Douro wine-tourism engaging consumers in nature conservation stewardship

Wine tourism is a growing revenue side-stream for wine businesses and regions. Besides complementing the wine product with a context in which landscape, gastronomy, culture and history enrich its tangible value with intangibles, wine tourism generates an experience that transcends the material nature of wine, converting it into an experience.

Even though the pandemic years represented a lull in the development of this activity, the return of tourists to Portugal since the end of 2021 promises to continue the growing trend wine tourism was knowing until 2019.

In 2022, the United Nations will hold the Conference of Parties (COP15) of the Convention for Biological Diversity (CBD) aiming to reverse nature and biodiversity loss and make the world nature-positive by 2030 and full nature recovery by 2050. At the same time, the European Union Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, a core part of the European Green Deal, proposes to reverse the decline of pollinators, restore degraded ecosystems, stop damaging nature and establish a minimum of 10% of farmland with biodiversity-rich landscape features.

Wine tourism may continue to develop the engagement of consumers with wine in its intangible dimensions furthering the experience offer and providing a further field to be added: biodiversity and nature stewardship. Sustainability has been increasingly referred as a major way to involve wine tourists with the wine regions they visit and to add a driver for trust in authenticity, quality and sustainable practices used by wine producers. Going one step further, we propose wine tourism may be used to educate consumers about the need to protect nature, ecosystem and biodiversity of those places where wine is produced and the global sustainability benefits that may be derived from that protection. The goal being to convert wine tourists as stewards through their choice of wines produced in respect of nature, ecosystems and biodiversity and therefore promoting the consumption of nature-positive wines.

Combining all these elements, we have created a wine tourism offer package for a biodiversity trail set in a 70-hectare vineyard in the Douro wine region, a UNESCO recognized evolutive landscape world heritage site. Research conducted over more than 10 years on local biodiversity and nature conservation sustainable practices was used in the definition of the trail stops and the educational information provided at each stop totem. The trail was designed to provide a one-hour easy walk immersing tourists directly inside the vineyard and allowing them to see, hear and smell features of the species native to the surrounding ecosystem, while always ensuring their safety and comfort.

In this work, we describe how scientific information was used to create the trail elements and educational information, providing an extra, memorable dimension to wine tourists meant to engage them in sustainable consumption as nature conservancy stewards and advocates.