UBCO team examines the roots of great wine tourism

Research Excellence | Strategy 10: Research Culture
Theme: Innovation
Giving your guests the chance to participate in agricultural workshops or hands-on activities are just some of the ways wineries can create an authentic and memorable holiday, new research from UBC Okanagan suggests.

Establishing a sense of place—letting visitors dig right into the soil and smell the earth where the grapes are grown for their wine—is one strategy wineries can use to revive lagging tourism numbers coming out of the pandemic, new research from UBC Okanagan reveals.

Research Associate Darcen Esau and supervisor Dr. Donna Senese, an Associate Professor in Geography in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, collaborated on new research published recently in the journal Food Quality and Preference.

“It really does come down to ensuring people understand that wine tourism is a multi-sensory experience,” says Esau.

The findings come thanks to research focused on Italy’s renowned Tuscany wine region in 2018. Finding “slow, small and local” is what wine tourists crave on vacation, and is what makes Tuscany a world leader in wine tourism. It also provides a simple framework others can follow regardless of where in the world they are located.

Dr. Senese, who conducts research with UBC’s Wine Research Centre, has led UBC courses in the Chianti wine appellation four times to study the connections between wine, food and tourism in the sustainability of the region’s geography. She calls Esau’s findings eye-opening, and further confirmation of what she has held dear for the past 20 years. Respecting place is at the heart of every geographer, like her, and she wants the wine industry to embrace a holistic approach in their thinking.

“It is sensual on all five levels,” she says. “For our students, one of the standouts about visiting a lot of those wineries in Tuscany, and the experiences they have, is the breathtaking passion the people at the wineries have for the product and the place.

The research comes at an especially important time for a wine industry attempting to recover from a global pandemic. According to a study commissioned by Wine Growers British Columbia and released in mid-August, wine-related tourism in the Okanagan declined to 254,000 visits in 2020 from 1.2 million in 2019.

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Through Strategy 10: Research Culture, UBC is working to develop the principles and practices that define a collaborative and inclusive research culture and that support mentorship, scholarship, discovery and creativity.