Australian Wine Tourism: Establishing a Career Path at the Cellar Door

Article excerpt

The purpose of this article is to examine challenging human resource issues discussed in tourism and hospitality academic research studies and identified in government reports about the wine tourism sector. This article was written to contribute to discussion in relation to possible career paths for wine tourism personnel to ensure a competitive and profitable Australian wine tourism industry. Due to its nature, the wine tourism industry is predominantly located in rural areas. The wine tourism industry in Australia could be described as being in its infancy and, like any infant, it is currently undergoing many changes and growth surges. Substantial amounts of capital have been poured into the infrastructure of the Australian wine tourism industry over the last three decades. Large and impressive tasting rooms, merchandising centres and food and beverage facilities have emerged, along with guided tours of both vineyards and production areas. This growth in service jobs and improved employment opportunities has the potential to complement the male-dominated positions in the agricultural sector in regional Australia. However, along with opportunities come challenges. The development and rapid expansion of the sector has posed challenging human resource issues:

* appropriate industry incentives and governmental strategies to attract and locate a labour pool of suitably skilled personnel to supervise and staff these operations

* accessible, relevant training and development opportunities that encourage wine tourism personnel to extend their skills and knowledge for a potential career in the wine tourism sector.

The academic literature on wine tourism considers such aspects as: identification of the wine tourist (Charters & Ali-Knight, 2002), success factors for wine regions (Getz & Brown, 2006) and service quality and consumer behaviour within the wine tourism sector (Alant & Bruwer, 2004; O'Neill & Charters, 2000). Although wine tourism research is a developing field in its own right, there is limited empirical research concerning career development for those employed at the cellar door. There is an opportunity to investigate the career profile of cellar-door personnel and then determine to what extent professional development, training, career mobility and career ambition contribute to increasing the professionalism of cellar-door employees and thus a career path in the Australian wine tourism industry. The issues of career development and fulfilling the potential of such development have not received the level of attention required for a sector demonstrating such accelerated growth.

WlNE TOURISM

The rapidly growing Australian wine industry contributes critical income and employment to regional Australia (Charters & Loughton, 2000). There are approximately 2300 wine companies in Australia, most of them small- to medium-sized enterprises with fewer than 200 employees (Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation, 2008; Charters, Clark-Murphy, Davis, Brown & Walker, 2008). Wine accounts for 3 per cent of Australian agricultural production and its exports are worth more than $2.7 billion (Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, 2005-06). Wine tourism has now grown into a multimillion-dollar industry for Australia (King & Morris, 1998). This rapid expansion and the development of a highly competitive industry make the recruitment, selection, training and retention of quality staff fundamental to success.

Wine tourism can be defined as 'visitation to vineyards, wineries, winery festivals and wine shows for which wine tasting and/or experiencing the attributes of a wine region are prime motivating factors for visitors' (Hall & Macionis, 1998, p. 197). Wine tourism personnel can be classified as anyone who is employed within an augmented facility and whose work is not directly related to producing wine and growing grapes. These augmented facilities could include cellar-door activities, merchandising, operating a restaurant, cafe or visitor centre, or running tours of a vineyard or production plant. …