Wine tourism vital to valley

Report shows wine tourism has an economic impact of $140 million annually on the Okanagan Valley

  • Sep. 29, 2013 3:00 p.m.

Judie Steeves

Black Press

A new report has been released that shows wine tourism has an economic impact of $140 million annually on the Okanagan Valley.

A collaboration of the Okanagan Wine Festivals Society, the B.C. Wine Institute and the Okanagan School of Business at Okanagan College, the report was based on more than 1,000 interviews at member wineries and at wine festivals and found that there are more than 1,400 full-time jobs in tourism and related employment.

Wine festivals generate $87 million in direct annual economic impact and $52 million in indirect economic impact, while net annual government revenue from wine tourism is $4 million.

Interviews conducted as part of the survey revealed that destination wine tourists spend on average, $475 a trip to the Okanagan, and regional wine tourists spend $120 a visit, with two people the most common size of a group.

On the whole, wine festivals tend to attract a younger audience, and nearly 70 per cent of wine tourists have at least two years college or university education.

“This study really validates the importance of wine tourism to our local economy and how the wine festivals and its hundred-plus member wineries have been successful at engaging consumers in unique and authentically British Columbian wine experiences year-round,” said Blair Baldwin, professor at the Okanagan School of Business at the college, and manager of the festivals.

“You get to meet the characters behind the wine and experience wine country the way it’s meant to be enjoyed — in a fun and social atmosphere,” said Eric von Krosigk, chairperson of the wine festivals society.

“This study is welcome news and underscores the belief that wine tourism is a terrific economic driver.”

This year’s fall wine festival begins this week, when it’s expected to bring more than 800,000 tourists to the valley to visit some of the more than 200 wineries, taste and buy some of the 80 varietals of wines, eat at restaurants and attend festival events.

While here, they’ll have a taste not only of the wines produced in previous years, but of the grape harvest, which is well underway in the 9,800 acres of vineyard planted in the region.

During the Oct. 4 to 14 fall wine festival this year, there are more than 150 events through the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys.

They range from wine and cheese pairings, to wine-paired dinners, receptions, vineyard lunches, art walks, music, grape stomps and theatre.

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