Yakima Valley Hosts Brand USA UK Tour

UK travel agents and their 'Sunbrellas' at Silver Lake Winery

UK travel agents and their ‘Sunbrellas’ at Silver Lake Winery

As a conclusion to National Travel and Tourism Week, last weekend the Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau hosted nine United Kingdom travel agents, tourism staff from the Port of Seattle and media on a whirlwind tour of the Valley as part of  a MegaFam sponsored by Brand USA with the Port.

As part of their visit the travel agents visited wineries, saw the Canine and Wine fundraiser, took a hayride, toured the murals in Toppenish, had a wine makers dinner at Treveri Cellars, enjoyed brunch at Birchfield Manor and stayed at downtown hotels. The Yakima Valley was part of a Washington and Oregon multi-day tour entitled Pacific Playground. Here’s a blog entry about their time in the Valley.

The mega-familiarization tour included seven simultaneous itineraries incorporating some of the United States’ most iconic destinations. Each itinerary offerered an incredible experience from the western wilds of Utah and Colorado; the urban playgrounds of the East Coast; the rich culture of Texas; the laid back lifestyle of California; the creole flavors of the Deep South; the Pacific Playground journey and the Great Lakes region. MegaFam participants were selected among an elite group of travel agents from the UK and Ireland who booked trips to the USA from January 1 – April 5, 2013 via Brand USA’s partner airlines, British Airways and American Airlines, and ground transportation partner, Avis.
Brand USA is the nation’s first cooperative destination marketing organization. They focus on delivering programs that increase awareness and enhance the image of the United States among worldwide travelers and encourage travel to the United States. In addition to promoting the United States as a travel destination they work with the Federal government to communicate US entry and security processes that will help make the journey to and into the United States easier and more welcoming.

Visitors Bureau Receives Wine Award

WineAwardsSeal_kThe Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau was recognized yesterday with a Grand Award by the Washington Wine Commission at it’s tenth annual Washington State Wine Awards ceremony in Seattle.  The event recognized industry leaders that exhibit strong support of Washington wines and high professional standards in wine service.

After a decade of honoring restaurants, the commission expanded its prestigious award program to celebrate additional industries and individuals whose work raises the profile of Washington State wine throughout the state and beyond.

Monday’s ceremony at McCaw Hall in Seattle showcased exemplary retailers, tourism professionals and distributors for the first time, along with restaurants. Winners were selected from more than 100 nominations and were chosen for their impressive menus, innovative educational programs and marketing efforts, and commitment to excellent service.

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

Walter Clore Honorarium: Doug Charles (Anacortes)

Restaurant of the Year: Visconti’sof Wenatchee

Sommelier of the Year: Thomas Price of Metropolitan Grill(Seattle)

Best Event Featuring Washington Wine: Urbane(Seattle)

Independent Restaurant of the Year: Copperleaf Restaurant at the Cedarbrook Lodge (SeaTac)

Best Restaurant Group: Mackay Restaurant Group, operator of El Gaucho restaurants (Western Washington)

Tourism Champion of the Year: Seattle’s Convention and Visitors Bureau

Tourism Concierge of the Year: Anne Peavey, of Seattle’s Convention and Bureau Visitor

Hotel of the Year:  Hotel Vintage Park(Seattle)

Retailer of the Year: Metropolitan Market (Seattle, Kirkland)

Retailer Group of the Year: Yoke’s Fresh Markets (Eastern Washington)

Independent Retailer of the Year: Wine World and Spirits (Seattle)

Retail Steward of the Year: Doug King of Metropolitan Market

Distributor of the Year: Young’s Market Company(Western United States)

Distributor Salesperson of the Year: Kris Patten of Young’s Market Company (Seattle)

Washington Wine Country Promotion Announced

Yakima, WA- (August 17, 2012)The Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention BureauTourism Walla Walla  and Tri-Cities Visitor & Convention Bureau announce the launch of a new collaborative effort with Alaska Airlines and Enterprise Rent-A-Car to promote Washington Wine Country. Launching September 2012, Washington Wine Country Taste and Tote will make it easier and more affordable to taste and travel the Yakima Valley, Tri-Cities and Walla Walla Valley wine regions.

As part of this new partnership, Alaska Airlines will expand its existing wine check-in program “Taste and Tote” to the Yakima and Pasco/Tri-Cities airports.  Originating in the Walla Walla Valley in late 2011, this program allows outbound passengers to check their first case of wine free on their return flight. In addition, Enterprise Rent-A-Car will waive car drop-off fees for visitors flying on Alaska Airlines into Yakima, Pasco or Walla Walla regional airports who wish to fly out of one of the other two airports.

“The ‘Taste and Tote’ program has been a big success in Walla Walla and we feel our expansion to the Pasco and Yakima airports shows our dedication to being Washington Wine Country’s airline of choice,” said Clint Ostler, Alaska Airlines’ manager of retail advertising and sponsorships. “Washington State’s tourism and wine industries are so closely connected and we are committed to making it easier for travelers to visit our award-winning vineyards.”

Other features of the new program will allow travelers to sample wines at participating wineries and pay no tasting fees when they show a current Alaska Airlines boarding pass from one of the three airports.

“This is a great partnership for everyone involved, especially our visitors,” said John Cooper of the Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau. “This program gives travelers the opportunity to spend an extended vacation in Washington Wine Country and not pay extra during their stay, either in car rental, airline baggage or wine tasting fees.” The Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau initiative the cooperative effort to expand the program beyond Walla Walla.

The majority of visitors to Yakima Valley, Tri-Cities region and Walla Walla Valley wineries come from the Seattle and Portland metropolitan areas. Organizers hope that with these added incentives, visitors from these destinations and others served by Alaska Airlines will utilize air service for their trip to Washington Wine Country. Additional details on the Taste and Tote promotion are available at www.tasteandtote.com.

About Washington Wine Country

Founded in 2003, Washington Wine Country is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting wine-related tourism by fostering collaborative regional partnerships throughout the wine growing region of Eastern Washington, where 98 percent of Washington State’s wine grapes are grown. For more information, visit www.winecountrywashington.org.

About Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, subsidiaries of Alaska Air Group (NYSE: ALK), together serve more than 90 cities through an expansive network in Alaska, the Lower 48, Hawaii, Canada and Mexico. Alaska Airlines flies nonstop from Seattle to Walla Walla Regional Airport twice daily ; to Yakima Air Terminal three times daily ; and to the Pasco/Tri-Cities Airport five times daily. Starting Aug. 27, the carrier will begin new daily service between Pasco/Tri-Cities and Portland, Ore..  Connections can be made beyond Alaska’s Seattle and Portland hubs to destinations in Alaska, the lower 48, Mexico and Canada. To purchase tickets, visit www.alaskaair.com or by calling 1-800-ALASKAAIR.

About Enterprise Rent-A-Car

Enterprise Rent-A-Car Enterprise Holdings, through its regional subsidiaries, operates more than one million cars and trucks, the largest fleet of passenger vehicles in the world today. Enterprise Holdings is North America’s largest and most comprehensive service provider in the car rental industry, operating the Alamo Rent A Car, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and National Car Rental brands.

Economic Impact of Washington Wine Industry

Washington wines are well-known for their quality. Now a recent study confirms the industry is also a growing powerhouse for the state’s economy.

Commissioned by the Washington State Wine Commission and conducted by Stonebridge Research, the study shows Washington wine contributes $8.6 billion annually to the state economy and supports nearly 30,000 jobs.

The study analyzed wine related data by county. The Yakima Valley American Viticulture Area (AVA) and sub AVAs like Red Mountain and Rattlesnake Hills are located in two counties (Yakima and Benton). These two counties combined have 42,193 acres of wine grapes and produce 51% of the wine in Washington. They also account for $1.45 billion in direct and indirect economic impact from the wine and related industries while supporting 8,341 jobs.

According to the report, the Washington wine industry produced 11.2 million cases of wine in 2010 and generated more than $237 million in annual tax revenues in Washington.  In addition, direct winery revenue topped $1 billion in 2010 and generated wages of nearly $1.2 billion within the state.

The study had a number of things of interest. At the time of the report there was 739 licensed wineries. Readers should be cautioned that a license does not necessarily mean they have a tasting room. Some of those wineries are not actively in production, others hold multiple licenses while some are producers who focus on wholesale to retail outlets.

As for tourism, wine is crucial to our industry, in particular here in Eastern Washington, ‘where the grapes are grown.’ The report estimates that there are 2.4 million visitors to Washington wineries, resulting in $1.05 billion in wine related tourism expenditures.

I did take exception to one broad comment that the researchers made:  “Many of Washington’s wine regions do not track visitor numbers and, unfortunately, like many U.S. wine producing regions, do not develop the targeted visitor promotion strategies which such information permits.”  It is difficult to count visitors, but tracking their numbers alone does not lead to targeted promotional strategies: gathering good data on your visitor does. Maybe the researchers meant ‘track’  in the sense of gathering data and research on wine visitors.  Here in the Yakima Valley, our organization, the Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau, conducted studies of our visitors in 2010 (the majority of which were at wine events and wineries). This data, along with other research and industry data, has helped us to craft very effective and targeted wine tourism marketing efforts.

Some interesting facts from the Washington Wine Commission report:

  • While the five largest producers represent more than 70% of wine production, the next 30 wineries account for about 20% to 25% of production, with several hundred very small producers delivering about 5% of the state’s total production.
  • Except for the largest producers, the majority of the wine produced in Washington is
    sold in the Pacific Northwest, with 35% or more sold within the state.
  • Not only are visitors to wineries and vineyards important sources of wine sales themselves but,
    perhaps most importantly, research has repeatedly found that such visits have major, sustaining
    impacts on both visiting consumers and trade. These visitors become the winery’s “brand
    ambassadors,” passionate advocates for their “discoveries.”
  • The wine consumer “demographic” is a very attractive consumer segment: affluent, well-educated and adventurous.

The bottom line is Washington wine has come a long way, is a powerhouse for our state’s economy and holds great potential for the future.

Here’s a link to the full report:

John Cooper

Yakima Valley Launches Spring Radio Campaign

Ah spring time, when the flowers begin to bloom and the sun is out…well, at least here in the Yakima Valley of Washington. To capitalize on the fact the Yakima Valley gets 300 days of sunshine a year, the Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention launched today a radio campaign on Seattle radio stations. It reminds residents on the wetter side of the state that the sun does shine here and that there are many great reasons to visit Washington wine country.

To hear the spot click http://budurl.com/FindSpring

So come on over Seattle… and remember, bring your sunglasses!