Hoteliers bank business on wineries, nearby vineyards
Hoteliers bank business on wineries, nearby vineyards
19 APRIL 2017 12:42 PM

Independent hotels in Mexico, Napa Valley and the New York Finger Lakes bring in the majority of their business from couples wanting to explore hotel-owned or neighboring wineries and vineyards. Here’s how these hoteliers manage their business around wine.

GLOBAL REPORT—Running a hotel is a bit different when the property is located near a winery or vineyard.

The bulk of the guest mix is made up of couples, leisure travelers and small wedding groups, and all guests visiting the hotel have a common interest: wine.

Hotel News Now spoke with GMs and owners from properties that are settled on a vineyard or are located near one, and in some cases, the hotel, vineyard or winery are owned by the same person.

Here’s a look at how hoteliers whose business is mostly dependent on wine run their hotels.

Building separate teams
At the Hacienda Guadalupe Hotel in the Valle de Guadalupe in Baja California, Mexico, and at the Inn at Glenora Wine Cellars located in the wine country of the New York Finger Lakes, the hotels and vineyards have the same owners, but operations are split up.

“Although it’s all under one major umbrella, we have different departments,” said Gene Pierce, owner of Glenora Wine Cellars. “The inn and the restaurant are located in the same building. However, the restaurant has its own budget (and) its own profit center, as does the inn.” 

Pierce added that the winery is separate from the restaurant and hotel businesses and the vineyard operations are separate from that.

“They’re all part of little businesses operating under one big umbrella,” he said.

At Hacienda Guadalupe, the situation is similar, according to hotel GM Daniel Sánchez. 

“Our hotel owns its own winery,” he said. “There is also a wide variety of other winery options to visit in the surrounding area, most within five- to 15-minute driving distance. We have two separate teams, one for hotel operations only and the other for vineyard operations only.”

Guest mix, busy season
Summer and fall are pretty busy for hotels in wine country, sources said.

At the Senza Hotel in Napa Valley, California, a lot of guests stay on-property during the growing season, Senza Hotel GM Graham Yallop said. Most of the hotel’s guest base comprises couples staying at the property, he said, and they’re the busiest on weekends. The average stay length is two or three days, he said.

In Mexico, Hacienda Guadalupe sees business from couples, families, solo and business travelers, and guests usually stay two nights, Sánchez said. The hotel’s peak season is from June to September.

“For a better experience of what our Guadalupe wine route Valley has to offer, we recommend three to four nights stay minimum,” he said. “If guests are interested in the nearby cities within 25 to 40 minutes driving distance (Ensenada, Rosarito, etc.) a four- to six-night stay is recommended.”

The Inn at Glenora Wine Cellars in the Finger Lakes is open year-round, but Pierce said there is some seasonality to the business.

“Last year (we hosted) 43 weddings, so there’s on the weekends I’d say probably half, or at least on Saturday night, at least half of our occupancy would be weddings, but the rest of it is pretty much leisure, the balance of weekends and during the week,” he said. “Most of our weddings fall in a period between about the first of May to the end of October. This is kind of upstate New York and people. That’s when they get married, and there’s always a little bit of concern in the winter months about travel and so forth.”

The winery at Glenora was established in 1977, and the inn and restaurant followed in 1998 or 1999, Pierce said. He said the establishment was built to create a wine country destination.

“The idea was to build a complex … that was really a destination, so that when people came into the Finger Lakes wine country, there was a place for them to stay, there was a winery where they could sample and taste, and as well a restaurant offering our wines, we also offer a lot of other local wines in the area, and we pride ourselves a lot with working with local food producers and local growers,” he said.

Offering packages centered around wine at a hotel in wine country is almost a necessity, sources said.

”We do work with the surrounding wineries to create personalized accommodation and wine tasting packages,” Sánchez said. “At our website, you will see tastings included at some wineries. These are not predetermined, as we give the guest the opportunity to decide which places are of their preference to organize their itinerary visits based on this.”

Pierce said guests don’t always pick out a package when they make their reservation, but some add on extras to their stay once they’re on-property.

“I would say about 25% do (purchase packages),” he said. “What we’ve found over the years is although they may not purchase a package … when they initially book a room, they might say, ‘We want to book a room,’ and then once they get here and see in-person some of the other amenities, then they do join in.”

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