Central Otago wine tourism growing

Central Otago is seeing an increase in wine tourism as more tourists wend their way around the region's cellar doors.

Tourism Central Otago and Central Otago Winegrowers manager Glenys Coughlan said as a result many of the area's wineries were investing in additional facilities to take advantage of the growth.

''We have certainly seen an increase in interest and investment in wine tourism and I would estimate several million dollars [going] into new and improved facilities in recent times,'' Ms Coughlan said.

Wild Earth had seen significant growth in the group tour market, particularly from China, and Maori Point Vineyard had invested in new tasting facilities.

Domain Road Vineyard and Wine Solutions Ltd were opening new tasting rooms, and Felton Road Wines had expanded its tasting facilities.

Akarua Winery had bought Walnut Cottage at Lake Hayes, and Bendigo's Canyon Vineyard was using the former ''The Nose'' building as part of its development.

''Rippon Vineyard ran a 'pop-up' restaurant during the ski season and that exceeded their expectations,'' Ms Coughlan said.

Wooing Tree in Cromwell was also planning a big development.

''While tasting rooms are part of the way in which travellers get to learn about, taste and enjoy our wines, the wider hospitality trade - hotels, bars, restaurants - are also a huge and valuable shopfront for the region's wines.''

Many wineries with tasting rooms were promoting membership of wine clubs to encourage repeat purchases, she said.

New Zealand Wine Growers global marketing director Chris Yorke said the New Zealand Wine Pure Discovery Project, launched in August, was a tool to increase the number of tourists visiting some of the 230 cellar doors throughout the country.

The project was a joint venture between NZWG and Auckland Airport.

''We will provide customer service training [to cellar door staff] to increase the quality of what is being offered and ensure visitors get a premium experience,'' Mr Yorke said.

''We will also show them how to market themselves in the most efficient way.

''Twenty percent of people take part in some sort of wine experience when they are here.

''The question is how can we make those better experiences and of higher value.''

Many wineries were interested in the project as they realised their cellar doors were potentially a great tourist attraction.

-By Yvonne O'Hara

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