Brexit will happen in some manner over the next few months but there are many opportunities for the English wine industry to capitalise on this situation. English wine tourism is a clear opportunity which we can see as a growth segment in the tourism and hospitality sector. Food and wine tourism is the next wave expected by the travel consumer and also predicted by Visit Britain. So what will the impact be to the British economy post-Brexit?
Nicola Boarer, Owner English Wine Tasting & Tours said, “We get asked a lot on wine tours what will Brexit do to the wine industry and we tell people there will be some give and take after the dust settles. There is a strong likelihood that sterling will be affected when we depart the EU. There is a growth opportunity for wine tourism when considering the possibility of a lower sterling against the dollar after Brexit. If the dollar has more buying power in England, we foresee a much larger growth uptick in wine tourism, much higher than even currently predicted.”
When the UK joined the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973 fruit farming was a struggling industry, apple orchards and vineyards were both finding it difficult to grow into new markets. The idea behind the EEC was to allow fruit farmer’s easier access to a single European market. UK apple farming in the late 1960’s faced government subsidy cuts which also forced farmers too look for new crops to grow and at the time vines were considered more profitable and wine tourism in England didn’t exist back then.
Boarer said, “In the early days of modern English viticulture, wine tourism was nearly non-existent in the UK and there were really only a hand full of legendary fruit farmers growing vines back then. You had growers such as Stephen Skelton (Spots Farm in 1977 which is now Chapel Down) and the Barnes Family (Biddenden Vineyard in 1969) who were pushing the envelope for viticulture. Back then most wine farms may have had a tasting room and that’s about it, but essentially no revenue was derived from wine tourism.”
Much of the English wine industry considers that with a weaker sterling our wine will effectively become cheaper, imported wine will be more expensive relative to English wine and exporting English wine will be more affordable to overseas wine buyers.
She added, “It’s true that English wine could, perhaps, become cheaper in relative terms but that’s only a catalyst to a much bigger effect for wine tourism. If exports of English wine increase, then awareness will also grow which we will then see more foodies incorporate an English wine tour into their holiday.”
Wine tourism could also see some negative impacts too. Many economists believe there will be impact to fuel costs in the UK. Some analysts believe a further 20% reduction in sterling would only equate to a 4p increase per litre which would have a marginal impact to wine tourism. Although British coaches may increase in price.
“There is a very real possibility that fuel costs could increase which would cause wine tour ticket prices to go up. I don’t believe this will be a major impact to wine tourism and the British government will work to secure a better trade deal on fuel prices. At present my concern would be the cost of buying a new coach which most are manufactured in Europe on the mainland. Such purchases may become rather expensive.”
Labour costs are something that concerns the vineyards but at present wine tour operators don’t see an impact. Most vineyards are concerned about the costs associated with getting temporary work permits for grape picking labour which is often from eastern European countries.
Boarer said, “We don’t see any impact to labour costs due to Brexit as our tour guides are British residents. In terms of visas, we could see is an impact to international guests, especially Americans, who may have to a get a short-term tourist visa equivalent an American ESTA. The UK government is considering a similar temporary tourist visa as the United States has in place today.”
“One segment of wine tourism that could be affected more than any other to UK is the international self-drive market. The mainland continental Europeans who drive over to England for a holiday in the rural countryside and visit small villages and vineyards across the South East may be impacted by Brexit. It is unclear what tariffs may be levied for those self-drive wine tourists who are getting the ferry across the channel and then buying wine in the UK and returning home to the mainland.
“The self-drive market isn’t our thing as a wine tour operator. We do get stuck behind some of those cautious European drivers who are battling our narrow British country lanes with their left-hand drive cars when doing our tours. Europeans may face bigger ferry charges and duty on purchases to take wine back to the mainland.
“But given that most of our international tourists are American and use air travel we tell them they can usually get several bottles of wine in their luggage to go under the plane but to wrap them generously in their clothes for the journey home! Just remember that each bottle roughly weighs 2.5 pounds.”
English wine tourism is looks posed to weather the Brexit storm for next few months just fine and is expecting significant growth in this sector, Brexit or not!