Tourism Innovator Robin Shaw shares her Fellowship experience...
9 Jul 2017
What was your Churchill Fellowship topic?
The purpose of my project was to study wine tourism innovation. At the time, the concept of wine tourism was just emerging in Australia, with most wineries focused on production, rather than tourism. I was aware that regions like Napa Valley were offering incredible tasting room experiences and wanted to discover world’s best practice. My trip covered South Africa, France (Alsace, Burgundy, Champagne), Canada (Okanagan, Niagara), USA (Napa, Sonoma) and New Zealand (Auckland, Marlborough, Nelson, Hawke’s Bay). My greatest surprise was discovering the level of sophistication displayed by South African wineries, which continues to be an inspiration for me and Australian wine producers.
Why did you apply for a Churchill Fellowship?
In 2003 I was working at the SA Tourism Commission as an Industry Adviser for Food & Wine. I mentioned to a colleague that it would be great if we knew what the world’s best food and wine experiences looked like so we could educate SA wineries, and she mentioned the Winston Churchill Fellowship. I did some research and diarised the application dates for the following year. The motivation was simply to improve the wine and food tourism offering in South Australia (initially) and later, the whole of Australia.
How did the Churchill Fellowship benefit you as someone working in the food and beverage sector?
The benefits were immeasurable. Australia was leading the world in the development of a wine tourism strategy, but the visitor experience had not evolved much past the addition of structured tastings being offered at cellar doors, and staging regional food and wine events. The challenge was to put ‘tourism’ in ‘wine and food’. Based on my direct observations from across the wine world, I was able to share insights and case studies with the Australian industry, which elevated my professional status as an expert in the field and opened up wider opportunities for collaboration with global industry professionals. Wineries gradually embraced the idea of offering food as part of the visitor experience, and we’ve seen this evolve into full scale destination restaurants operating in vineyards. At the same time, small food producers have been able to leverage the popularity of wine regions as tourism destinations and develop genuine, complementary food tourism experiences, and now craft beer and spirit producers have joined the fray.
How did the knowledge you gained your Churchill Fellowship benefit the food and beverage sector?
By the time applications opened in 2004, I had taken up a position as Tourism Development Director for the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia. Part of my role was to implement the National Wine Tourism Strategy and the findings from the fellowship directly informed the resources and education program I developed between 2005 and 2012. These included The Australian Wine Tourism Toolkit, a national Wine Tourism Workshop program, the inaugural Australasian Wine & Food Tourism Conference and the World Food Exchange (a PIRSA led initiative). I was invited to share my findings at the numerous wine, food and tourism conferences around Australia that were being staged, which indicated the growth and interest in the sector. Since that time, food and wine have become embedded in Australia’s best showcase events, and dedicated food and wine events occur in every major city and tourism region. The growth of premium wine and food exports has also grown exponentially and Tourism Australia’s successful Restaurant Australia campaign epitomises the maturity of the sector on the global stage.
What have been your major achievements or milestones since going on your Fellowship?
The development of the Wine Tourism Toolkit and Wine & Food Conference were major achievements directly following my fellowship, and in 2012 I rewrote the national wine tourism strategy to include food, mapping a pathway to a future that embraced ‘culinary tourism’. Since 2006 I’ve had the opportunity to speak at numerous international wine tourism conferences throughout Europe, South Africa and Chile, which enables me to tell the success story of Australia’s wine and food tourism development, while also furthering my own knowledge. In 2013 I began running Wine Tourism Study Tours to South Africa for Australian wine businesses, which has resulted in three of them becoming Ultimate Winery Experiences of Australia members.
What is next for you?
I have recently taken the plunge and started a consultancy business, aptly named Wine Tourism Australia. My purpose is to help wine regions and individual wineries maximise their tourism potential and sell more wine. I really enjoy presenting and facilitating workshops and am currently running a direct to consumer webinar series, with plans to run more face to face workshops. Another international study tour is on the cards and I’m keen to branch into more partnership and promotional programs to attract more visitors to our wine regions.
Travel overseas to advance the South Australian food industry
The Dr Susan Nelle Churchill Fellowship will be offered for award in 2018 for more information about this sponsored Fellowship visit https://www.churchilltrust.com.au/sponsors/about/Dr-Susan-V-Nelle/