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Everything you always wanted to know about wine but never dared to ask

As the Oenotourism conference is being held this Tuesday, November 20, 2018, which will bring together all the main players in this sector, we were able to discuss with Chrisian Mantei, General Manager of Atout France, and Hervé Noveli, President of the Higher Council for Oenotourism. They share with us their vision of this growing sector.

What are the main challenges facing the wine tourism sector in the coming years?

Christian Mantei: Wine tourism is above all an economic issue. France is the world's leading tourist destination (by number of visitors) and the leading wine exporting country (by value). Wine tourism is an opportunity to develop 2 major sectors of our economy.

The sector is a great success with our visitors (10 million oenotourists in 2016, +33% compared to 2009, for an estimated revenue volume of 5.2 billion euros). It allows them to live, at the heart of our wine destinations, a unique experience linked to our way of life and thus reinforces the attractiveness of the French destination. It also promotes the discovery of our viticultural know-how and contributes to the export of our wines.

There are still significant margins for development, which is why French wine tourism must continue its efforts to structure itself. This requires a better qualification of the offer, digitisation, training of professionals, or even necessary work on the accessibility and readability of our offer.

What are the main trends in the wine tourism market?

CM: Travellers are increasingly splitting up their stays and, by shortening them, are trying to make them more thematic and meaningful. Wine tourism is part of this trend.

Among these oenotourists, eager for experience and great consumers of culture, visiting cellars and tasting remain the most widespread practices. However, we are currently witnessing a renewal of the experiences proposed by professionals with the appearance of original and distinctive proposals in all ranges and throughout the territory. They integrate fundamental expectations and trends such as well-being, responsibility, the desire to participate and of course a stronger presence on digital channels.

How is France positioned on the world wine tourism market?

CM. It is very difficult to compare the figures available at the global level, particularly because the calculation methods used are not the same from one country to another. However, it is estimated that France currently ranks second among the most popular wine tourism destinations with 10 million wine tourists per year (French and international), behind the United States, which reports 15 million wine tourists per year.

However, France is number one in terms of visits by foreign wine tourists (4.2 million per year) compared to 3 million in the United States.

In terms of supply, the two destinations closest to the French model are Italy and Spain, with, for the former, a historical development of agritourism and, for the latter, a certain creativity, particularly in architecture.

While it is very interesting to identify good practices that can be transferred to France from our neighbours, it is nevertheless important to remember that France has nothing to be ashamed of in terms of its oenotourism offer, which is very rich in relation to international competition.

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Why did you launch the Assises de l'Œnotourisme? Or what do you expect from the Assises de l'Œnotourisme?

HN : The first National Conferences on Wine Tourism to be held on 20 November at the Palais des congrès de Paris have the dual objective of highlighting this rapidly growing sector and setting the framework for France's development policy in this sector for the years to come. My ambition, which is shared by the public authorities, is to give France the means to achieve world leadership in wine tourism. I fundamentally believe that the discovery of our wines and terroirs is a central theme of tomorrow's tourism. This is very promising for our country!

What are the main obstacles to the successful development of wine tourism in France?

HN : There are no real obstacles to the development of wine tourism in France. Moreover, the latter would not have seen such a development in recent years if this were the case. The worlds of tourism and viticulture very quickly became aware of the importance of working together. However, much more and much better can be done and this is the objective of the first National Conferences on Wine Tourism.

Can you tell us about some of the measures that will be announced on November 20?

HN : Five main themes are at the heart of our vision for the development of wine tourism. Firstly, and as Christian Mantei mentioned, the qualification of the offer is central because many very different things are nowadays described as oenotourism. We will therefore provide France with an exhaustive and qualified listing of its wine tourism offer, which would be a world first!

Secondly, we have a training challenge to meet and as such we will propose the creation of a chair dedicated to wine tourism. Thirdly, we must democratise the wine tourism offer by facilitating its accessibility, which is why we will propose to the major French hotel chains a framework agreement enabling them to integrate a qualified wine tourism component into their commercial proposals. Fourthly, I would like to deepen the Tourism & Culture Convention by allowing the major cultural sites in our territories to be able to open up to wine tourism, in particular by offering the possibility of offering tastings. Finally, we must intensify our promotional efforts and we will propose in particular the creation of a major unifying event around a national holiday dedicated to wine tourism. We will also propose the creation of the first French Wine Tourism Trophies, in partnership with the magazine Terre de Vins, in order to promote the best wine tourism achievements in our country.

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What role should digital technology play in the development of wine tourism?

HN : Digital technology is now used at all levels of the wine tourism value chain. At the level of the construction of the product itself (augmented reality circuits, unscheduled spots, 4d videos, immersive courses, etc.) but also upstream (training, MOOC, etc.) and of course downstream (promotion, distribution, etc.).

In my opinion, digital has a key role to play in improving accessibility and therefore the democratisation of the French wine tourism offer. It is absolutely essential to facilitate the booking of cellar visits and tastings, the number one practice of our 10 million oenotourists, and this sometimes remains a little complicated, especially on Sundays! The online booking platforms that are currently being developed are an ideal response provided that they manage to maintain a close link with the reality of the offer on the ground.

Finally, digital is a powerful vector of notoriety for our wine tourism companies, which are still under-exploited to this day, particularly in France.

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