Wine tourism facing a challenge, how to deal with climate change

Perhaps more than any other sector of the economy in North Bay and the state, the tourism and hospitality industry and its ability to attract visitors are strained by climate change.

“As an industry, we must recognize the climate threat to tourism and live up to California’s well-deserved reputation as the best steward of the environment by encouraging responsible travel and adopting green practices.” Visit California CEO Caroline Beteta said in a statement. Declaration of November 4. “The opportunity to act has never been greater. “

In an industry that contributed $ 145 billion to the state’s economy in 2019, seeing it drop 55% in 2020, state tourism officials are examining how the evidence for climate change – such as season after season season of wildfires and drought – color the way potential visitors view wine country. Marketing campaigns are turning to messages that assure travelers that tourism officials are getting on with protecting the planet.

For Linsey Gallagher, President and CEO of Visit Napa Valley, the obvious choice is to highlight the agricultural connection the region already has.

“The beacon for us is the agricultural reserve that was established in 1968 in the Napa Valley,” said Gallagher, “where we knew the best use of our land was to make it thrive in vineyard and farming capacity, and that we needed to protect it accordingly.

One way is already with the Napa Green certification program for vineyards and wineries.

Founded in 2004 under the umbrella of the Napa Valley Vintners, Napa Green has since grown into a stand-alone nonprofit. And soon, this certification process will shift to the hospitality industry.

“We plan to go ahead with that this spring with a pilot program, where we’ll look at different sizes and categories of accommodation properties across the valley,” said Gallagher, who sits on the board of administration of Napa Green. “We will have a pilot participant (each) in Calistoga, St. Helena, Yountville, in the city of Napa and in American Canyon, as well as in the unincorporated county.”

The concept and its details are still in their early stages, she said, but the goal is to create an ongoing certification program rather than a completed program.

“It will be a difficult process to pass the first round of certification,” said Gallagher. “For hotels that succeed, to maintain this status in the future, they will have to demonstrate continuous improvement and strive to do better year after year. “

If the effort proves successful in the accommodation industry, then Napa Green will take the next step towards rolling out a certification program for other tourism-oriented businesses, including restaurants, events and attractions, and transportation companies, Gallagher said.

“It’s not a numbers game anymore”

In Sonoma County, tourism officials plan early next year to resume a shift that began two years ago, from promoting the destination as the ideal getaway to emphasizing the need. protect the region’s natural resources.

“It wasn’t going to be a numbers game anymore, it wasn’t just about bragging about how many people entered Sonoma County,” said Claudia Vecchio, President and CEO of Sonoma County Tourism. .

And there is another motivation for SCT’s sustainability work.

“We’re still concerned about the next generation and how we’re going to continue to be a viable destination for (them),” Vecchio said. “I started looking at how young travelers view travel destinations, how important it is to corporate social responsibility and other types of return initiatives.”

Visit California, too, is promoting the importance of reaching the next generation in order to keep the state’s tourism industry viable, according to Beteta.

“Before the pandemic, 54% of Gen Z travelers said the environmental impact of travel was a big factor in deciding where to book travel,” Beteta said, citing

She pointed to another investigation that was conducted in June when California’s lockdown restrictions were lifted. “(He) found that 83% of consumers think sustainable travel is essential, while 61% said the pandemic has increased their interest in sustainable travel.”

As Visit California leads the way in advancing sustainability efforts, Vecchio said she appreciates Beteta’s overall message.

“We are not going to soften the economy,” Vecchio said. “We are definitely looking at the economy. Sustainability is the way to do it.

Cheryl Sarfaty covers tourism, hospitality, healthcare and education for the North Bay Business Journal. She previously worked for a daily Gannett in New Jersey and NJBIZ, the state’s business newspaper. Cheryl has worked freelance for business journals in Sacramento, Silicon Valley, San Francisco and Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. She holds a BA in Journalism from California State University, Northridge. Contact her at [email protected] or 707-521-4259.

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