Building Wine Tourism in Yakima Valley Washington

Wine tourism is an important part of the tourism brand for the Yakima Valley.  The Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau (VCB) recently implemented a series of projects to build wine tourism for the Valley and beyond. Here are a few examples:

  • The Yakima Valley and Tri-Cities VCBs took over managing the Washington Wine Country regional branding organization.This organization brands and markets the region from Yakima to Walla Walla, where more than 90% of Washington’s wine grapes are grown
  • The Yakima Valley VCB took the lead to get the ‘case of wine flies free’ on Alaska Airlines program (Taste and Tote) expanded from Walla Walla. Now Alaska customers can check a case of wine free from the Yakima, Tri-Cities and Walla Walla airports.
  • In partnership with those communities and dozens of businesses we promoted the Taste and Tote program through table tents, in-flight and consumer magazines, travel and lifestyle media plus social media channels. The media exposure alone reached nearly nine million readers and yielded more than $54,000 in media value.
  • We also redesigned and promoted our VCB wine tourism micro-website. It includes an interactive wine map, events, winery listings, suggested tasting routes, AVA information, wine country history and more. It and other sites of the VCB were made mobile ready for smart phones.
  • We launched, a new website for visitors traveling with their dogs.  Highlights include a ‘doggie bloggie’ hosted by a local dog, an interactive map of around 50 dog-friendly businesses, Twitter account plus a section where guests can add pictures and stories of their dogs enjoying our region. The Western Association of CVBs awarded the bureau a Best Idea Award for the site in the 2012.
  •  Our multi-channel marketing campaigns had a strong wine and culinary focus. In the spring we ran a radio campaign on Seattle radio stations. It reminded folks on the ‘wet side’ of the state that the sun does shine and that there are many reasons to visit our wine country. It was a finalist for the national Radio Mercury Awards. To hear the radio spot click
  •  In November 2012 we launched Sip, Ski and Savor, a winter campaign that included wine related events and other activities. A focus of the campaign was a weekend getaway contest. Since the program launched, we’ve seen a 25% increase in web visitors, 1,500 requests for information, and 2,000 new Facebook fans.
  • We had a busy year working with the media to place features on the Valley. Many of these had a focus on wine related events and attractions. Stories were placed in National Geographic Traveler, San Francisco Chronicle, Bend Bulletin, Wine Enthusiast, Seattle Magazine, Sip Northwest and many other outlets. Our efforts resulted in 95 travel media articles with an advertising value exceeding $1.56 million in value. For samples check our Yakima Valley in the News section of our website.
  • Underlying our marketing and advertising was a coordinated social media strategy across a variety of platforms.

The end result has been a greater awareness of the Yakima Valley and Washington Wine Country as a wine and culinary destination and more visitors.

Yelp Social Media Workshop

The Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau is hosting a workshop for businesses and organizations on using the social media website Yelp. The session is 11:00 a.m. November 1, 2012 at The Seasons Performance Hall, 101 N. Naches in Yakima.

Morgan Remmers and Darnell Holloway from Yelp’s corporate office in San Francisco will teach business owners how to use their Yelp listing to market themselves. They will also discuss best practices for using Yelp’s free review response tools.

Yelp is a popular business review and social media site. According to Yelp, every second a consumer generates directions or calls a local business from their mobile app. Yelp had an average of 78 million monthly unique visitors in the second quarter of this year. Yelp users have written more than 30 million local reviews for businesses, attractions and events.

The session is designed in an informative rather than interactive format. Attendees are welcome to bring their smartphone, iPad and/or laptop but they are not required for the session.

Cost for the workshop is $10 for Yakima Valley VCB members and $20 for non-members. A light lunch is included. Registration is available online at, by phone (509) 575-3010 or  email

Visitors Bureau Secures Media For Yakima Valley

The Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau has been busy working with journalists and writers to place features on the Yakima Valley. Here are the latest results from those efforts:

In the Bend Bulletin, John Anderson shares the many agri-tourism attractions and events in the Yakima Valley. Read the article here.

Senior editor Nikki Gloudeman of Smart Meetings magazine wrote in her blog about recent awards at the Western Association of CVB’s Annual Convention, of which our Wine Doggies website received a Best Idea recognition. She finished that entry with the line: “One thing’s for sure: I now really want to get a dog and bring him to the Yakima Valley.”

The Valley was the feature story in the fall issue City Dog magazine, sharing all the dog friendly attractions found in the region. This resulted from a detailed tour our ‘spokesdog’ and staff gave their staff earlier this summer. City Dog has a circulation of 25,000 throughout the Northwest and Northern California. Check this PDF for all the tail wagging details.

Here’s a feature  placed in the Everett Herald with six reasons to visit the Valley this fall.

The Dog Wonderful website did a piece earlier this month resulting from an appointment we had at US Travel Association’s International Pow Wow last May.

Keep up with (and share!) all the positive media we are generating for the region by visiting our Yakima Valley in the News section on our website or by following our social media channels (Facebook, Twitter).

TripAdvisor Workshop This Month

The Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau will host a workshop for businesses on how to utilize TripAdvisor to interact with users of the social media site. The session is slated for February 22, 11 am at the Yakima Convention Center, 10 North 8th Street in Downtown Yakima.

Titled “Make TripAdvisor Work for You!”, the workshop will give tips and techniques for businesses on maintaining a positive online reputation, responding to guest reviews, enhancing their business listings plus implementation strategies to get more online reviews on the social media website. Todd Skelton, TripAdvisor West Coast Destination Manager will be the presenter. TripAdvisor is a leading travel review site that experiences 40 million unique visitors each month and has more than 20 million registered users.
The session is free to members of the Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau, $22 for the general public. To reserve call 509-575-3010 or email the visitors bureau at

State of Tourism Webinar Resources

On January 27th the Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau presented a webinar on the state of the tourism industry. A number of resources were referenced or utilized for the presentation. Below are the various links of resources and information that may be of interest:

Yakima Valley VCB’s State of the Industry Webinar Slides (from 1-27-12 webinar).

Yakima Valley VCB’s 2011 Annual Report.

White House Website- Executive Order Establishing Visa and Foreign Visitor Processing Goals and the Task Force on Travel and Competitiveness

US Travel Association International and Domestic Travel forecasts

Brand USA Powerpoint on new national tourism branding efforts

Blizzard Internet Marketing: Google Thinkinsights

Chase’s State of Washington’s Economy September 2011

Inc. Online- Business Travel and Social Media

Global Business Travel news release January 10, 2012

Successful Meetings online Meeting Trends for 2012


Join us February 22 11 am at the Yakima Convention Center for a live, in-person program on how to effectively use TripAdvisor as a marketing tool for your business.  Presenter is Todd Skelton, West Coast representative for TripAdvisor.

The seminar will cover the following topics –

o             Enhancing your TripAdvisor listing

o             Enhancing your website with free TripAdvisor tools

o             Maintaining a positive online reputation

o             Responding to guest reviews on TripAdvisor

o             Implementing strategies to help get more reviews on TripAdvisor-

The session will be a presentation style where Todd will show examples of how businesses are utilizing TripAdvisor and talk about best practices.

Cost: FREE to VCB members, $22 for non-members.

RSVP: 509-575-3010 or

Tourism and Travel Trends Column

Here’s my column that appeared today in the Yakima Herald Republic:

In late May, I attended the U.S. Travel Association’s International Pow Wow in San Francisco. It’s one of the largest international travel trade shows, with nearly 3,000 people from around the world conducting business, selling travel products and promoting destinations. It’s also a great event to get the pulse on current and future tourism-related trends.

Many things can affect the tourism industry, from unstable governments to natural and man-made disasters, but there are general trends that are shaping the future of tourism and travel. The good news is that inbound international visits are on the rebound. Last year, the United States hosted a record 60 million international visitors, generating more than $134 billion in receipts. The Department of Commerce is projecting that the U.S. will see average growth of 5 percent to 7 percent in international tourism over the next five years.

While countries like Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and Japan will remain top countries of origins, inbound visitors from China, Brazil, India and Australia will grow. This is good for the country as well as Washington state, as international visitors spend an average of $4,000 on their vacations here.

It goes without saying that technology has already changed the travel industry, from computerized reservations to how we make travel plans via the Internet. The current wave influencing travel decisions is social media — Facebook and Twitter, plus public review and user controlled websites like TripAdvisor, WikiTravel and Yelp. Surprisingly, research shows that simple e-mail continues to be a powerful means that people use to discuss favorite destinations and activities. Word-of-mouth has always been paramount in helping people decide where to go and what to see. Now, it’s just gone online.

From a business perspective, this trend is important on two fronts. First, quality products and exceptional service will generate positive cyber-word-of-mouth and could result in more business. Second, business owners need to utilize and embrace these resources to monitor what is being said and to actively interact with consumers. In social media, if you snooze, you’ll lose.

Another trend is that Americans are traveling. Because of the economy and media outlets, there’s been a misconception that people are doing nothing more than “staycations” (a hackneyed phrase that I think was coined by a bored reporter).

The fact is that while many Americans changed their travel due to economic conditions, there is a pent-up desire to travel. That statement is supported by a recent USA TODAY/Gallup Poll that found more than six in 10 Americans say it’s important to get away from home this year — with many finding ways around higher gas prices, airfares and hotel rooms. The survey found that 71 percent of those who tend to travel expect to spend more on travel costs, while 44 percent plan to pay more for food, lodging and entertainment. Europe may be off the list, but places within a day or two drive may be more of the norm, which is good for the Yakima Valley as we are within a day’s drive for more than 5 million people in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. And if it’s a wet summer “over there,” count on the sun seekers to come in numbers.

The next generation traveler is also an interesting factor in the future of tourism. Right now, baby boomers are a solid market with more than 75 million in their ranks. But coming up are the next generations like Generation X (born in the mid-1960s to 1980) and Millennials (those born in the 1980s and 1990s). Their travel interests and demands vary greatly from boomers. They are far more technologically in tune, often plan at the last minute, are less likely to be brand loyal, seek culturally authentic experiences and rely on their friends and networks for ideas of places to go and things to do.

John Cooper

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Share Your Washington!

Who do you want to visit you this summer? How about your mother, your best friend, or your nieces and nephews? Now is your chance to invite them to experience the Yakima Valley and all of Washington, with the launch of Washington State Tourism’s “Share Your Washington” promotion.

Created in partnership with the Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau and destinations around the state,  Washington residents can send their family and friends a special Share Your Washington invitation online at

Running from now through June 15, the Share Your Washington promotion encourages Washingtonians to invite their loved ones to visit, while also entering into a sweepstakes for the chance to win airfare on Alaska Airlines.

Entering is simple – residents of Washington visit to send electronic postcards to friends outside the state, which automatically enters the sender into the sweepstakes.  The Share Your Washington postcard will also include special deals and discounts for the visitor, such as chances to win a local getaway, shopping discounts or special rates at local hotels. One of the postcards is of wine vineyards in the Yakima Valley.

“Tourism is Washington’s fourth largest industry, and our local economies depend on travelers to support local jobs and businesses,” said John Cooper, President of Washington State Destination Marketing Organizations Association (WSDMO). “The Share Your Washington program allows residents to make a difference in helping support their local tourism economies. If we all get one person to visit, we could help create 20,000 Washington jobs.”

In 2010, travelers spent $15.2 billion in Washington, according to the recently released Washington State Travel Impacts Study, making 2010 the second best year on record for the state. Visitor spending generated nearly $1 billion in tax revenue and supported 143,800 jobs.  In Yakima County, visitors spend $311 million a year and support 3,370 jobs.

For more information about Share Your Washington, and to invite a friend to visit Washington, visit or

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Yakima Valley Visitors Center Open House and Tweetup

Thanksgiving is right around the corner. To celebrate join us at the Yakima Valley Visitor Information Center, Thursday, November 18th 4-7 pm. for an Open House. Learn about the many events coming this holiday season, enjoy scrumptious catered food and beverages. Try out our new wine tasting dispenser plus get 25% off pre-made git baskets or orders placed that night! And for you Twitter fans, the VIC is now Wi-Fi so come and tweet about the festivities.

We’ll be offering tastings of Kana, Gilbert Cellars, Knight Hill and Milbrandt Winery varietals. The wineries will have representatives available and/or tasting notes for each wine offered for tasting. Non alcoholic beverages will be also available.

Catering Creations by Toni, “the best little secret in our valley,” will be catering this event with appetizers that pair well with the wine selections.

For you Twitter fans, the VIC now has wi-fi so come and tweet about the festivities.

Go to to sign up!

Social Media Workshop

Times are tough! In today’s economy, businesses need to spend their money wisely in order to promote themselves.  One low-cost way to build relationships and trust in your services is through various social media outlets.

Here at the VCB we are in our second year of our integrated social media strategy and it’s working! Come hear our story along with a panel of other successful Yakima Valley business owners that use blogging, Tweeting and social networking to increase exposure.

The workshop is packed with great information, inspiration and motivation from very talented people! Check out this lineup:

Social Media 101, taught by Craig Sutton.  A partner in Ikon Marketing Group, Craig believes that electronic communication is the key to unlocking a wealth of information. That information, both good and bad, can be harvested to learn how to react and build relationships with your audience and your target market.

Panel Speaker #1: Chef Frank Magaña: Frank is the restaurateur that brought the Yakima Valley two fantastic restaurants – Picazo 7Seventeen and Mojave by Picazo @ Desert Wind Winery, both in Prosser.   Chef Magaña is a leading chef and caterer in the valley as well as instructor for many cooking demos and classes throughout the valley.  Frank works with a firm in the Tri-Cities to structure and build strategic social media marketing.  He will share his story and successes along with his favorite tips and techniques.  You can find Frank on Facebook through Mojave by Picazo, Picazo 717 and Chef Magana as well as on Twitter (@chefmagana, @picazo717, @mojavebypicazo).

Panel Speaker #2: Josh Wade:  Josh is opening Nectar Tasting Room in Spokane later this month. Over the last year Josh has uniquely used social media to build a business model and a brand. Through the use of a blog platform, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, has built brand awareness and credibility in the wine industry that created demand for a product before it even existed. His blog, is one of the most visited wine blogs in the Northwest and ranks in the top 25 in the country. You can find Josh on Facebook/DrinkNectar as well as on Twitter, @nectarwine.

Have you heard of a “Tweet Up” but aren’t sure what it’s all about? VCB President & CEO John Cooper (twitter handle: @tourismpro, #SMsells) will host a Tweet Up during the workshop.  Learn how to host your own Tweet Up!

Bring your laptops and/or smart-phones if you have them (not required).

When:  Friday, November 5th 9:00am – noon


9-9:45am Social Media 101 with Craig Sutton, regional social media expert.

9:45-10am Break

10-noon Panel presentations by Frank Magaña and Josh Wade, where you will learn tips and techniques!

Location: Yakima Convention Center, 10 North 8th Street Downtown Yakima

RSVP:  Barbara Fleming, 575-3010,

Cost: $15

Click here for a printable PDF flyer.

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Smart Phones and Travel Planning

Interesting story this week in the Chicago Tribune on use of smart phones for travel. An excerpt:

Some early data suggest that mobile consumers are developing distinctive travel habits., which has an iPhone app that allows users to book hotels and rental cars, studied a two-week sampling of its app activity and saw that 82 percent of customers with mobile devices booked their hotel rooms within one day of arrival. The figure dropped to 45 percent among people using Priceline’s nonmobile “Name Your Own Price” feature. “As technology enables us to provide tools like this, we’re both filling a need for last-minute rooms and also enabling a behavior change that lets people look for these last-minute rooms,” said John Caine, Priceline’s senior vice president of marketing who also heads the company’s mobile development. In some cases, Priceline observed that customers may be waiting until they arrive at a destination before choosing a hotel. The company said 58 percent of customers with mobile devices were within 20 miles of their hotel when they made the booking — and 35 percent were within just a mile.

Some companies in the travel and hospitality industries also are experimenting with social media platforms as a new way to connect with tech-savvy clientele and enhance customer service. JetBlue Airways and United Airlines offer limited-time deals on Twitter in which users have to act quickly because the promotions can expire within hours. Hyatt Hotels has a Twitter concierge account, staffed around the clock, that answers questions, resolves problems, and even makes spa and restaurant bookings for guests. At Expedia, which launched a mobile booking site and iPhone app this year, the marriage of mobile phones and travel seemed inevitable. Joe Megibow, the company’s vice president of global analytics and optimization, said a small but noticeable number of Expedia customers were booking travel through their smart phones even before the company had a Web site optimized for mobile devices. Mobile and travel “are just made for each other,” Megibow said. “The mobile device is always with us; it’s always on. When you’re traveling, you’re out and about and often in uncertain scenarios. … They’re built for each other, and it’s something we take very seriously.” Travel companies with mobile offerings say ease of use and good design are crucial for attracting customers, especially as smart phones become more mainstream.

The expected proliferation of tablets presents another opportunity. “This is a customer that may well be running like mad down the jetway, trying to grab that hotel before they have to turn off their device on the plane,” Caine said. “We’re shooting to be the simplest, the fastest, the best-priced and really try to keep our customer in mind.”

Although advances in mobile Web browsing have made e-commerce easier, not all travel services seamlessly translate to a hand-held device. Megibow noted that the popular grid layout used by travel sites to display flight options, for example, can be tricky to replicate on a small screen. Most booking is still done via computers rather than Web-connected phones.

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