What’s Up Down Under?

March 1, 2016

Australia is a country we know is there, but for most of us in North America it’s rarely in our daily thoughts. That has not been the case for me lately. This month I will lead a small group on a trip ‘down under.’ We are a Vocational Technical Team sponsored by Rotary International District 5060, which stretches 550 miles from Prosser, WA to Clearwater B.C. The two-nation district has 59 Rotary clubs and 2,800 members.

District-9500-map

A Rotary sponsored Vocational Technical Team is a group of professionals who travel abroad to share their knowledge and to learn more about their industries from other professionals. Our team will travel to Rotary District 9500, a large area that covers the state of South Australia and part of the Northern Territory. From the coastal city of Adelaide to the remote outback town of Alice Springs it’s a span of 1,531 kilometers or 951 miles. That’s about the driving distance from Yakima WA to Los Angeles.

On the trip we’ll focus our studies in winemaking and marketing, agri-tourism, viticulture and agriculture practices. We’ll tour vineyards, wineries, orchards, croplands and production facilities plus local attractions. We’ll share best practices with colleagues while also learning from them. In addition, we’ll speak to Rotary clubs about our professions and our communities. Then in May, a team with similar professional interests from Rotary District 9500 will come to our region to learn about our wine and agricultural industries.

Team 2

Here’s a short bio on the team (pictured above, from left to right)

Lynn Bremmer has been involved in the B.C. Wine industry for many years.  She was a technician and assistant winemaker at Andres Wines for 7 years and winemaker at Brights Wines for 12 years. Lynn is the current chair of the B.C. Wine Grape Council. She owns and operates a 2 hectare vineyard in Oliver and is a partner with her husband John in Mount Kobau Wine Services supplying field sampling, analysis and wine making/viticulture services to the B.C. wine industry.   Lynn is interested in presenting on the history of the B.C. wine industry and the movement from hybrid grapes to a non-grape/wine industry to a complete re-vamping of the industry to a premium grape/wine industry, as well as grape research at Summerland Research Centre and University of British Columbia.

Jim Blonde owns a U-Pick orchard and intends to deliver training in growing blueberries, apples, raspberries, plums and pretty much all stone fruit, as well as vegetables and hops. He is keen to learn about water conservation using drip irrigation, crop placement, and tourism promotion using social media and web-based advertising. A native of upstate New York, Jim worked in the Department of Defense and has had a multifaceted career in technology and other fields.

Reto Gebert is a viticulturist from Kelowna, B.C. and has had a passion for grapes since he has been able to pluck the berries off the clusters. He currently is the assistant vineyard manager at the family winery, St. Hubertus Estate Winery. After graduating from high school in 2009 he traveled to Ontario to study in the Winery and Viticulture Technician Program at Niagara College. Working part-time at different vineyards, volunteering at winery events and taking part in the Royal Visit at the college, Reto was able to gain a more hands-on approach to the wine industry and how other regions grow grapes. Reto received his diploma in 2011. Over the past few years he has been hopping around to work in different wine regions from Switzerland to New Zealand.

And then there is me, John Cooper of Yakima, WA.  I’m a member of the Yakima Rotary Club and have been President & CEO of Yakima Valley Tourism since June 2007.  In my position I’ve developed brand strategies and programs to position the Yakima Valley as a wine, craft beverage and agri-tourism destination. My goal for the trip is to learn new ideas to market wine and agricultural based destinations, community development ideas plus share best practices from our region. As team leader I will assist the group with a planning and coordination efforts on site.

Watch for updates and pictures from the trip. G’Day mate!

John

Yakima to Host Large Music Conference This Month

February 1, 2016
Steve Treseler, the author of The Living Jazz Tradition, conducts a workshops to middle school, high school and college educators at the 2014 WMEA conference. Photo by CMA Press.

Steve Treseler, author of The Living Jazz Tradition, conducts a workshop to middle school, high school and college educators at the 2014 WMEA conference. Photo by CMA Press.

The Washington Music Educators Association (WMEA) will hold its 43rd Biennial Conference and All-State Honor Group performances February 11th – 14th at the Yakima Convention Center and numerous other venues around Yakima. Over the course of the weekend, more than 4,000 students, teachers, staff and families will make their way to Yakima for the event.

Included in that figure are 1,200+ All-State and Junior All-State students. In addition, about 1,100 music teachers from around the state will attend 120 sessions for continuing education as well as 15 concerts their students are performing. An additional 1,700 or more family members, friends and staff will be in Yakima for the event.

According to Yakima Valley Tourism, this is the largest convention slated for 2016. “We work on this event for more than a year,” stated John Cooper, President & CEO for Yakima Valley Tourism. “This conference fills hotels for miles and brings significant visitor spending to the Valley.”

There are more than 20 ensembles (Bands, Orchestras, Choirs, Jazz Ensembles, and Percussion Ensembles, etc.) from all over the state. Along with their teachers, students will perform at “Concert Hours” and “Demonstration Sessions” throughout the weekend. To coordinate the programs, WMEA bulks up for the conference to about 80 staff members (from an office staff of six). This group will take care of details from presiding at conference sessions, moving percussion gear around concert sites and making sure that All-State Students are properly fed and rested.

In order to attend events at the conference, people have to be registered or they have to be involved with presenting, performing or staffing. The Junior All-State and the All-State Concerts, however, are open to the public.

The schedule, time and locations of the concerts are listed below:

Friday, February 12th at 3:00 PM

All State Jazz Concert – Yakima Convention Center

Saturday, February 13th at 4:15 PM      

  • Junior All-State Instrumental Concert – Eisenhower High School
  • Junior All-State Choral Concert – Capitol Theatre

Sunday, February 14th at 1:00 PM

  • All-State Bands – Eisenhower High School
  • All-State Orchestras – Capitol Theatre
  • All-State Choirs – Yakima Convention Center

Concert tickets are $20 if purchased in advance, or $25 the day of or at the door. Children grade eight and below are admitted free. Tickets may be purchased in advance by calling 509-853-2787, on the WMEA website at www.wmea.org under 2016 Conference Information, or online at www.ticketswest.com/events/wmea-all-state-concerts/14702/. Tickets will be sold at the door of each concert venue, plus at the Capitol Theatre Box office starting at 11:00am on Friday for Friday’s Jazz Concert at the Yakima Convention Center, and starting at 11:00am on Sunday for the three Large Group Concerts. Tickets to any of the Sunday concerts allow access to all three events that day.

Yakima has been the traditional location for the WMEA State Conference and All-State Honor Groups for more than 20 years. The event is staged in Yakima around President’s Day Weekend every even numbered year. “We always feel special here,” stated WMEA Executive Director Scott Ketron. “The team of folks at the tourism office and hotels that help us manage this event are like family and they know what to do. We value Yakima, its people and our ongoing relationship with the community.”

Yakima Valley Garners Media Exposure

July 15, 2015

One of our roles at Yakima Valley Tourism is to court, host and tour lifestyle and travel media to Yakima and the Valley. We’ve had a busy time of late, and here are just a few of the results from our efforts:

For a complete look at the media Yakima and the Yakima Valley have received in recent months, check our Media Page on our website.

Yakima Valley Tourism Launches “Bring It Home” Campaign

March 12, 2015

bringItHomeYakima-logoConcepts3Yakima Valley Tourism has launched a campaign to bring more convention and group business to Yakima. “Bring It Home Yakima” is aimed at getting local citizens and groups to invite, attract and host their state and regional events in Yakima.

“Often it takes local people who are involved in their trade and personal interest groups to help bring their conferences to town,” stated John Cooper, President  & CEO of Yakima Valley Tourism. “This campaign is designed to encourage and help them to do just that.”

Cooper cites there are many groups and organizations that local residents belong to including trade and professional associations, sporting groups plus hobby, religious, military and fraternal organizations. “All of them have meetings, tourneys and events so let’s bring them to Yakima,” he stated.

To assist residents in this effort, Yakima Valley Tourism has built a website www.BringItHomeYakima.com  that contains resources, assistance provided by the organization and a simple form for people to fill out to be contacted. “Just let us know what groups you’re involved in and we’ll be in touch to see how together we can bring their events to town,” Cooper stated.

2015 Yakima Valley Travel Guide Released

March 3, 2015

2015 Travel Guide CoverThe 2015 Yakima Valley Official Travel Guide™ has been released and is proving to be very popular. The full-color, 64-page guide covers the communities, events and attractions in the Yakima Valley area, from Red Mountain to White Pass. It is the official visitors guide for the region and a free publication of Yakima Valley Tourism.

The publisher and writer for the guide this year is Marcus Yearout of VGP Destination Marketing, who was born and raised in Wapato, WA.  “Marcus was able to give a personal view of the Valley and has a great storytelling style of writing,” stated John Cooper, President & CEO of Yakima Valley Tourism.

The guide includes information on the area’s wineries and craft beverages, produce stands and farmer’s markets, local heritage, festivals, outdoor adventure, dining, lodging, museums, entertainment, shopping and relocation.

To receive a free issue of the 2015 Yakima Valley Official Travel Guide™ Yakima Valley Tourism asks locals residents to stop by the Yakima Valley Visitor Information Center at 101 North Fair Avenue, off Interstate 82 in Yakima. Out of town folks can order a guide to be mailed by calling toll free (800) 221-0751 or by e-mail info@yakimavalleytourism.com . A digital version of the travel guide can be viewed at this link.

Yakima Valley Tourism Awarded 2015 Tourism Champion by the Washington State Wine Commission

January 27, 2015

WSWA 2015 Black LogoWashington State Wine awarded Yakima Valley Tourism the 2015 Tourism Champion of the Year at the Washington State Wine Awards in Seattle Monday January 26th.

“We are honored to be recognized as Tourism Champion of the Year,” said John Cooper, President & CEO of Yakima Valley Tourism. “The team at Yakima Valley Tourism works hard to elevate wine tourism for the Yakima Valley and to champion our exceptional wine industry.”

Started in 2002, the awards recognize industry leaders that exhibit strong support of Washington wines and high professional standards in wine service and promotion. According to Washington State Wine, the Washington State Restaurant, Retailer and Tourism Champion of the Year are the most prestigious awards, recognizing industry leaders who show the strongest support for Washington State wine. More than 130 nominations were received for the 2015 awards.

“The winners of the Washington State Wine Awards perform a vital role in shaping Washington State as both a favored destination and a favored home for those who enjoy premium wines with superior quality,” said Steve Warner, President of Washington State Wine.

The 15 businesses and individuals recognized as leaders by the Washington State Wine Awards will be featured in a full-page ad in eight key publications and media outlets: Food & Wine, Travel &Leisure, Town & Country, Seattle Met, Elle Décor, Real Simple, Sip Northwest, SeattleTimes.com as the 2015 Washington State Wine Tour Guide.

Yakima Valley Tourism is the official destination marketing organization for Yakima and the Yakima Valley. A non-profit organization, the mission of Yakima Valley Tourism is to stimulate economic development by marketing the Yakima Valley for conventions, groups and leisure travel.

Washington State Wine (also known as the Washington State Wine Commission) represents every licensed winery and wine grape grower in Washington State. Guided by an appointed board, the commission provides a marketing platform to raise positive awareness of the Washington State wine industry and generate greater demand for its wines.

Ten Travel and Tourism Trends for 2015

November 25, 2014

Sharing a column our CEO wrote today:

Thanksgiving is here.  It’s just a matter of time before we usher in a new year.  So what does 2015 hold for travel and tourism? Here are ten trends that I believe will influence travel and tourism next year.

  1. Unplugged travel: Lonely Planet recently released a number of predictions on the future of travel.  They believe the pressures of modern life will cause growth in ‘unplugged travel’. People will seek places that deliberately have no emails or mobile device access,  so that ‘guests can immerse themselves in their destination and truly forget about work and everyday life.’
  2. Crowded Planes: The Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) forecasts that 6.6 billion passengers will fly worldwide by 2032, growing an average of 4.4% annually from 2014 onward. Bottom line: Crowded planes, especially on popular routes.
  3. Growth in Culinary Travel: It’s been a trend for awhile but research validates that food and beverage activities do influence travel decisions. Mandala Research surveyed Americans in 2013 and found that three quarters of all leisure travelers (131 million people) can be classified as culinary travelers, having participated in culinary activities within the past three years.  Expect more interest in culinary travel and new products to tap into this travel trend, like the New Mexico Breakfast Burrito Byway or the Yakima Valley Spirits and Hops Trail.
  4. Sleeping will cost you more: Hotel rates and occupancy levels will be higher due to demand and a stronger economy, especially in large cities and at upscale hotels. Experts advise doing your homework to find deals and booking early. Another option is to gamble on last minute deals through online lodging websites.
  5. Go Local: The rapid rise of the ‘sharing economy’ through venues like Airbnb.com, EatWith.com, Uber and other grass roots based travel providers will proliferate in the coming year(s).
  6. Meetings Coming On Strong: The meetings and convention industry will experience continued growth in 2015. According to American Express Meetings & Events 2015 Global Meetings Forecast, meetings will play a critical role in growing the tourism economy next year.
  7. Going mobile: Almost 25% of all travel bookings in the US will be done via smartphones in 2015. Mobile friendly travel apps and the growth in virtually everything being done on mobile devices have given rise to this trend. It’s not going to slow down either.
  8. Blurred Lines: Top of the Lonely Planet list of trends is that travel will become ‘fully integrated into our lives as opposed to a special event.’ This is encouraging as travel enriches in ways that no other activity can. Travelers are blending their interests when traveling. Trips that focus on the environment, sports, or spa/health will see growth in 2015.
  9. More bang for the buck: Leisure travelers want value and quality. This doesn’t always mean rock bottom pricing, but other aspects such as unique location,  quality service, new amenities and convenience are important.
  10. Sustainability. Sustainability in travel has been around for years, but consumers are driving companies and destinations to embrace more earth friendly practices. Hotels are not only reducing water and chemical use but also employing other sustainable practices including LED lighting and in-room recycling programs. Restaurants are sourcing local ingredients and products. Rental car companies offer more hybrid vehicles.

So those are my top ten travel trends to watch in 2015. Wherever you travel, enjoy the journey and cherish the memories.

John Cooper

Yakima Valley Tourism Selects Firm to Produce Official Visitors Guide

August 29, 2014

Yakima Valley Tourism President & CEO John Cooper announced today that Visitors Guide Publications (VGP Destination Marketing) has been chosen to publish the 2015 edition of the Yakima Valley Official Visitors Guide™.

“VGP Destination Marketing has a long-standing and excellent reputation within the travel and tourism industry throughout Washington State,” Cooper stated in announcing the selection. “We are excited to have them work with us to produce this important marketing piece.”

VGP Destination Marketing owner Marcus Yearout is a graduate of Wapato High School and has deep family roots in the Yakima Valley. Yearout is also a former employee of the Yakima Herald-Republic.

“This is a great opportunity to come home and search out compelling stories that will create interest in the Yakima Valley as a travel destination,” VGP Destination Marketing owner Marcus Yearout commented. “We wholeheartedly share Yakima Valley Tourism’s enthusiasm for this project and are anxious to get started.”  VGP Destination Marketing began publishing visitor guides for communities throughout Washington State in 1990, having won numerous awards for excellence from Washington State Tourism. They published Experience Washington, the state’s official travel planner and assisted in content development for the tourism website, experiencewa.com from 2008-2011.

VGP currently publishes the Washington State Scenic Byways & Road Trips pocket guide and a companion fold out road map both highlighting the state’s 29 officially designated scenic byways as well as the travel planning website, ScenicWA.com.

VGP Destination marketing can be reached at 800-


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