Print Wine tourists are big spenders
Written by Greg Ruland   
Monday, 26 September 2011 00:00

Verde Valley wine tourists spend an average $185 when they visit and an average $382 when they stay overnight, according to a Northern Arizona University study presented to Cottonwood City Council on Sept. 13.

Usually arriving in pairs, wine tourists dole out $48 on food, $32 on transportation, $33 on merchandise, $22 on entrance fees and $50 on miscellaneous items. Most of that money ends up in the pockets of Verde Valley merchants, restaurants and the people they employ.

Kevin Grubb, who manages a tasting room in Old Town, said tourists who visit his shop spend about $70 on average for two or three bottles of wine. “Business is very good,” Grubb said. A study of wine tourism by Northern Arizona University confirms Grubb’s statement.Overall, researchers estimated the wine industry contributes more than $37 million to the state’s economy, generates nearly $6 million in tax revenue for state and local governments and supports more than 400 jobs.

These are just a few of the study’s conclusions that NAU Senior Research Specialist Thomas Combrick highlighted for council during his 30-minute presentation Sept. 13.

The research, created for the Arizona Office of Tourism, provides a snapshot of the Arizona wine tourist economy from February through May, Combrick said.

Over a four-month period, researchers collected data from wine operations in Yavapai, Cochise and Santa Cruz counties to create the report. The majority of the information was collected from Verde Valley wineries and tourists who visited there.

This information helps wineries, vineyards, tasting rooms and local communities target marketing efforts, develop products and advocate on behalf of the fast-growing wine industry that is becoming so critical to the health of rural regional economies, Combrick said.

The general profile of Arizona wine visitors is one of middle-aged, adult visitor parties, largely from the Phoenix area, who take day trips to the state’s wineries.

Visitors are attracted by the desire to taste wine and to relax and socialize with friends, Combrick said.

The average party was comprised of 3.1 people, 1.9 women and 1.6 men. Overall, only 3.1 percent of parties traveled with children.

The average annual income of the visitors was $88,149, which is higher than the state’s average annual income of $76,000.

Nearly 60 percent of all wine visitors are in-state residents, most from Maricopa County, which contributes more than half of all wine visitors, Combrick said.

The highest number of out-of-state visitors came from California, with 7.7 percent, followed closely by Wisconsin, where 7.1 percent originated.

Slightly more than 41 percent of visitors stopped by at least one tasting room, while more than 37 percent visited a vineyard. About 11 percent visited a winery, according to the study.

Nearly 30 percent of wine tourists were repeat visitors, Combrick said.

Arizona wine visitors overwhelmingly agree, “It does not have to be a special occasion to enjoy wine.” More than 92 percent agree, “Drinking wine gives me pleasure.”

More than 82 percent of all respondents said their experience at the winery or tasting room was either “a little better than I expected” or “much better than I expected.”

“Obviously Arizona wine visitors are wine savvy and enjoy the experience,” Combrick said.