Between Wine and Wine Tourism

22/11/2008
By: Noa Hanoon, Prof. Yoel Mansfeld
The Study of Consumer and Spatial Behavior of Israeli Wine Tourists
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Between Wine and Wine Tourism

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?By: Noa Hanoon, Prof. Yoel Mansfeld

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University of Haifa Department of Geography and Environmental Studies

Wine consuming is a symbol both of a certain lifestyle and of social status. As such, it is the embodiment of materialism, as it links consumerism with meaning. On the one hand, a wine embodies the characteristics of the location where it was produced, as well as reflecting the image and the approach of that particular winery; on the other hand, it allows for its use and for conveying a message to a person?s surroundings regarding his lifestyle. A person?s lifestyle reflects certain values, thereby setting him apart from others through consumption which, as a social activity, allows him to grant significance and consistency to his identity. At the same time, a person?s choices enable him to express his values, to be part of a community that exhibits similar taste and consumer patterns, and for the symbolic aspect of his actions to be recognized by this community and by society, in general.

Research has shown that various lifestyles are linked to wine and its consumption throughout a person?s lifecycle, and that choices linked to regular wine consumption stem from his lifestyle, rather than from the stage he is at in this lifecycle. As a component of a total lifestyle, wine appreciation is followed by additional behavioral patterns, which are part of the lifestyle of wine enthusiasts. These patterns include visiting vineyards and wineries, attending wine festivals and exhibitions, all of which can be categorized as wine tourism. This type of special interest tourism includes tourists visiting a physical and cultural environment associated with wine. The main motivations for wine tourism are tasting wine, learning about wine, and meeting those who produce it, as well as other wine enthusiasts.

Many socio-demographic similarities are found between wine tourists and wine enthusiasts. Moreover, it has been found in the research that people visiting wineries consume wine on a regular basis, have an average to high level of knowledge on the subject of wine, and visit wineries and wine-producing regions a few times a year. Their involvement with wine is apparent both from their daily consumption and from their behavior as tourists, which involves choosing a trip or holiday destination, in accordance with the place of origin of their favorite wines, and with what the surroundings have to offer from a tourism perspective. While on a wine tourism trip, in addition to visiting wineries, wine tasting and purchasing some wine, the enthusiasts hope to undergo an overall experience, which comprises the physical and cultural aspects of a specific destination. Research conducted among tourists, in general, and wine tourists, in particular, shows that the latter share a number of lifestyle characteristics and tend to share the same values.

Based on the above, and in light of the development that has been taking place in the Israeli wine industry, in general, and in Israeli wine tourism, in particular, the aim of this research is to provide an initial characterization of the Israeli wine tourist, by looking at his individual characteristics and at his consumer behavior in relation to wine tourism. Accordingly, the research question examines whether there is a link between the socio-demographic and lifestyle characteristics of Israeli wine tourists, and their involvement with wine in everyday life, in relation to their consumer and spatial behavior as wine tourists.
The research is based on a field work conducted with the help of questionnaires, in four wineries located on the Golan Heights and in Upper Galilee, which are associated both with tourism and with wine producing. In the three wineries located on the Golan Heights (Golan Heights Winery, Bazelet HaGolan Winery and Odem Mountain Winery), the survey was carried out by a pollster. In the Galil Mountain Winery, the survey was conducted by the Visitors? Center employees, who received the relevant instructions. The sample was chosen randomly among visitors, in the course of the survey. Out of the 268 questionnaires that were filled in, 254 were valid, which represents 94.78%.

The findings, which were processed and analyzed, show that like their peers abroad, Israeli wine tourists share similar socio-demographic characteristics. Most of them reside in the center of the country, are between 25 ? 44 years old, have an average or above income, an academic education and have a liberal or an academic profession, or fill a managerial position. Differences in socio-demographic characteristics have a minor impact on the consumer and spatial behavior of Israeli wine tourists. Regarding lifestyle, it was found that they share key values, most of which point to an outgoing and hedonistic lifestyle, which corresponds to the nature of wine. Some links were found between key values, opinions and attitudes, areas of interest, and leisure activities, and previous visits to wineries. However, as with socio-demographic features, one cannot point to lifestyle characteristics that have a strong impact on the consumer and spatial behavior of Israeli wine tourists.
The findings in relation to the link between wine consumption and wine tourism consumption show that visitors to wine tourism sites in the area of the research consume wine at a higher rate than average, in a variety of settings and more frequently than other alcoholic beverages, and that most of them have visited wineries in the past. In addition, it was found that the respondents can be divided in accordance with their level of involvement with wine, and that there is a link between the latter and previous visits to wine tourism sites, the social framework of the visit, the motivations for practicing wine tourism, and the pulling factors of the wine tourism attraction. In other words, the response to the research question is that the consumer behavior among wine tourists in Northern Israel seems to be linked essentially to consumer behavior in relation to wine, and that this link is both quantitative and functional. No specific spatial link was found between consumer behavior in relation to wine tourism and consumer behavior in relation to wine, in general; however, these findings clearly show that the tourism environment represents a significant part of the tourism patterns and of the spatial and consumer behavior of the respondents.

Other important conclusions that emerged from the research show that the activities offered to the visitors at the wineries (wine tasting, guided tour, and wine purchasing) are in direct response to the key motives for visiting wine tourism sites, as they appeared in the survey; they also show that wine tourism is not a goal in itself, but is linked to an overall interest in wine and functions as a bridge between the level of knowledge and expertise and the level of interest in wine, through its educational component. In other words, wineries are successful at responding to the needs of the visitors. Other conclusions relate to the importance of the tourism space which this research focuses on. The combination of the pulling factors that influence the selection of a tourism destination, the tourism patterns and the spatial behavior of visitors in wineries shows that in this tourism pattern, the visit to a wine tourism attraction is part of a tourism experience that comprises additional components, all of which can respond to the motives and needs of the visitors. It also shows that spatial behavior is influenced by the entire tourist space and by the tourism-related components it offers, rather than the exclusive presence of wine tourism sites in these surroundings.

These findings and conclusions are likely to contribute to the development of wine tourism sites and regions in Israel. Based on the findings of the research, when planning and developing wine tourism in this sites, one should combine wine as a product for consumption and the area as a tourism region; strengthen the image of the region as a rural area that exhibits characteristics of a wine region; and generate cooperation between the various sites, while emphasizing nature and landscape, as well as restaurants and other gastronomic attractions. However, the importance of the context of tourism spaces, as it was found in this research, shows that additional research should be carried out in other wine tourism sites in Israel, in order to deepen the understanding of the characteristics of the Israeli wine tourist.

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