Is there more demand for drink-focused events?

We asked event professionals if the rise of enotourism means alcohol-based activities are going to become increasingly popular.

C&IT recently reported that enotourism, or wine tourism, is one of the top three incentive trends for 2020 as it becomes increasingly popular to take groups on wine tours. ‘Old World’ European vineyards are expecting an uptick in bookings next year.

But could trips organised around drinking be an indication that there is a growing demand for alcohol as an incentive? Can the trend be inclusive for non-drinkers too?  

"The rise in enotourism doesn’t necessarily pinpoint a need, it indicates a trend within the industry," says Gemma Price, head of incentive travel at event agency Sledge. "The increase might indicate that wineries have seen incentives as a market that fits well with what they can deliver and have altered their offering to be more appealing to the industry.

"Vineyards are not all about the products they produce, many offer beautiful venues and scenery for an incentive group to enjoy, not to mention the amazing local food.

These experiences are about the learning and development side of things, people want an experience on a deeper level – it’s not just about having a drink and a nice meal anymore, it’s understanding how things get from field to glass and gaining a deeper knowledge about what the group are consuming."

It’s a view shared by Richard Murphy, group managing director at First Event who says that enotourism is as much about culture as it is about wine.

"Both new world and old world incentive destinations famous for wine-making and vineyards offer much more than just a ‘drinking session,’ and rather, explain the destination’s history and influences that have come from wine.

He adds: "Regardless of the event, the decision to drink should always be left up to the individual without added pressure from peers, and enotourism is a great way to encompass something to suit everyone – whether that’s wine-tasting, history, or culture."

But Stuart Elkington, founder of alcohol-free drinks company The Dry Drinker, feels that alcohol plays too big a role at events: "I find it pretty staggering how the positioning of alcohol has become so normalised, even expected. But that doesn't take away from the fact that it can play a great part in the bringing together of a group whose main objective it is to step away from the boardroom. 

"Wine and beer makers are waking up to the idea that consumers needs are changing and there's a huge shift now toward the alcohol-free. Led by millennials? Perhaps, but so many other consumer groups are falling into the sober curious movement and I would love to see that shift represented better within the corporate world where the non-drinkers are often overlooked and left in the corner with their warm orange juice."

Laura Willoughby MBE, co-founder at mindful drinking movement, Club Soda agrees that there needs to be more choice and variety for non-drinkers.

"In every group there is likely to be someone not drinking that day. Make a great spritzer or cocktail with your house grape juice or team up with a local soda, cordial or juice maker to create an offer that is both an experience and authentic to your tour," she advises. 

Russell Allen, founder of events agency Crescendo, believes that the trend could have a positive impact in educating people around drinking – you only need to see some of the ‘regular’ measures served in our pubs and bars versus the continent to see that there is currently an issue, he says.

"Whatever the outcome of Brexit – I think it is safe to safe we could always learn a thing or two from our continental neighbours on appreciating wine – providing the incentive is fit for purpose.

"True to any incentive is always ‘why are we doing this?’ and ‘is it right for the target audience?’ – if all of these things align then it can only be a good thing.

"I think anything that helps us appreciate the things we choose to do in our life more mindfully and helps us gain a deeper understanding is a good thing – and if that’s drinking wine all the better!"

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