ADVISORY INSIGHT: DIVERSIFYING INTO THE DRINKS TOURISM MARKET
by DAWN MERCER
No one can deny the booming trend in quality, artisan alcoholic beverages, and these are increasingly becoming a popular subject for rural landowners to look at producing and leveraging as a tourist attraction on their site.
There is an emerging opportunity in the UK, with clear evidence of success demonstrated in the international market; many countries are achieving significant economic growth through drinks tourism.
Successful Tourist Attractions
Winding Down with a Drink
Alcohol is very much associated with leisure time in many consumer’s minds. Therefore, the experience of a leisurely visit to a well presented visitor centre is now a regular excursion for people looking for a day out or a fun and unusual experience for groups such as hikers, work away days, hen dos and even families when marketed appropriately.
The Whole Story
Tourists often want to see the whole story; part of the attraction is being able to observe the production and learning about the source of a product, it’s background and heritage. The experience can be very entertaining and educational. In particular, small, independent brands are becoming much more interesting to a growing number of consumers especially when it is in a region that is famous for that particular beverage i.e. cider in south west, whisky in Scotland.
2018 saw 20 times more international gin tourists than 2015 to the UK. The UK market is now worth £1.9bn.
WINE AND VINEYARDS
A trend booming in the UK, replicating the success of markets all over the world. In Australia (2017) wine tourism surpassed 1 million visits (3% growth from 2016), with an associated spend of $5.1bn (6% increase on 2016). That’s 12% of total tourism to Australia. 13% were UK tourists seeking vineyard experiences as part of their leisure time.
Scale Up or Down
The different ways to execute a drinks-based visitor experience on your land are expansive, with varying scales of operation and options on what could engage visitors. From a simple shop, to a restaurant, or even movie theatres.
Many estate owners could look at vineyards, wheat fields or orchards as a diversification opportunity for arable land and distilleries/breweries are a potential use for redundant buildings, and incorporate a thriving visitor centre off the back of it.
Around 7,400 rural jobs are linked to the drink tourism industry in the UK and we see this growing over the coming years.
The easiest route to start a new drinks based enterprise in rural areas will likely be through the change of use and conversion of existing buildings. Many redundant farm buildings, both modern and traditional, will provide large open spaces which will lend themselves to conversion for such uses. Consideration will need to be given to matters such as vehicle access, as well as managing perceived issues of noise and odour impacts.
One Step at a Time
Once a business is established, expansion and the creation of new purpose-built buildings, will be easier. Planning policy supports the expansion and diversification of rural business including those that enable sustainable rural tourism and leisure developments.
Rural Solutions secured planning permission for a traditional brewery in Lancashire to relocate to a rural site with a new purpose-built brewery and visitor centre developed around a traditional farmhouse, in addition to stabling for their famous dray shire horses!
Also, our work on the ‘Whole Estate Plan’ with Wiston Estate in Sussex, set the framework for the estate to secure a planning consent for redevelopment of a farm site to a business centre including a new winery for their award winning sparkling wine business, which will include a new visitor experience within the South Downs National Park.
It is important to note, all diversification advice at Rural Solutions is bespoke to the client. Our recommendations are driven by extensive market research and analysis of the chosen location. This information is merely intended to inspire landowners with the range of possibilities.
In the US, 10 million trips are made to microbrewery visitor attractions pa and while craft-brew has been making a somewhat smaller-scale impact on the UK drink scene, the rise of the microbrewery visitor attractions has been doing the same. Expectations are for this to continue to grow as a market well into the next decade. Four of the world’s best micro-brewery tours are in the south east of the UK. Many offer tours, form part of beer tours of whole regions and there is even now a Beer Adventures App.