This is a guest blog post from 2013 Wine Tourism Conference speaker, Donna Quadri, PhD.
Recent research I conducted in the United States Lake Erie wine region about the visitor’s experience confirmed that the four distinctive elements of Pine and Gilmore’s “experience economy”–educational, esthetic, entertainment, and escapism, called the “4Es”–were present and valued by wine tourists. The 4Es as rated by the 970 consumer-survey participants gleaned special insights into the value proposition of wine country.
It may not be a surprise that the esthetic (often spelled aesthetic) component of the wine country experience was valued most among the 4Es by visitors. Data from the study, supported by the North East Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Sustainable Community Grant, also showed that Lake Erie wine region tourism providers (i.e, bed and breakfast proprietors, winery owners, retailers, and attraction providers) made esthetics a design and investment priority of their businesses.
Humans have been debating the philosophy of art, beauty, and taste since Plato. As Kant aptly wrote in the 18th century about Canary wine: if one person finds the taste agreeable, one must add that the wine is “agreeable to me.” Beauty is in the eye (taste-bud, nose, ear, perception) of the beholder. However, philosophers and manufacturers alike seek to find universal standards of taste and beauty. Winemakers well know this paradox; a wine’s taste must have popular appeal but it will not be agreeable to every customer; hence, vintners create numerous wines to suit not only a varietal’s geography and wine maker’s sensibilities but also the tastes of different customer segments.
Views of the world’s wine regions are the subject of innumerable coffee table picture. John Urry in Consuming Places (1995) described the tourist gaze as being aimed at landscape and townscape features based on esthetic judgments particularly of the rural environment. Destinations to visit are selected for the pleasure and uniqueness they offer that differ from modern, everyday urban or suburban life. This perspective of rural wine regions may be the essential appeal for the tourist. Protecting the rural aesthetic is central to preserving the value of wine country.
Within the physical layout of any business, be it a winery tasting room or a B&B sitting room, framing that view, highlighting that rural esthetic underlines what tourists’ value, reinforcing their good decision to visit wine country and patronize your business. Esthetics, however, also embrace the mundane such as cleanliness and symmetry. Avoiding litter in the parking lot and uncluttered displays, maintaining impeccably clean merchandise and well-lit bottle and glass shelves, showing cohesiveness in theming art or memorabilia all underline the esthetic. Harmony and flow through a property add esthetic value as do well-groomed and well-mannered service staff.
Often we think primarily of our own esthetic and do not contemplate others’. Drawing from the lodging industry, consider the popularity of the boutique hotel segment characterized by cutting edge design and stylish trends. Visit some boutique hotels and monitor the digital esthetic of their web sites for a new perspective. Matching the esthetic of your virtual presence with that of the consumer’s on-site experience reinforces the esthetic appreciation.
Although the esthetic element was paramount in the wine tourists’ experience, the other three of the 4Es—education, entertainment, and escapism—all played a role in driving wine tourists’ value. For instance, the escapist element, transcending one’s daily routine, was the second most important of the 4Es in determining visitors’ intentions to return and recommend. More engaged visitors were more likely to be destination and business loyal. Findings on educational activities, mainstays such as tastings and pairings, demonstrated that these merit a new look to better emphasize what visitors value most.
What was surprising to this researcher was the lack of emphasis on the other three elements of the experience economy model by tourism suppliers. I will discuss these findings and how to address them on Friday, November 15 at 11.30 Breakout Session. As you focus on and refresh your approach to the esthetic, it is worth incorporating all 4Es as these together yield repeat visitors and positive word-of-mouth.
About the Author
Donna Quadri, PhD is Clinical Associate Professor of the Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management at NYU. Donna recently completed an extensive study “An Experience Economy Approach to Enhancing Lake Erie Wine Tourism”. She was named as one of the Top 25 Most Extraordinary Minds in Sales & Marketing for 2012 by the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association