By Ryan Laffler, Account Manger and Digital Director
Let’s talk about beer! And no, I’m not referring to the run-of-the-mill lagers that many macrobreweries pass off as “beer” (let alone drinkable). I’m referring to the world of craft beer; the wonderful world of strange ingredients, amusing label designs, and punny names. While beer tourism has long been a staple in brewing towns in Europe, the phenomenon has started gaining some serious traction in the U.S. According to Julia Herz, the craft beer program director for the national Brewers Association, up until 1978, there were fewer than 100 brewing locations across America. By 2007, she said, there were 1,450 breweries, and nowadays, there are more than 5,300 breweries nationwide. The industry’s meteoric growth has paved the way for craft beer tourism, which has become so strong that Travelocity even recently published a beer tourism index identifying the top beer destinations in the U.S. With all of this growth, it’s no surprise that craft beer has become a cultural focal point for many destinations.
Craft breweries are quickly becoming symbols of local and cultural pride in destinations. Similar to how New Orleans is well-known for its culinary culture (e.g., Cajun food), cities from coast to coast are now taking pride in their craft beer culture. Trends in tourism indicate that tourists are beginning to seek a connection with the destinations they visit by immersing themselves in experiences related to a particular culture. Paul Avery, CEO and President of World of Beer, states, “The rapid growth of craft beer closely aligns to a cultural shift towards discovery that is prevalent in the U.S. and abroad. Craft beer goes beyond drinking great beers; it is also about experiencing the stories, people, and cultures that make them unique.” He continues, “The trend towards a more ‘discovery and experience’ driven culture is deeply rooted in Millennials, and as such, they overindex in craft beer consumption. In addition, they also look for authentic and value-based brands, two attributes prevalent in craft beer.”
With craft beer tourism on the rise, breweries are developing new and innovative ways to market to Beer Tourists. Stone Brewing in Escondido, California, for example, recently announced plans to open the “Stone Hotel,” a 99-room, beer-themed hotel set to open in early 2018. There, Stone beers and special-release beers will be on tap at three on-site bars, and complimentary beers will be offered upon check-in. Guests can also request for growlers to be sent directly to their room. Another example of craft brewery innovation is BrewDog, a craft brewery in Ellon, Scotland, which is in the process of crowdfunding a hotel that will include an IPA-filled hot tub, a beer-themed spa, and an IPA tap in the bedrooms. What better a way to kick off a “Beercation” than with an exfoliating hops-infused face mask?
Local tourism organizations are also capitalizing on the burgeoning market by developing beer-centric travel packages and partnerships. These packages may include a complimentary beer and beer glass upon arrival, a tour of local breweries, an afternoon ride on one of the infamous pubcycles, and a dinner at a local restaurant featuring a plethora of food-and-beer pairing recommendations. Some of these packages even go as far as to partner with a local cab company, Uber, or Lyft, offering complimentary rides to and from the hotel for Beer Tourists who are too drunk to drive. These kinds of travel packages create a sense of pride and connectivity in a destination’s culture and craft beer scene. They also go a step further by telling Beer Tourists, “We understand you, and we can offer you an experience that is entirely unique to this destination.”
Though growth of the craft brew industry has slowed down in recent years, it does not seem as if it will be going away anytime soon. The first step toward marketing to Beer Tourists begins with understanding who they are, where they come from, and what they want to get out of a vacation. The Goss Agency offers a full suite of research tools to help you scientifically and systematically pinpoint the demographics and psychographics of this market. In addition to being a full-service advertising agency, we also offer Specialty Cultural Tourism programs such as V.E.E.P. (Visitor Experience Enhancement Program) to drive conversions and enhance your cultural impact. To find out more, email Ryan Laffler at Ryan@TheGossAgency.com or give us a call at (828) 259-9910.