How to cultivate brand ambassadors on a wine tasting tour

After a 34-year career in education teaching elementary school students through university graduate school students, Terry Sullivan began a new career as a travel writer specializing in the wine industry. Taking thousands of photographs and writing articles, Terry visited wineries and vineyards across the globe. Terry’s formally trained by the Wine and Spirits Education Trust and in winemaking from Washington State University.  Terry’s a published author of magazine and website articles and a co-author with his wife Terry of a book about wine journeys.

What’s the difference between an ambassador and a regular walk-through-the-door customer? 

The regular visitor may or may not buy a bottle of wine. Chances are that the winery will not see that customer again or hear from them. An ambassador will return to the winery whenever possible, often accompanied with other people. An ambassador tells friends and relatives about the winery and suggests they visit. Ambassadors reflect positively about a winery or wine tour and encourage others to experience the winery or tour. Ambassadors are a free source of advertising.

Is it a lot of work for wineries or tour operators to create ambassadors?

One of the main themes from last year’s IWINETC in Perugia was the importance of the experience. Most wineries and tour operators would claim that they are providing a great experience for visitors. Some things that differentiate one from the other is the mind-set of creating an ambassador. An ambassador is someone who will talk about your winery or tour favorably, rather than the single experience of visiting the winery or taking a wine tour. Providing a great pre-experience and a great post-experience takes more work on the part of tour operators and winery staff. The experience of the winery visit needs to change from a scripted monologue to dialogue. It is much easier to train staff to read notes about a wine then start a dialogue with guests. Dialogues are more memorable and what helps create ambassadors. 

As a travel writer, you are an empowered ambassador. Does that mean all ambassadors have to be travel writers? 

Ambassadors do not need to be travel writers or bloggers. They could be someone living in the community who encourages people to take your wine tour or visit your winery. When they have out-of-town guests, they will bring them to your winery or have them take your wine tour. 

Do you have an example of a winery or tour group who creates ambassadors well? 

Recently we visited Castello Di Borghese Vineyard and Winery in Cutchogue, New York. We noticed that each person who entered was quickly greeted. Many came in with groups. Talking with the couple next to us, we learned that they were wine club members and were very pleased with their membership. They like to come to the winery, with friends, and taste new releases.

Del Dotto, in Napa, has two wineries that both offer tours of the wine caves. During the tour the guide first learns the names of the attendees in the group and where they are from. The guide makes references to the people and where they are from throughout the tour. One begins to feel that they are important and not just another tourist. Wine tastings are from the barrels. Rather than following a scripted monologue, the guide asks the people what they think about the aroma, taste and finish. There are many responses. No evaluation of what is said is made so the guide is providing a safe environment for people to talk. The guide also asks the group which wines they liked, for example comparing two Merlots. This guided tour empowers people to taste the wines and talk about them. 

How do you know when you’ve created an ambassador?

Look for people who will return to your winery and bring other people with them. Look for people who have singled out your winery and decided to become a member of your wine club, if you have one. If the ambassador is a writer or blogger they will frequently write or blog about your winery or tour.

Terry Sullivan will be delivering a talk titled Experiences that Cultivate Brand Ambassadors in the Istanbul Suite at 15.00 on Friday 15th March

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How to get a region on the wine tourism map. Case Study Nova Scotia

Lesley Trites is a wine writer and blogger in Montreal, Canada. She writes the blog Girl on Wine and is a published poet who enjoys bringing creativity to her wine writing. When not writing, she enjoys travelling to wine regions and has a soft spot for Canada’s east coast, where she grew up.  She is proud to call herself a Maritimer and delighted to share a new appellation from her home area with IWINETC.

What makes Nova Scotia and their new appellation important to you?

There is a personal connection for me. When I took a road trip through the Maritimes (as the eastern Canadian provinces are known) last summer, I was reminded that it is a beautiful and unique part of Canada, with a distinct culture and cuisine, and one that I think is under-appreciated as a tourist destination. I was very excited to discover that it also had a thriving, up-and-coming wine region with some friendly and dynamic winemakers.

How does the way that they’ve created this region (with local industry helping to build a brand) differ from how other emerging regions have been created?

I was impressed by their collaborative spirit. Once someone came up with the idea for a style-based appellation, they formed a committee made up of various members of the local industry. Together, they decided on the style and quality requirements for the appellation, and invented the name for their new brand. The guidelines are meant to ensure consistency while still allowing winemakers the chance to be creative in making their own expression of Tidal Bay.

Can you tell us about the characteristics that will drive the essence of their wine?

Nova Scotia has a cool climate, so the grapes naturally have very high acidity. This in turn produces a very crisp and refreshing style of wine, which can also be quite aromatic. Sparkling wine has been especially successful there, because of the high acidity of the grapes. The Tidal Bay wines are still whites that tend to be fresh, aromatic, and fruit-forward with a mineral component. They’re generally relatively low in alcohol.  

On your blog there are some great suggestions for food and wine pairings. Can you give us a few ideas for what to pair with Tidal Bay wines?

Seafood! Nova Scotia is known for its seafood, and I would pair Tidal Bay wines with scallops in a citrus-based sauce, mussels cooked in white wine, oysters, or lobster.

You’re a self-proclaimed “aspiring wine geek.” In preparation for your trip to Croatia and the IWINETC, have you geeked-out on any regions or particular Croatian producers who’s wine you want to taste?

I’m really looking forward to learning more about all the indigenous grapes grown in Croatia, and in exploring the Istria and Hvar regions in particular. I recently tried a wine made by Giorgio Clai, a natural winemaker in Istria, and I’d also like to taste the wines made by Roxanich, another Istrian producer. 

Girl On Wine writer Lesley Trites will be talking about her native Nova Scotia on Saturday, March 16th from 9:30 to 10:20 in the Emerald Ballroom.

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How do you attract people to your wine region?

Thea Dwelle is the creator and editor of Luscious Lushes, a wine blog created 5 years ago in order to share information on wine, travel, wine business and technology, while focusing on the story behind the wine. Thea also founded the Wine Bloggers Conference Scholarship, which strives to assist digital writers attend the annual conference through charitable works. In addition to blogging, she is a well known expert on technology, and blends her day job in CRM with her passion for wine.

Thea will be presenting with Liza Swift but we’ve interviewed them individually about their talk.  Thea is focused on the emerging wine region within Okanagan, Canada.

What was it that first attracted you to the wine in Okanagan?

I chose the Okanagan Valley particularly, for several reasons.  Primarily, after two years of hard campaigning, the North American Wine Bloggers Conference will be held there in June.  I was intrigued by the region and wanted to learn more about this hidden gem of British Columbia.  Additionally, after meeting several area locals at various other wine events, I have tasted some wonderful wines and I wanted to learn more.  I was able to visit the area last May, and learn about what makes Okanagan so special.  This inspired me to share my experiences with other bloggers, as well as my readers.  The region is unique and it’s special. Hidden between the ski resort of Whistler and the big city of Vancouver, this is a well kept secret for British Columbians that deserves to be shared!

Are there any tour operators or wineries in Okanagan who are doing a great job attracting visitors and can be used as an example?

Thompson Okanagan Tourism does an excellent job of spreading the message about the Okanagan as a destination.  Not only for wine, but also winter sports, and summer lakeside resort living.

On your blog, you wrote about IWINETC and your upcoming trip to Croatia, stating that “As a wine tourist myself, I am often overwhelmed by the sheer number of offerings in a small wine region.  Selecting which establishments will benefit from my business is always a taxing exercise.”  

Is there a process you follow when selecting your destinations? What websites you go to first, for example?

Choosing wineries is often a shot in the dark.  However, with the use of social media tools, I am able to make connections with people in a particular area, and get recommendations. The clever use of Facebook brand pages (based on location) as well as Twitter hashtags bring a wealth of information to your fingertips.

I also use the websites of the regional tourism boards to see what wineries or activities are nearby.  I prefer to go on personal tips, and forge my own path, but with the backup of a travel guide or website.  With wifi and cellular coverage being widely available, my iPad has been my best friend in places like Okanagan, Spain, and Portugal. Travel Forums like Rick Steeves, FlyerTalk and TripAdvisor often a community where you can build friendships and seek advice.

Croatia is an emerging wine region with lots of lesser-known wineries. Have you sorted out any additional destinations within Croatia for your visit?

I am especially excited to be visiting Croatia for the first time, as I have only had a handful of Croatian wines.  I look forward to touring Istria before the conference, and exploring the wine culture there.

Thea Dwelle and Liza Swift will be presenting their talk on Saturday, March 16th, in the Emerald Ballroom titled Undiscovered to Discovered: Bring Your Wine Region into Focus

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How to make the perfect wine tourism package

Tom Plant is a tour operator, the creative mind behind WINEormous blog and an avid wine tourist. Having grown up around wine and the hotels business,Tom is well-versed in the industry. His past experience  as a disc jockey and news reporter guarantees a great voice performance during his talk.

Your talk is about offering the perfect wine tourism package. Does one size fit all? 

Not all all. Each group is different and you have to cater to them individually. Certain standards of service and quality apply to all tours, but that’s about it.

What advice can you give tour operators about the types of experiences wine tourists are looking for? 

Wine tourists love to interact with wine makers and ask them questions. They love the opportunity to taste from the barrel and they always love to see how wine is made, from the crush pad to the bottling line.

What are some unique amenities that wineries have offered wine tourists that you really like?

I have had a winemaker literally lift a guest into a bin to have her crush grapes. Any time they get the opportunity to visit a cellar with a wine maker is a memory they cherish.

 Your blog speaks to the wine lover who is not a wine snob. In your opinion, is it possible for tour operators to cater to both? 

I certainly think so. I like to treat all my guests with the same level of professionalism whether they are a first time taster or a sommelier. I encourage them to ask questions and if I don’t have the answer I tell them I’ll find out.

What wines are you excited to sample while in Croatia for the IWINETC or while in Fuili with the media fam trip?

All of them! I’m certainly looking forward to tasting Crljenak Kaštelanski, but I’m curious about Croatian Cabernet and Merlot. Like I said, I’m anxious to taste them all.

Tom Plant will be giving his talk Saturday March 16th in the Paris Suite from 09.30 to 10:20. titled: Offering The Perfect Wine Tourism Package

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How to create ambassadors for your wine tourism business

Kathleen is a travel wine writer and co-owner of Wine Trail Traveler, LLC. Formerly a Home-Hospital teacher, Kathleen became intrigued with every aspect of wine after visiting several tasting rooms. She enjoys writing about the wine experience, learning the history of wine, winemaking at home and at wineries and cooking with wine. Beginning in 2006 she began writing about the experiences at each winery visited, taking classes and reading everything she could get her hands on. 

Your book called “A Wine Journey” documents 850 wineries you have visited. In what ways have those trips influenced your talk topic? 

Since we wrote A Wine Journey, we have now visited a total of 900 wineries. During those visits we have encountered many delightful experiences, but some visits are more memorable than others, making us wish we could return again and again to the same winery. My presentation topic will include descriptions of ways wineries have made a difference and include suggestions that other wineries can do to give visitors a memorable experience and thereby increasing the chances they will return to your winery.

What part of the wine experience is your favorite part to write about?

My favorite experiences to write about are the unique stories behind the wineries. Some of the stories include the story of the winery name. An example is a winery named Rag Apple Lassie. The unusual history of wineries and the grapes they grow are also intriguing. Particularly enjoyable was learning the story of the grape varietals in vineyards at Villa Matilde in Campania, Italy. For example, Aglianico can be traced back to Ancient History. 

Why do you think creating a wine experience at wineries or through tour operators is important?

Wine is an unusual beverage. It is unique because every wine has a unique aroma and taste formed by the vineyard and crafted by the winemaker. Therefore it is essential for a winery to promote its own wines. For most wineries, the best monetary value is for wines to be sold at the winery’s location or to wine club members. People who enjoy the experience will want to return. If they are not close enough to visit frequently, ideally they can belong to a winery’s wine club and/or order by mail.

Should smaller wineries and bigger wineries present different types of experiences? 

I am not sure the question should be “should” but rather “can.” There are numerous opportunities for small wineries to enhance the visitor’s experience. Smaller wineries do not have the large budgets or facilities to do what the large wineries can do. Often at smaller wineries the owner and winemaker will be available for a few minutes to talk about their wines. The opportunity to talk with an owner, winemaker or viticulturist can be an exceptional experience.

If you could invent the perfect wine experience in Croatia, what would it entail? 

We are arriving in Croatia a few days earlier than IWINETC to visit several wineries. I would prefer waiting until those experiences before suggesting details for a perfect wine experience at a winery in Croatia. However, a perfect wine experience anywhere would include a quick greeting upon arrival, quality and polished stemware with no water spots, friendly and knowledgeable staff, a place to sit and enjoy a glass of wine, soft music, views of vineyards, a winery tour. It’s the little things that count.

Kathleen‘s talk is scheduled for 15:00-15:40 on Friday March 15th in the Istanbul Suite titled Experiences that Cultivate Brand Ambassadors 

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How to get a WOW during a winery visit

Diane Letulle has been writing Wine Lover’s Journal for over five years. Her blog takes readers along on journeys through the vineyards of France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Hungary, Republic of Georgia, United States, and Canada. She writes the Manhattan Wine Examiner and national Wine Travel Examiner columns and contributes wine and travel stories to various online publications including Palate Press and Snooth.

Creating a WOW factor sounds expensive. Does it have to be?

A wow factor for winery visitors by definition is something memorable. It can be as elaborate and expensive as the mind can imagine. Or it can be something rare that is not necessarily expensive, such as a charismatic winemaker who is available to guests.

Wine tasting fulfils a great number of sensations in itself. How do you think the visitor experience can be enhanced?

Wine tourism is definitely a multi-sensory experience. When imagining a guest experience, paying attention to visual aesthetics is of course important. But what about scent? In the Rhone for example, having small jars of lavender and fragrant herbs that comprise the aroma “garrigue” would enhance guests’ visits and provide a moment of education as well. 

Your blog often mentions the wine experiences, outside of wine tasting, that were memorable to you.  How much do you think tour operators could benefit from expanding their offerings to match a region’s best sights?

It’s wise to consider the wine tasting as a larger part of a tourist experience.  Winery owners can consider their potential role providing concierge-type services. For example, when visiting Veuve Clicquot, I was pleased that the staff located a Michelin one star restaurant for me and called to make a reservation. 

What are some of your recent winery visit  most memorable aspects?

I was in Spain last summer, and touring the giant Torres winery on a little train was full of big production wow factor moments.  Yet creating a memorable moment can be as simple as setting out a basket of warm cheese rolls, as were provided with every Tokaji tasting I had in Hungary, or a collection of whimsical corkscrews on display, as I saw at a tiny tasting room in Chablis. More often than not, it is meeting someone who is truly passionate about the wine that makes visits memorable. 

You’re working on a new book documenting your wine travels, will you tell us if IWINETC 2013 makes the cut? 

The book I am writing is a memoir of my travels in wine country – and IWINETC will probably be included. My story takes place on a road trip from Saint Emilion, France.

Diane Letulle‘s talk is scheduled for 15:00-15:40 on Saturday March 16th in the Emerald Ball Room titled Creating the Wow Factor in Winery Visits

Find out the who, what & where of the 2013 IWINETC!

March 15th to 16th, will see the International Wine Tourism Conference (IWINETC) bring together a unique blend of wine industry professionals from around the world.

Organized by Wine Pleasures, the IWINETC is an extensive 2 days dedicated to the commercialization of wine tourism.

The event is an interactive and dynamic program during which time is spent building new business relationships, learning from global experts, exploring an emerging Croatian wine industry, and of course, tasting wine!

Tour operators/agents and wine experience providers specialised in wine and culinary tourism have dedicated time to meet one-on-one at the Wine Tourism Workshop. Professional and enthusiast wine lovers can devour the knowledge of over 30 guest speakers.  Wineries can showcase their latest release or special classic vintages.  It’s all about growing the wine tourism industry!

Denis Ivošević of the Istria Travel Board kicks off the festivities with a look at wine tourism in the heart-shaped land of Croatian wine.  The peninsula of Istria has been building it’s wine routes over the last 15 years. IWINETC invites you to learn from their trials and successes.

Below are a sampling of the top quality guest speakers who promise to make IWINETC 2013 a memorable experience.

  • IWINETC welcomes two Balkan wine experts to the conference. Dusan Jelic will walk us through the progression of the wine industry of these countries to the future state that will drive wine tourism. Secondarily, Caroline Gilby, MW and Central and Eastern European wine expert will raise a glass and walk attendees through a grand tasting of  notable Croatian autochthonous varieties.
  • Guest speaker, professor, and Huffington Post wine columnist,  Fabrizio Bucella will be discussing the unique link between architecture and wine.
  • Giovanna Sacchi of  Ca’ Foscari Venice University will unveil a new study on the wine tourist. In her talk, she’ll speak to key findings from online research which aims to uncover needs and demands of the wine tourist.
  • A look at wine industry updates and wine tourism opportunities in India, Chile, Nova Scotia, Thailand, Baja, and Georgia. Including a tasting of Georgian wines.
  • Lessons from the wine routes in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region taught by Chiara Tuppy of Wine and Food Routes in Friuli Venezia Giulia.”

And, several more celebrated wine travelers, bloggers, and experts in their fields will speak to topics like creating a WOW factor, 50 Shades of Croatia, Training and Hiring the right staff, and understanding the wine tourist experience.

For a full listing of events and speakers click here.

Don’t forget to arrive early and stay late to take full advantage of the tours around wine, food, and  culture of Croatia provided by Zagreb based Ban Tours.

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How to create a memorable wine tourism experience for your guests

Mary Cressler is a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers, a Wine Location Specialist through the Center for Wine Origins, and proprietor of Vindulge Wine Education & Consulting; a wine consulting company focusing on enhancing the consumers wine experience through classes, seminars, private buying in addition to commercial consulting. A frequent tasting panelist and judge for wine competitions, Ms. Cressler also writes about wine. Her writing has been featured in various publications and on her own site. 

Your company, Vindulge, offers an extensive list of events, classes, workshops, and consulting. Why choose front of house training as your talk topic?

I began my wine career working for wineries and several years as a General Manager at a winery.  My time spent managing people (including hiring, training, and developing tasting room employees) helped me realize not only the value, but also necessity of having well trained employees. All too often managers don’t recognized the value in training and developing their most important asset – their people. It does not need to be difficult, nor expensive to develop their employees, but it vital for success. These are the brand ambassadors for wineries when owners can’t always be there to tell the story. Training and developing people is so critical to growing revenue through repeat business and first impressions. 

In your experience, what is the typical percent sales gain most wineries will see from training their staff well?

This question comes up often. The best response is to self-benchmark over a period of time.  When working on training programs and implementing that for staff, the best result is to look at the sales from a same period that did not have the training program over time. This allows for seasonal adjustments to volume to normalize.  It’s also important to focus on long-term development. Keeping your staff focused on emerging trends and hospitality are just as important as the onboarding period over the first few months of employment. 

Is there a secret to getting employees to engage in front of house training?

If I told you now nobody would come to my presentation…

Kidding aside, for starters educating them on your brand and your story. People visit wineries not just to taste wine but also to learn your story and to have an “experience”.  It is your tasting room employees’ job to provide that.  Sales incentives can also be a powerful tool in getting front of house employees to sell more wine.  Making them feel as though they are a part of a “team” – including inviting them to meetings and keeping them updated on any news or changes going on at the winery.

As a wine blogger, why is it important to attend the IWINETC event?

It is an excellent opportunity to meet professionals in the wine and tourism industries, learn, and network.  As a wine writer I find the greatest sources of knowledge of any region come from when I have had the opportunity to travel to those regions, and meet with the people who make the wine and operate the businesses I write about.  Better stories emerge from that personal level of engagement. 

Fill in the blank: The media trip to Friuli is an exciting opportunity to__________.

Experience and learn more deeply about a region I have never visited.

Mary Cressler will be talking about Training Front of House Staff on Friday, March 15th at 12:30 in the Paris Suite.

View the IWINETC Programme of talks.

What is the most common misperception of wine travelers?

Melba Allen one of the wine industry’s premier ExPats. She fell in love with wine and food culture in France and obtained degrees from some of the most prestigious wine schools in France and London. Since living in France, she has owned her own wine company, which provides such services as wine consultation, education, and wine events organization. Melba continues to enjoy buying and selling wines Internationally, judging wines in tasting competitions, providing wine industry training,  and writing on-line articles, blogs and stories.

You are an expert in understanding wine travelers’ expectations.  How has the wine traveler changed in the last 5-10 years?  

Ten years ago, to go into the vineyards to see where grapes grow and how wines are made was new and adventurous. Each winery had a secret to be told and the curious wine drinker would travel the world over in order to know that secret. It didn’t matter if one had to get up in the wee hours of the morning just to catch the sunrise over the sleepy bunches of grapes hidden under the foliage or not. What mattered was to find that special wine that one could share with friends.  Today, wine travelers are better educated, more mobile and more scrutinizing than before, which makes them more demanding. Not only do they want to know about the wines that were made for generations in the same family, but they also are eager to learn about the environment and the culture that nurtured them.  Wine travelers tend to want an engulfing experience that brings together culture, tradition, gastronomy and knowledge. 

What is the most common misperception of wine travelers? 

A man in his mid fifties, upper middle class that travel a lot or retired persons who have nothing better to do with their time. Many of today’s wine travelers are women, between the ages of 35 -55, and who have a challenging professional life. Of course, men too still buy in quantities, yet women are more particular with details.

How has the winery expectations changed in the last 5 years? 

Most wine travelers know how a wine is made. Unless there is something that is really special or particular to the region, going through the winemaking area has become less interesting to many. They want to know more about the person who makes the wine and his philosophy behind his decisions. They want to be able to feel a part of action and not be a spectator. They want to be able to give their opinion about a wine and not be ridiculed. Above all, if the wine experience was a positive one, the wine travelers are usually the ultimate ambassadors for other wine drinkers. 

What role does the fact that a region is an ’emerging wine region’ play into the decision for wine travelers to schedule a visit? 

Wine travelers are a curious lot. So when there are new regions to be discovered, the wine traveler is the first to go and see what is happening. If the traveler is well received he or she will recommend the trip to others or even come back with a group of friends who will in turn do the same. First impressions means a lot, so be careful on how you receive the wine traveler. Because, believe it or not, word of mouth is still the best advertizing in the world!

Croatia is an emerging wine market. What advice do you have for Croatian or other emerging market wineries who want to attract more wine traveler traffic? 

Don’t copy another country’s success story. Go and see what is going on elsewhere, learn from the success and failures of those stories, and eventually build your own.

Melba Allen will be speaking from 11:30 to 12:20 in the Istanbul Suite on Friday March 15th with a talk titled The Growing Demands of Wine Tourism. Is it really worth it?

Who’s Keeping Wine Tourism a Secret?

Tour operators and travel agents traveling thousands of miles to attend the International Wine Tourism Conference & Workshop in Croatia (15-16 March) were surveyed by organizers, Wine Pleasures, regarding destination choice for their wine tourism clients.

Croatia bottom on the wine tourism mapRepresenting the USA, UK, Slovenia, Spain, Italy, Norway and Sweden, these agents send over 3600 trips annually to wine regions across the globe. In ranking order, prominence was given to sending tourists to France, Italy and Spain. 8 out of 10 agents send travelers to other destinations. A large majority send trips to Portugal (50%) and more than 25% send trips to Austria and Germany. But, there’s a developing market not on the list with world-class wines made from both local and international grapes that’s quite possibly southeastern Europe’s best kept secret.

Wines from Balkans Grand Tasting at IWINETC 2013Croatia and neighboring countries have an unspoiled beauty beyond the coastlines. More than 500 wineries in Croatia dot the landscape and establish a wine culture ripe for wine tourism. The history of wine in the area goes back to plantings of the ancient Greeks. Today’s viticulture represents tradition, terroir, and technology working together.

Be one of the first to discover the unknown wine tourism destinations France, Italy, Spain and Portugal don’t want you to know about.

The 2013 International Wine Tourism Conference Workshop & Fam Trip is a global event uniquely established to bring together wine and tourism professionals in one location. This is a unique and once only opportunity for Croatia to unveil their secrets with respect to wine tourism.

Conferenza Internazionale sul Turismo del Vino e Workshop 2012The Wine Tourism Workshop (16th March) is a powerful tool that allows wine tourism experience providers to meet with tour operators and travel agents specialised in wine and culinary tourism.

Could it be a coincidence that the IWINETC was held in previous years inn Italy, Portugal and Spain and are now in the top 4 destinations of the surveyed operators? Don’t miss the opportunity to be part of the next emerging region’s discovery.