With the gin industry rising in popularity each year, we take a look at what gin tourism is and how you can capitalise on gin festivals as an accommodation provider.
With (what would traditionally be) festival season right around the corner, have you considered tapping into the festival market?
Although thinking of festivals may immediately bring to mind dirty teenagers jumping up and down in muddy fields, there are plenty of other festival markets you can tap into.
One particular type of festival we think you may be interested in, are those put on by the increasingly popular gin industry.
We spoke with David Hill, gin lover and Director of E3 Events to find out all you need to know about the gin industry and how your business could benefit from gin festivals.
Back in 2019, data collected by Kantar’s Worldpanel division showed that gin had overtaken whisky to become the nation’s favourite spirit.
The WSTA, who represent hundreds of companies in the UK wine and spirit trade, found that around 27 million bottles of flavoured gin were sold between October 2019 and October 2020, an increase of 31% on the previous year’s sales.
Gin sales are still on the rise and the industry is beginning to branch out. No longer is the nation limited to buying bottles from retailers or drinks in a bar. The industry is expanding with niche, artisan gin distillers popping up across the country and now we can enjoy the delights of mixology classes, tastings, tours, and last but not least: festivals.
One popular gin festival is the Sussex Gin Fest, organised by David Hill and his team at E3 events. David said: “Four years ago at our very first festival, we had something like 15 vendors, so that was ten gin vendors and five food vendors, with about 1500 visitors. Now we’re looking at 60 plus vendors and around 5000 people on site.”
He added: “Our festivals have incredible growth trajectories and they’re very popular, despite COVID.”
For those unfamiliar with gin festivals, David explains that Sussex Gin Fest is targeted at the smaller, more artisan distillers rather than the mainstream brands that you would find in the supermarkets.
David said: “Visitors will actually get to meet the gin distillers themselves. They run their own bars on site and sell their own bottles. They can even have a mixologist behind the bar or even offer gin-based cocktails.
“It’s a very high end festival and attracts a certain demographic; People with a good disposable income who don’t mind spending upwards of seven pounds on a gin and tonic and really enjoy a premium drink.”
Typically these events are ticketed and David explains that at Sussex Gin Fest, visitors buy tickets for a certain time in the day.
“If you bought a ticket, for example, that would give you three hours at the festival. And then at the end of that time slot we kick everyone out and turn the site over and clean up before the next session,” said David.
Many gin festival companies tour around the UK, so make sure you do your research to find out which festivals are the most local to you.
Capitalising on gin festivals with your accommodation business
Now you have a rough idea of what to expect of gin festivals, we’d recommend you research the events closest to you, mark the dates in your diary and consider how your business could benefit from them.
Once you have noted these details in your diary, we would recommend posting these dates on your website or social media platforms. This would allow potential guests to see that you are close to the festival they are visiting.
David said: “With gin tourism on the rise, people actually want to stay close by and go to the festival. Customers will look for luxury B&Bs, AirBnBs and hotel options that are in and around the same area of the festival.”
Sharing details such as how far your accommodation business is from the festival may increase your chances of being booked by festival goers.
To make your business even more appealing, it may be worth looking into transport options to and from the festival for your guests.
David said: “For example, our Sussex Gin Fest is in the middle of the countryside. When you’re in the festival footprint, all you can really see is the rolling hills and fields and the guests have to get there somehow.”
If you have a number of guests who would be in need of transfers from their accommodation to the festival, look online to see if there are any local public transport options available and make your guests aware of these options.
However, if you don’t have public transport options or you want to capitalise on transfers to and from the festival, you could look into partnering with a local taxi or bus firm, or you could even look into hiring a vehicle which you could drive yourself.
Looking beyond partnerships with local transport companies, we recommend finding out which local distillers will be at the festivals in order for you to make the most out of the industry.
“Artisan and small batch, boutique gin distillers are popping up everywhere,” said David.
“For a lot of these distillers, their route to market is through these events. They aren’t on the supermarket shelves.”
He added: “We have three zones at the Sussex Gin Fest and the main zone, the Sussex Zone, is linked to the country we’re in. That’s where we put all the distillers and food vendors who are from Sussex.”
David and the team at E3 Events who run Sussex Gin Fest work hard to build relationships with the different distillers, and you can do this too to capitalise on the festivals.
Partnering with local distillers, especially those that have stalls at the festival, will allow you to extend the gin experience for your guests once they return, and one way you can do this is by running your own gin bar.
If you don’t want to run a full gin bar, you can always set up your very own honesty bar in a communal area for your guests, or run gin tasting workshops.
David said: “It would be great if you can continue the experience for a customer outside of the festival gates, so they can go back to their accommodation and enjoy a really nice gin.
“There’s so many opportunities, I think, for accommodation providers to form relationships with a lot of these gin distillers directly. A lot of bars, hotels, and other accommodation providers will have an account with a wholesaler, you know, but there are opportunities to actually dive in and understand the story and understand the product in a lot more detail.
“I would strongly advise having a really interesting range of gins available for your guests to choose from.”
Reaching out to your local gin distillers is a great way to get your business involved with the gin industry. David pointed out that it’s very easy to find contacts online and “all you have to do is Google them” and get in touch.
“These smaller distillers have a passion for what they’re doing and a passion for the product,” said David.
“You’ll never have a problem engaging with these smaller brands because they want to engage with you.
“If you ring Tomcat Gin or Brighton Gin for example, it’s more likely to be the owner who picks up the phone. And the great thing is, unlike the larger companies, they’re more than happy to sell smaller cases or even just one or two bottles.”
Purchasing a couple of bottles from a handful of local artisan, small-batch distilleries is a great place to start. This allows you to extend the gin festival experience and your customers can enjoy some of the different brands they saw at the festival.
“If you ring up asking for two bottles to start with, they won’t say ‘No, you need to buy a minimum of 10 cases’ or something like that. Their door is open,” said David.
“They recognise that you’ve got to start small and they just want their product to be seen and experienced.
“What they’re doing is a labour of love. They’re very passionate about it and they’re very nice people to deal with.”
If you want to take it further, look into companies such as Fest Ticket, who specialise in selling tickets and accommodation as a package deal.
Or you can look into companies who run gin tastings, ask them to come to your venue and run an event for your guests.
The gin industry is still growing and you can tap into it in many ways. Don’t be afraid of trying new routes to increase business and profits. David said: “Gin is here to stay. And it’s here to stay for a long, long time.”
With so many different types of gin and different brands, how do you decide which ones to stock for your guests?
David’s love for gin and experience within the industry has provided him with enough knowledge to provide recommendations for accommodation providers.
He said: “One thing you do have to note is the rise of flavoured gins. They are massively on the rise and people absolutely love them. They are always the first to sell out at our festivals.”
If you want strongly flavoured gin, David recommends Whitley Neill, a brand which sells 11 different flavours and one London dry gin.
David said: “Their flavours hit you between the eyes. So if you have a Whitley Neill Blood Orange for example, you are really going to taste that blood orange.
“Some people would say it almost overpowers the gin, but a lot of people like that. They like to taste the flavour and for it to be strong.”
He added: “I’m a big fan of flavoured gins, but for me, the Whitley Neill ones are a little bit too strong.”
A flavoured gin that David really enjoys is a Sussex brand called Tom Cat Gin.
“They do an absolutely sensational Cloudy Mango gin,” said David.
“It’s an unusual gin because it’s cloudy. It’s different, but it’s just amazing.”
He added: “They also do a Blueberry Gin which is just, oh my gosh, it’s so more-ish. I went to a dinner party before COVID hit and I drank it all night.”
Another of David’s favourite local gins is a relatively new brand called Ditchling Gin, based in Sussex.
David said: “It was famous for maybe, five seconds last year, because it’s in a tiny village where Dame Vera Lynn lived.
“It’s a really premium, smooth, quite strong gin and I really recommend it. I like that it’s a premium London dry.”
If you want recommendations for some of the more well-known brands, David suggests SipSmith Gin.
“SipSmith’s Orange and CaCao Gin is incredible,” he said, “it’s like orange and chocolate, which sounds hideous, but it’s so subtle and it’s amazing.”
He added: “If you mix that with Folkington’s Earl Grey Tonic, it’s absolutely divine.”
Even though it’s a good idea to stock London Dry Gins for the guests who don’t like flavours, David stresses that flavoured gins are extremely important.
“There’s always queues for the flavoured gins at our festivals,” said David.
“They’re really on the rise and people really want to try them.”
He added: “In fact, flavoured gins are so important that I’d even go as far as saying our festival would probably fail without them.
“If we just sold a London Dry or Dry gin, we’d get complaints.
“You’ve got to have a selection of different flavours available.”
When your guests kick back and relax back at their accommodation with a drink, you are not limited to the standard Gin & Tonic.
We asked David to recommend a gin based cocktail that you could serve to your guests.
“My absolute all time favourite gin based cocktail is a Bramble, which is a classic,” said David, “It’s made from gin, a blackberry liqueur such as creme de mure, lemon juice and sugar syrup. They’re amazing.”
8 GIN BASED COCKTAILS
2. Gin Fizz
6. Southside (Mojito, gin-style)
8. Monkey Gland