LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND – In a first for Switzerland, a cantonal council has approved a budget and programme for wine tourism. The Grand Conseil in Vaud Tuesday 1 April unanimously adopted a five-year CHF2.5 million budget that will help develop a wine tourism project.
Top priorities are training people in other businesses to be familiar with Vaud wines and to create a set of uniform standards to help wineries develop good communications tools, including better opening hours. The project was more than a year in the planning and consultation stage, but it includes a rich and varied set of plans from several partners, as a result.
The canton is Switzerland’s second largest wine-producing region, after Valais, with 3,800 hectares of vineyard. It was one of the hardest hit areas when the country opened the gates to foreign imports in the late 1990s, which have hurt sales of Swiss white wines more than red.
Vaud is considered the birthplace of the white wine grape Chasselas, which accounts for two-thirds of its growing area, in contrast with the rest of Switzerland, where red wine grapes are the majority.
It’s also been hurt, as has the canton’s tourism industry, by the strong Swiss franc. The council put a five-year limit on funding.
Funds should boost wineries in face of strong franc
The wine tourism funds are part of a cantonal package designed to help offset the strong franc. The money matches marketing funds collected from wine producers for the OVV, the Office des Vins Vaudois, which is then charged with marketing Vaud wines.
The canton council agreed that the OVV’s funds don’t cover wineries’ needs. The OVV has a two-man office that organizes tasting sessions, promotional presentations at wine fairs and elsewhere, the cantonal wine competition and several other major projects.
The budget of half a million francs a year gives a green light to the relatively new Vaud Wine Tourism office, which worked with several partners such as the cantonal tourism and gastronomy offices to identify needs and set priorities.
The wine tourism project will bring together people in the hospitality, food and wine, education, sports, entertainment and other industries to work with wine producers. A top priority is training, to raise the level of awareness of Swiss wines among restaurant owners and waiters who can recommend them, for example, but also in wineries, where foreign languages are needed to host visitors.
Swiss are catching up
Other cantons are developing wine tourism projects, but on the whole Switzerland is behind France, where falling consumption forced wine producers to reflect on changing habits. Paris decided in 2009 that it had to act quickly to set up regional bodies to create a national plan to boost the wine industry. It has approved nearly 40 regional offices’ projects in the past four years.
Yann Stucki, who heads the wine tourism office in Lausanne, hopes Vaud’s programme will provide a model for the rest of the country. A starting point will be to create a quality label that guarantees visitors and buyers a recognizable set of standards.