Between 7 and 9 September 2016, Georgia placed itself in the hearts of the world’s wine experts, professionals and enthusiasts by hosting the first UNWTO Global Conference on Wine Tourism. The event convened over 200 participants including policy makers and tourism experts from nearly 50 countries in the Kakheti wine region of Georgia.
Wine tourism has become a key component of gastronomy tourism and a pillar in the strategies of diversification of many destinations. The event was a unique opportunity to discover the richness of local Georgian culture and to exchange innovative ideas to promote wine tourism between destinations already experienced in wine tourism with others with a high potential in that segment. Ministries, Destination Management Organizations (DMOS) and National Tourism Organizations (NTOs), universities, tour operators and wine professionals were among the participants.
Proclaimed by archeologists to be the “Cradle of Wine”, Kakheti, Georgia´s main wine-producing region and of one the oldest regions in the world, is the land of hospitable, open-hearted people that live surrounded by monasteries, ancient castles and glorious churches. Kakheti is characterized by its unique vine grape varieties, ideal climate, countryside, and centuries of exceptional winemaking experience. Kakheti is home to 65% of Georgia’s vineyards, harvesting 80% of the country’s grapes. Unique and award winning Georgian wines and brandies are produced there, using ancient techniques by generations of small farmers.
“Wine tourism is intimately related to the identity of destinations and comprises cultural, economic and historical values. Furthermore, it constitutes a major driver in diversification strategies helping destinations to enrich the touristic offer and to attract different publics. This Conference tries not only to emphasize these but also to promote exchanges and to build cooperation among destinations with a potential in this field,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai at the opening of the Conference.
The first session of the conference was titled ‘Best practices in Wine Tourism’ took place at Khareba Winery. The winery and its Khareba restaurant offers an ideal combination of high dining and splendid views of the Alazani Valley and Kvareli vineyards. Snapshot presentations by experts are followed by round-table working sessions.
The second session was about product development in wine tourism, which is presented at Château Mukhrani. Situated on the estate of the one of the oldest extant Christian ruling dynasty in the world, Château Mukhrani is an essential experience for any wine and cultural enthusiast, uncovering the Georgian royal family history and breathtaking legends.
The third and last session was on the challenges in Wine Tourism.
The conference had a unique and dynamic format in which the sessions took place in different wineries.
UNWTO Wine Tourism Prototype, a tool developed by the Organization that introduces an innovative methodology to evaluate the impact of wineries to the cultural, economic, social and environmental frameworks. As Yolanda Perdomo from the UNWTO Affiliate Member Programme explained “this methodological tool that can be adapted and replicated in different regions will help destinations to be promoted through their oenological framework that will also help emphasize other aspects such as culture, history and tradition.”
As an outcome of the Conference, the Georgia Declaration on Wine Tourism identifies a number of recommendations to facilitate the development of wine tourism that would help destinations to implement key actions.
“Wine tourism is a growing segment in continuous update that offers an extraordinary diversity to the consumer as well as business opportunities to producers,” said Gustavo Santos, Minister of Tourism of Argentina where the next Wine Tourism Conference will be held in 2017 (Mendoza province, second week of November).