Wine brings people to the Verde Valley, and those people have more disposable income to spend in the local economy.
That’s according to Thomas Combrink with Northern Arizona University’s W.A. Franke College of Business, who helped conduct a study earlier this year on behalf of the Arizona Office of Tourism.
The study focused on the impact of wine tourism across the state, but the majority of the state’s local wine production is north of the Valley of the Sun.
Nearly 48 percent of the people who visit the Verde Valley to explore local wineries and tasting rooms earn incomes of more than $100,000 a year. Slightly fewer, nearly 43 percent, make between $40,000 and $99,000 annually. The wineries brought in around 286,000 visitors in 2010, and 74 percent of the Arizona-based visitors came from the most populated area in the state, Maricopa County. Among the more local people, 15 percent lived in Yavapai County. The remainder primarily consisted of Pima and Coconino County residents.
“Many of these people are trying to find something to escape the situation they live in,” Combrink said. “Sitting out at [a local] vineyard, it’s beautiful compared to Phoenix.”
Most of the wine tourists, 60 percent, only come up for the day. The remaining 40 percent stay in the area for an average of just under three days, and they spend the most money. It’s natural, Combrink said, as overnight visitors spend more time eating at local restaurants and shopping in local stores.
“The general profile of Arizona wine visitors is one of middle-aged adult visitor parties, largely from the greater Phoenix area, who take day trips to the states’ wineries, which are located both north and south of the Phoenix metro and Tucson areas,” the study stated. “Visitors are attracted by the desire to taste wine, and to relax and socialize with friends. Overwhelmingly, these visitors enjoy their experiences at the state’s wineries, finding they offer a welcoming and fun experience.”
More women apparently visit wineries than men, but Combrink admitted it could be just because more women took the time to respond to the study than men.
For 70 percent of the people visiting a particular winery, it was their first visit to that establishment. The vast majority of visitors reported that the experience was better than, or at least as good as, what they expected going in.
The money these visitors spent produced an $18.1 million impact in the Verde Valley, once the multiplier effect caused by new money brought into a community from the outside is factored in. For local governments, the effect brought in an estimated $6 million in tax revenue.
A slight plurality of visitors were between ages 31 and 50, followed by people 51 to 65. Those less than 30 years old accounted for more than 20 percent of all visitors to Verde Valley wineries, which Combrink said could be seen as a positive indicator for the industry.
“I think there’s a great future for wine tourism in Arizona,” Combrink said, adding that the state’s wine industry has grown by leaps and bounds in just the past two decades.