17 Dec 2018

Marlborough wineries gearing up for tourist influx

3:23 pm on 17 December 2018

The group that represents Marlborough's vineyards and wineries are getting set for a return of the tourists, now that the main road past many of their front gates is back up and running.

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The group that represents Marlborough's vineyards and wineries are getting set for a return of the tourists, now that the main road past many of their front gates is back up and running. Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

The November 2016 earthquake affected growers in North Canterbury and Marlborough, with the closure of State Highway 1 through Kaikōura.

Not only did the quake cause substantial losses to winery infrastructure, but tourists were diverted away from cellar doors via the alternative highway.

Wine Marlborough general manager Marcus Pickens said the season began well in October, and was shaping up to be better than in the past.

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Marcus Pickens Photo: Supplied

"The signals are very positive. Basically the season starts in October, pretty much from Labour Day and the peak is pretty much extended through to late April now.

"People are saying the season has started really well and I think it's just that people are confident about the access - people can now travel through the region easily."

Mr Pickens was himself seeing a boost in activity above pre-quake levels.

"I see a surge ahead of where things used to be. It's possibly triggered a better understanding among ourselves on the amount of tourists that come to New Zealand and have a wine experience."

He said statistics showed about a quarter of all visitors who came to New Zealand visited a winery as part of their stay.

"Not just enjoying wine but actually visiting a winery and that's right across the country."

Mr Pickens said it had turned out to be useful market research.

"I think everyone was quite surprised and it's focused us on what the opportunity really is, and possibly even some investment from some of the wine companies on what they offer in terms of training, staffing and just what the opportunities are."

Mr Pickens said winery visits did not have to be seen as high-end tourism, despite the figures that show most who do seek out that activity are those who tend to stay in New Zealand longer, spend a bit more and are prepared to seek out ways to see more of the country.

"These are the tourists we really want - those who are prepared to explore, tour the regions and get out of the main cities."

He said the development of cycleways had provided a big boost for wineries.

"It is a big opportunity for this region in particular, which will just add another string to the bow, and encourage people to come here."

The [https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/business/365230/wine-exports-grow-by-more-than-700m-in-less-than-a-decade

New Zealand Wine Growers' annual report] shows there are now 2031 vineyards, 700 wineries, and 243 cellar doors throughout the country.

Total wine export earnings in the year to June this year grew to $1.7 billion.