Wine tourism: A lifeline for the industry

Wine industry looks to tourism

Vineyards of Ribeira Sacra, Galicia. Credit: S.Vidal/

In the face of declining exports and a worldwide drop in wine consumption, can wine tourism offer a glimmer of hope?

Recent figures from December 2023 reveal a concerning trend for the wine industry, particularly within Spain. The Spanish Interprofessional Wine Organization reported a meagre 0.5 per cent year-on-year increase in domestic consumption.

More alarmingly, exports outside the European Union plummeted by 31 per cent to €66 million up to November, compared to 2022. This decline is not unique to Spain but is a global phenomenon, signalling difficult times for wine producers worldwide.

The rise of wine tourism

Fernando Ezquerro, president of the Rioja Regulatory Council, voiced the industry’s concern over the declining interest in wine.

The worldwide drop in wine consumption ‘worries’ the sector that, after facing ‘the seven plagues of Egypt’ and with a shorter production than in other years.

In response, there is a growing focus on wine tourism as a strategy to reinvigorate the industry.

The Rioja denomination, for instance, attracted close to 750,000 visitors in 2022, generating an economic impact of €155 million. As statistics await to be confirmed he trend is expected to continue, with projections of 800,000 tourists visiting over 600 DOCa wineries in 2023.

Promoting wine as a cultural asset

Jose Luis Benitez, general director of the Spanish Wine Federation (FEV), believes that promoting wine tourism is crucial, especially now.

He argues for increased marketing efforts, particularly abroad, to showcase the diversity of Spanish wine and the unique experiences wineries offer.

‘It is necessary to encourage advertising campaigns for wineries with the help of the public administration,’ says Benitez. He also suggests integrating wine tourism into travel packages to attract international visitors beyond the major cities of Madrid and Barcelona.

A focus on domestic tourism

Despite the push for international visitors, the primary audience for wine tourism remains Spaniards. According to the Spanish Association of Wine Cities (ACEVIN), over 80 per cent of wine tourism users are nationals, favouring regions like Rioja, Jerez, Ribera del Duero, and Calatayud.

This domestic interest underscores the potential of wine tourism not only as a tool for international brand building but also for fostering local appreciation and support for the wine industry.

As the wine sector grapples with significant challenges, from declining sales to external market pressures, wine tourism emerges as a vital strategy to stimulate interest and support.

Through enhancing visitor experiences and leveraging the cultural value of wine, there is hope for revitalising this traditional industry.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.