Raleigh, NC-- North Carolina continues to make its mark as a wine producing state as vineyards grow statewide.
And who is visiting all those vineyards? According to a new study on visitation to North Carolina wineries: 80 percent of customers are visitors to the community, with more than 70 percent coming from inside the state.
Most overnight visitors went to North Carolina wineries as an activity during their vacation while only 12.4 percent indicated that visiting the winery or a winery event was the primary reason for their trip, according to research funded by the North Carolina Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development, Department of Commerce and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Study findings indicate three distinct markets in the context of North Carolina winery visitation: local customers, day visitors, and overnight visitors. Findings also indicate that special events are likely to attract greater numbers of local customers from within North Carolina and are primarily viewed as benefits of client-to-winery relationships rather than as attractors for general North Carolina wine tourism. Overnight winery visitors are seeking a vacation experience, looking for additional attractions and reasonably priced accommodations.
"There's a great message in this research that the Division of Tourism should continue to promote wineries as part of the overall North Carolina vacation experience," said Wit Tuttell, director of tourism marketing for the North Carolina Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development. "It also tells us that events are important for wineries to build their local audience, but dining and accommodations are the keys for getting visitors to come and stay. Getting outside visitors will bring a much greater economic impact to these areas."
The research also showed the importance of customer service and the Internet in promoting wineries. Customer service ranked as the top feature that prompted consumers to go to a winery with 87 percent indicating that customer service was an important feature to a winery. Customer service also proved to be the best predictor of future winery visits and of willingness for visitors to recommend the winery to friends. The most valued information sources for making a decision to visit a North Carolina winery were recommendation by a friend and the Internet.
According to the study, the top regional features prompting visitors to visit the study winery were that the wine region is close to home, and that there are a large number of wineries to visit in the immediate area.
Other key findings from the study include:
-- Overnight visitors were nearly 80 percent likely to make a return visit to a North Carolina winery and nearly 85 percent said they were likely to recommend the winery to others.
-- Similar to all visitors to North Carolina, most overnight visitors to wineries came from surrounding states including North Carolina (43.5 percent), South Carolina (7.6 percent), Georgia (7.2 percent) and Virginia (6.8 percent).
-- 38.7 percent of visitors to the wineries from outside the community indicated that they were staying overnight in the area. Average length of stay for overnight visitors was 2.1 nights.
-- Almost 70 percent of the winery customers who indicated the appeal of the winery website was very important to their decision to visit the winery were likely to share the winery experience with others via a social media website.
-- On average, respondents reported visiting 5.23 wineries over the past year.
-- 56 percent indicated their level of knowledge to range from basic to no wine knowledge in any of the areas.
-- 84.5 percent of survey takers indicated that they were likely to revisit a North Carolina winery in the future.
-- 89 percent would recommend the winery they visited to others.
The researchers surveyed 832 visitors at 23 wineries across North Carolina between May and August 2012.
NC Division of Tourism