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College professor’s research unlocks key to Okanagan’s future prosperity
Okanagan College Media Release

Extensive research conducted by the Okanagan Wine Festivals Society, the British Columbia Wine Institute and Okanagan College’s School of Business has uncovered what motivates wine visitors to come to this region and the secret to ensuring they return.

This is especially important given the Okanagan’s increasing profile on the global wine stage. A July poll of readers of the U.S.’s largest circulating newspaper, USA Today, found the Okanagan was the #2 wine destination in the world, second only to Alentejo, Portugal.

“Using interviews with 900 visitors to the Winter, Spring and Fall Okanagan Wine Festivals in 2012 and early 2013, we looked specifically at what impact wine-related events and festivals had on their desire to come to the region,” says leader of the research project Dr. Blair Baldwin, Okanagan College School of Business Professor and Okanagan Wine Festivals Society General Manager.

Baldwin and his team discovered that the greatest influence on visitor motivation was event and festivals execution—meaning not just the presence of those events but also the experience guests had while there. 

“You may sell out your event or win an award for your wine but if you haven’t devoted enough resources to ensuring a seamless experience, such as having prominent directional signage, good traffic flow to your wine shop, enough tasting room servers, and ample parking, visitors won’t return. And they won’t recommend it to their friends either,” says Baldwin.

Baldwin was invited to present these groundbreaking findings at the prestigious Academy of Wine Business Research conference at the University of Geisenheim in Germany earlier this summer. 

“The critical knowledge gained from this primary research will add so much value to the industry,” says Jonathan Rouse, Okanagan College’s Director of Food, Wine and Tourism

“This was a rare opportunity to promote Okanagan College and our region’s exceptional wineries, events and festivals to an international audience,” says Rouse. “There were 125 delegates from 28 wine regions including the Okanagan, Niagara, Sonoma, Napa, Marlborough, Adelaide, Bordeaux, Champagne, Oregon and Tuscany at this conference.”

The research project was part of a larger body of research originally conducted by the same group in the fall of 2013 that looked at the economic impact of wine tourism to the Okanagan. See www.thewinefestivals.com/blog for more details.