Here we are in the first week of 2021 and the team at Margaret River Tours has been operating in what is nothing less than a changed wine tasting landscape, thanks to the pandemic mayhem of 2020. We would like to say we have been up and running for a few months, but we think it might better be described as up and jogging, while we duck and weave. Still, here we are, committed to getting people safely to and from our great local wineries in what is a less dynamic, but active, local market. Our immediate hope is that Western Australian people will continue to rediscover the many treasures of Margaret River. In doing so they will provide invaluable support to many people including hardworking winemakers, restauranteurs and experienced tourism operators in their efforts to keep their businesses financially viable.
So what did happen to the wine tour industry in 2020? The suspension of interstate and overseas markets has had a noticeable impact on tour operators and the effects of that are, of course, ongoing. Our region has an excellent reputation with overseas visitors and there are usually thousands of keen wine connoisseurs from far and wide who have not been able to come here.
When the risk of Covid-19 resulted in widespread closures of non-essential services, cellar doors were asked to modify their shop fronts and stop serving tastings for several months. As restrictions eased and tours were allowed on the road again, new policies came into place requiring operators to implement training programs and undertake improved hygiene/cleaning procedures. This compliance was happily done both to mitigate risk and also to instil confidence in us from our potential guests. Despite the economic onslaught to our local economy there are still plenty of reasons to feel proud of our community, the gracious ways we adapted and the sacrifices we all made. The challenge now remains, for us to continue engaging our local WA market in re-discovering their own backyard, keeping them captivated and motivated to support us until wider opportunities return.
Our products and services have not changed much despite a few things here and there. If you’ve been on one of our tours before you can expect the same comprehensive food and wine experience, with a couple of adaptations.
Prior to Covid-19, many cellar doors had already begun charging tasting fees but with added pressures of contact registers, cleaning regimes and social distancing protocols, the practise of charging a fee for wine tasting has become increasingly common.
Many cellar doors limited the numbers of patrons we can bring to them at any time and Xanadu’s fabulous restaurant, where our Full Day Gourmet Wine & Dine Tour visits for lunch (see menu here) understandably made the decision to close two days of the week, both of which required us to adjust the itinerary and availability of our tours. In addition to meeting all training and regulatory requirements, we introduced individual cheese platters for our patrons to enjoy singularly, rather than as a shared platter, and allowed extra time across our schedules to ensure all safety obligations were met, behind the scenes and on the day of each tour.
With limited numbers still allowed in cellar doors and some venues offering only seated tastings that need to be booked in advance, it’s great to know there is still a VIP place for you to enjoy wine tasting as a guest with an experienced operator like Margaret River Tours.
The price has increased a little, to include those extra tasting fees we mentioned, but our tours are still excellent value for money, fun and informative and our buses and the places we visit are cleaner than ever (and we didn’t think that was possible).
Get onboard one of our iconic food and wine journeys in 2021 and let us help you get up close and personal with some of the most acclaimed wines in the region. You’ll have a great day and you’ll be helping Margaret River Tours come back stronger than ever in our mission. To celebrate and promote, the best of the best, food and wine in Margaret River.