It’s safe to say that the food and drink industry are vital components of any successful tourism strategy. Many people may see these as separate entities, however for the increasingly engaged modern traveler, correct food and wine matching along with well informed, knowledgeable staff and sommeliers is a critical link for any positive dining experience.
Increasingly, the average tourist today is far more ‘experience driven’ than ‘possession focused’. This growing trend is therefore likely to benefit ‘premium one-off occasion based’ products. Food, Wine and Spirits (not just skydiving etc.) can all fall into this category, in both the on-trade and off-trade sectors. In short - ‘people are drinking less, but drinking better’.
These contemporary consumers want their experiences to be both memorable and unique, with perhaps an ethical endorsement (such an organic certification).
So how can the Caribbean capitalise on this potential? In a word, education. Having knowledgable, confident and engaged staff is any employers dream, but when these attributes are applied to the wine and spirit sector they can be extremely effective.
Being able to guide curious consumers not only increases average purchase price, but also improves staff retention, customer service skills and self esteem of the employee in the process. Win, win!
Up until recently, wine, spirits and mixology education has been difficult to access locally, however a significant change has been seen in Grand Cayman since 2014 thanks to a new on-island school. Both local and multi-national businesses have benefited, as well as young Caymanians who now have the opportunity to obtain and progress through several levels of internationally recognised qualifications; from both the ‘Wine & Spirits Education Trust’ (WSET) and ‘Shaker Bar School’.
Alongside an ever increasing array of wines available in Cayman, consumers can now access an incredibly diverse range of products, selected and sold by qualified and engaged industry professionals.
This has given hotels and restaurants the confidence to offer quality focused, unusual wines from lesser know regions such as Rías Baixas on their lists; safe in the knowledge that that their staff can communicate the wine’s story to consumers that are crying out for something special.
With the school now teaching across the Caribbean, a similar momentum is starting to be felt on several other islands. In the long term, this multi-island up- skilling will allow destinations to keep pace with global trends in an ever increasingly competitive industry.