Voyager targets tourists with provenance push
Subscribe to Business News.
Dining accolades, tourism successes, exploratory wines and a new venture in the pipeline – it’s a big year for Voyager Estate, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary.
Alexandra Burt is acutely aware of the need for wineries in the Margaret River region to take a strategic yet creative approach to their business.
Ms Burt took the helm at Voyager Estate from her father, iron ore heir (the late) Michael Wright, in 2012, just six years after securing her first job in the wine industry.
She told Business News the team at Voyager had worked to embrace the evolving business environment, strengthening the brand through collaborations and the development of a longer-term strategy as it celebrated its 40th year.
“The challenge for all of us in Margaret River is to keep … creating new reasons for people to come and connect with our wonderful people and places,” Ms Burt said.
Voyager’s cellar door manager, Janine Carter, said brand growth was a multifaceted exercise, starting with a quality product.
“The business is grounded on the wine production,” she said.
“The direct side of our business through cellar door and through our customer database is important, and the wholesale, domestic distribution is vital.”
An additional key aspect of the Voyager strategy is the focus on setting the winery apart from the competition and ensuring the continuing growth of the brand. That focus is on wine tourism, which started six years ago with the refurbishment of the wine room.
“It was at that point that we really committed ourselves to wine tourism,” Ms Carter said.
“It was that change of philosophy; from being a cellar door in the wine industry dealing with tourists coming in, and flipping that around. We are actually in the tourism industry and we have a wine product.
“It sounds like semantics, but it was instrumental in defining our strategy moving forward along with our partnerships, our collaborations.”
Voyager’s growing interest in wine tourism has occurred alongside government recognition of its potential, with recent wine tourism grants supporting the sector’s development.
It has since worked with Tourism Australia through Ultimate Winery Experiences Australia, which comprises a group of award-winning wineries across Australia offering high-end food and wine experiences.
“The Restaurant Australia campaign that Tourism Australia ran back in 2012 really raised the profile of how important culinary tourism is for Australia,” Ms Carter told Business News.
“It revealed some unexplored highlights of Australia that we can promote overseas and was also really pivotal to our journey.
“That is what sparked Ultimate Winery Experiences Australia, and now, six years later, wine tourism is getting really good support.”
“Voyager in an international space would not raise any profile and make an impact by itself. But promoting the Margaret River region, making it part of that export strategy, we pushed our wine brand alongside the Margaret River name,” Ms Carter said.
“Leveraging the name and inviting people back to the estate with bookable wine tourism experiences is an opportunity that we took and that we continue to take.”
The dining experience has evolved, with one of Western Australia’s leading food reviewers recently saying Voyager was “a destination restaurant worth travelling across continents for”, particularly relating to its degustation menu.
In that review, the critic also said his perception of the estate had changed since Voyager implemented its new strategy, and certainly since the wine room refurbishment.
“You have to be really clear about your niche and what you are passionate about. We made this change and we felt that we could stand by food and wine pairing as what we do best. It has been well received,” Ms Carter said.
Significant milestones such as the 40th anniversary of the estate offer a prime time to reflect on the brand’s evolution.
Led by Ms Burt, changes continue with the winery’s transition to organic certification and the recent announcement of plans for a boutique luxury lodge nearby.
Ms Burt’s plans of the business have so far encouraged creativity and a forward-thinking approach.
“Wine tourism in the region has always been incredibly sophisticated relative to other wine regions across Australia and it has been interesting to see some of those regions using Margaret River as the best practice model for developing their own strategies. We know we have a role to play in making sure Margaret River is continually compelling,” Ms Burt said.