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The wineries attract big money as the limo outside of the Mt. Boucherie wine shop shows.  (Photo: Devon Brooks)
The wineries attract big money as the limo outside of the Mt. Boucherie wine shop shows. (Photo: Devon Brooks)

Winery development in West Kelowna

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As a group, they are highly educated, earn above the national household median income and are willing to spend money and time to pursue their passion. They are wine tourists and the wineries of West Kelowna have adopted different strategies to attract them to their doors.

The most recent survey of wine tourists, the Okanagan Valley Wine Consumer Research Study, was released in 2008. The survey methodology compiled responses from 1,977 participants who had attended one of seven wineries throughout the Okanagan. Some key take away facts are that 52% of respondents had a household income over $100,000 74% had at least a college or technical diploma and slightly over three quarters had been on wine tourism trips before.

For cross promotional tourism half of the wine travelers stayed at traditional fixed roof accommodations like hotels, and the average daily spend per party was $305.

High value wine tourists are coming to experience more than just wine what they want is the whole winery experience. The winery experience trend has been visible for some time.

In 2003 Tony Stewart, proprietor of Quails’ Gate Estate Winery, began planning and implementing a multiyear $8 million expansion. The planning took into account the infrastructure necessary to ramp up production, and handle more visitors. A large portion of the planning went into Old Vines Restaurant.

“When it comes to wine tourism we have seen that the experience at the winery will dictate what the customer will buy in the future,” explains Stewart. “We wanted to be able to showcase wine pairings. We wanted to achieve our goal of quality and go direct to the consumer.”

Old Vines Restaurant opened in 2005 and the new wine shop opened in 2007. This season Allison House was renovated to create a more casual atmosphere as an alternative for people with limited time or traveling with children. Every step of the way Stewart has had to ‘look at it in terms of years.’
There is always a next step in courting the wine tourist says Stewart. “We’ve started to look at changes to tours, to be more in depth and increase their visit time to two or three hours.”

Increasing the duration of visits and creating more options are key to wine tourism. The majority of travelers who visit a winery (72%) is traveling for leisure, while the remainder is visiting family.

Mount Boucherie Estate Winery has had their wine shop open year round since the day they opened in 2001. The family owned winery may have had a few winter days when it didn’t see visitors in the first year, says family member Jaspreet Gidda, but not many.

“People come to the Okanagan for the skiing and then when they need a break during their week, they tour wineries. There have been winter days when the roads were closed due to snow, yet customers have still come to the shop.”
Wine shop sales are up 10% over last year and Gidda estimates that about one in ten of the customers she sees each day during the summer season are new to the Okanagan, but many are repeat customers from a global variety of locations.

“People come to the Okanagan to do other things,” says Gidda. “Golf, see friends then they visit a winery.”

The wineries attract big money as this limo outside of the Mt. Boucherie wine shop showsThe vast majority of people insert a winery visit while on vacation to the Okanagan as a destination. A winery tourist is highly likely to visit complementary venues including fine dining and the farmer’s market. These strong clear preferences should give hope to West Kelowna businesses that are well thought of by earlier visitors and locals. Travelers who come to the Okanagan to visit family and friends have been shown to rely heavily (37%) on personal recommendations.

Word of mouth is a significant part of the marketing strategy for the new Beaumont Family Estate Winery, which opened its doors to the public in 2008. A private organic grape grower since 1995, Beaumont is starting to attract repeat business from locals says family member Louise Lubchynski. “People mention us to their guests and the word gets out, which is so important.”
Beaumont’s guest book shows visitors have come from as far away as Mongolia. “Many of our customers like the smallness of our winery. We always have time to talk, and everything is right there, in front of them when they come in,” explains Lubchynski. “They can see and experience the process.”

Having a wide variety of wineries in West Kelowna from big to small is important says Salina Petschulat-Curtis, Tourism Coordinator for Tourism Westside. That variety is key when it comes to the creation of a wine tour with the region, and eventually the extended cross promotion with other businesses.

“We are building the infrastructure for a wine tour. We are looking at how do you build that base, and what is a long term solution,” explains Petschulat-Curtis. Tourism Westside works with a variety of stakeholders within the wine industry to make certain there is wide spread input and support for plans going forward.

Some elements of building capacity on the Westside are among the tasks the District of West Kelowna is taking on, including a sign audit, and determining how to make it simpler for tourists to find amenities. The long range vision is to look at tying into the wider Okanagan Valley with cross marketing of different sectors and different regions and municipalities to create a complete destination.

Petschulat-Curtis is confident wine tourism’s positive economic impact will continue to grow. “We have so much here in the Okanagan and especially in West Kelowna: wine, agricultural tourism which is a high priority for many people and ‘soft’ outdoor activities such as hiking. That in turn will support restaurants and hotels.”

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