducted for the N.C. Wine and Grape Council by professors at Appalachian State University.

Thirteen wineries representing distinct regions across the state distributed the surveys to visitors. A total of 925 surveys were completed.

“North Carolina has a thriving grape and wine industry,” said Margo Knight Metzger, executive director of the N.C. Wine and Grape Council. “This report provides insights about the state’s wine tourists and why they visit a wine region in the state. This information is a valuable resource for the owners and operators of the more than 350 vineyards and more than 70 wineries in our state.”

Dr. Carol Pollard, executive director of Appalachian’s Center for Applied Research on Emerging Technologies (CARET), presented the results of the survey June 24 in Raleigh during the N.C. Wine and Grape Council’s 2008 Wine Industry Summit. Other members of the research team were Dr. Mike Evans, director of Appalachian’s hospitality program and Dr. Grant Holder from the Department of Chemistry.

“This is a landmark study for the N.C. Wine and Grape Council,” Pollard said. “It is the first of its kind to report on wine visitation in North Carolina and provides winery owners with much-needed data to help guide this exciting and growing area of hospitality and tourism.”

The study showed that wine tourists tend to be day-trippers who travel to an area specifically to visit a winery. Most were from in state (53 percent), although 47 percent came from bordering or East Coast states.

The majority of respondents were first-time visitors to the winery (61 percent) and most only visited one winery during their trip. In addition, visiting a winery was the primary destination for 40 percent of the travel parties, which indicates the industry is becoming an important part of the state’s tourism industry.

“Knowing who your visitors are and why they visit is an important marketing tool for winery owners,” Evans said.

Evans said that while wineries are doing an excellent job in their marketing efforts, opportunities may exist to package other activities, such as scenic drives, hiking or shopping as part of the winery experience.

“This report provides baseline data on the characteristics, trip behaviors and attitudes of visitors to North Carolina’s wine regions,” he said.

According to the report, visitors to wineries tended to be women (64 percent), have a college degree (63 percent), and were an average age of 47, although the range of respondents was from 20 to 92 years.

More than a third reported incomes more than $100,000 (37 percent). Twenty-three percent reported income ranging from $75,000 to $99,999.

Out-of-state visitors tended to come from South Carolina, Florida and Virginia. Out-of-state visitors tended to visit the state’s larger wineries.

Forty-one percent of visitors learned of the winery by word-of-mouth from family and friends, while others relied on the Internet or billboards.

The number of wineries in North Carolina has tripled since 2000 with the state boasting more than 70 wineries in 31 counties. The state is the 10th largest producer of grapes and wine in the United States. The industry has created more than 5,700 full-time jobs and $158 million in wages.