Inspire a tourist, then keep in touch

Tourists are ready and willing to absorb the message about Australian wine, but we have to do it in the right way and keep up the momentum when they return home.

That is the key finding of a comprehensive, Wine Australia-funded project recently completed by Dr Richard Lee from the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute at the University of South Australia.

The three-phase study set out to test, in a wine setting, the proposition that tourists tend to rate a country’s products more highly if they are enjoying their stay. And the theory was proven.

‘You wouldn’t think that someone simply being in a country as a tourist would necessarily have the experience rub off on their perception of brands but it does, and very much so’, he said.

‘The great advantage for Australian products is that Australia offers so many good tourism experiences and is so highly thought of that people having a good time is almost a given. Wineries just have to make sure tourists have a chance to encounter their wine.’

The research focused on Chinese wine consumers – both in Australia and in China – but Dr Lee is confident the findings would translate to other nationalities.

His research showed that Chinese tourists who are exposed to wine in Australia are more likely to purchase Australian wine when they get home, and that Chinese people who have been to Australia have a higher opinion of Australian wine that those who have not.

It does not matter what time of year they come to Australia, but the setting and the ambience are important. Study participants thought more highly of wine in a setting that was congruent to wine, such as a winery or restaurant, than in a general tourism setting.

‘Most Chinese tourists visit wine regions for the experience, rather than for the wine’, Dr Lee said. ‘If the experience is good, then the wine is thought of favourably.’

That’s good news for smaller wineries that don’t have the size or budget to market offshore, although, as Dr Lee notes, they do still need to have tourist appeal.

But wineries need to think about how they can stay in touch after their visitors return home, because of what Dr Lee calls the ‘decay effect’. Tracking tourists at 6 and 12 months after they left Australia showed that ‘their perceived image and purchase probability of Australian wine eroded over time.’

The final report from Dr Lee’s study is available on the Wine Australia website here. He discussed its findings in a webinar hosted by Wine Communicators of Australia, supported by Wine Australia, on Tuesday 4 August, which also featured Greg Stirling, who runs the Jacob’s Creek Visitors Centre in the Barossa Valley, which assisted the research.