Developing a wine tourism industry is a "win-win" situation for companies and the economy, New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark told a conference this week.

The First Wine Tourism conference is being held at Montana Brancott's new visitor centre in the Marlborough wine region of New Zealand.
The PM opened the event highlighting the importance the government places on encouraging this growing tourism sector. "The more we have to offer visitors the more we will attract," she told delegates.

"With this wine tourism concept we bring two high value sectors together and I hope it does create a win-win situation. A number of our regions have great potential and all the flow on benefits to cafes, accommodation and transport benefits everyone.

"New Zealand has a potential big international reputation with our wine growing industry in the same way as our French and Italian friends have developed," she said.

Speakers, including the PM, identified that tourism has become a major adjunct to the wine industry with cellar door sales increasing in importance for many wineries.

In New Zealand the concept of wine tourism is relatively under-developed by comparison with areas like the Napa Valley and Australia.
But Peter Allport, chairman of Tourism New Zealand, believes that the types of visitors that make it as far as New Zealand tend to be wine buffs as well - and both the tourism operators and wineries can benefit.

"The people that come here and go to wineries spend 25% more than international visitors who are not interested in wine. They stay longer, on average over two weeks, and are more likely to visit more areas of the country," he said.

Speakers agreed that wine tourism could be a massive boost to local economies with knock-on spending in local restaurants and hotels but Allport urged wineries not to take their visitors for granted.

Tourists do not generally travel for the sole purpose of tasting new wines and instead want to experience a wide range of local culture.

Allport said: "Wineries need to work with the local tourism industry to make sure what the tourists experience is as good as their experience of our wine.

"You need to be supporting other events like food and accommodation, music and dance and this should all be offered as a bookable package," he added.