Who could resist an opportunity to speak at a conference in France? And in Champagne? Especially one focused on ‘wine tourism’? Certainly not me!
So, this past April,with PowerPoint loaded and notes in hand, I set out from Los Angeles to Reims, France and the International Wine Tourism Conference 2015.
My seminar was entitled ‘Promoting your Wine Tourism Business Through Sales, Service & Knowledge’ a topic on which I have spoken several times before. I wondered if my over-riding theme of ‘the experience’ and how it influences everything from your website, to who you hire and how you train them, would be applicable in a global setting.
I need not have worried. Not only was the concept mentioned, it practically became a mantra over the two days of the conference! It seems I am not alone in emphasizing how vital it is for our industry to focus on this most essential element if we want to engage with our guests before, during and after their visits!
The schedule of seminars was jam-packed with information on destinations such as Georgia, India, Hungary, Argentina, the Jura, England and Chile. Our hosts, the wonderful wine region of Champagne, were naturally included as was Catalonia, the site of next year’s conference.
We learned how wine tourism is on the rise, that guests want an ‘experience’ that is authentic, not manufactured. We discovered how regions use their local history, food and culture to engage and capture the visitor’s imagination and that wine, food and travel form the perfect, desired trifecta!
We explored the realms of Social Media and the Internet – how to use it to find and develop loyal visitors to your region. We also discovered that although many destinations and suppliers understand the importance of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others, they don’t take advantage of it’s huge and growing market reach. Ah, more work to be done!
Personally, I learned what a ‘small world’ our wine tourism community can be. That we all face similar challenges and dilemmas and that even though some destinations may appear more ‘advanced’ than others when it comes to the business of wine tourism, we all have much to share and learn.
Yes, we could connect through Skype or on-line conferencing. But being in a room of like-minded professionals somehow makes it all more exciting, more relevant. It reminds you why you got into this line of work in the first place.
Dare I say it, but the conference was, in itself, an ‘experience’ and in the end, that’ is what it is all about!
Wine lover, educator and writer.