What’s Up Down Under?

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

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Yakima Valley Garners Media Exposure

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 Awarded 2015 Tourism Champion by the Washington State Wine Commission

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.

Yakima Valley Tourism Selects Firm to Produce Official Visitors Guide

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-

Washington Wine Flies Free On Alaska Air Program Extended

Taste and Tote Wine Flies Free on Alaska AirWashington Wine Country recently negotiated a two year extension of the popular Taste and Tote program with Alaska Air. The program allows passengers departing from Yakima, Pasco or Walla Walla airports to check a case of properly packaged wine on their Alaska Air flight home. Other benefits include waived drop off fees and discounts from Hertz Rent A Car and waived tasting fees at nearly 200 wineries.

“This has been a great program to further develop wine tourism in the region,” stated John Cooper, President & CEO of Yakima Valley Tourism and lead coordinator for the program. “Dozens of cases of wine are flying home each week from Yakima alone, providing local wineries with new business opportunities.”  Cooper also hopes that as the program grows, more people will use Alaska/Horizon Air service to and from Yakima for their travel, which could result in more air service for the community.

Starting July 1st, passengers must be members of Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan to take advantage of the wine flies free program. Passengers can sign up at no charge by clicking here or at the ticket counter at the three airports. For complete details visit the Taste and Tote Program Details page.

Washington Wine Country is an alliance of the Yakima Valley Tourism, Tri Cities Visitor & Convention Bureau and Tourism Walla Walla. Washington Wine Country is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting wine-related tourism and economic vitality by fostering regional partnerships throughout the celebrated wine growing region of Eastern Washington, where 99 percent of Washington State’s wine grapes are grown.

 

Yakima Valley National Travel and Tourism Week

NTTW14_V_4C_jpegMay 3-11 is National Travel and Tourism Week, when across America, the tourism industry celebrates the role travel plays in the economy and their communities.

As a kick off to the celebration, on April 30th Yakima Valley Tourism hosted their tourism awards luncheon at the Yakima Convention Center, with 200 business and civic leaders in attendance. Bale Breaker Brewery was presented Tourism Business of the Year for their unique brewery operation in a working hop field and the media attention they have garnered since they opened in April 2013. John Baule, Director of the Yakima Valley Museum, was recognized as Tourism Person of the Year for his past and present efforts to enhance Yakima as a destination and his service to numerous arts and community organizations.

Tourism is a big industry for Yakima County. Travelers in 2013 spent $359 million in the county, which is up 4.7% since 2008 when the national economy entered a recession. “With the exception of a slight dip in 2010, travel and tourism grew each year for the past five years,” stated John Cooper, President & CEO of Yakima Valley Tourism. “That’s a testament to the strength and endurance of this industry in our region, even during economic downturns.”

There are 3,530 people employed in tourism in Yakima County. Visitors generate around $24 million a year in state and local taxes, which Cooper points out goes towards public services enjoyed by local residents including police, fire, parks and roads.

The U.S. Travel Association (U.S.T.A.) has developed a campaign called the Travel Effect, which illustrates the impact travel and tourism has on our lives, businesses and local, state and national economies.

According to U.S.T.A., travel supports 15 million jobs across the nation. The workforce includes workers in the transportation, hotel, restaurant, attraction and retail sectors. In addition, travel and tourism supports employees in other industry sectors such as construction, manufacturing and finance.

U.S.T.A .reports that travel also promotes physical and physiological health and improves workplace productivity. In 2013, the average U.S. employee skipped 3.2 days of paid time off. According to a recent study, if workers used all of their available paid time off, the U.S. economy would gain $160 billion in additional annual business sales, which would support 1.2 million new jobs and generate $21 billion in new annual tax revenues.

Yakima Valley Hosts Travel & Lifestyle Media

Spring fam tour

Travel media enjoy a meal at Russillo’s Pizza and Gelato in Yakima WA

Last week we had the honor of hosting eight writers and journalists on a two and half day spring tour of the Yakima Valley. The writers came from New York City, Portland, Vancouver B.C. and metro Seattle and have placed stories in a variety of media outlets including Town and Country, New York Times, Forbes Life and Travel Guide, Fodor’s Travel, OutCity.com, Northwest Travel Magazine, About.com, Real Food Traveler, Foodista, Seattle Kitchen/KIRO Radio, BC Living and Western Living.

The tour had a spring, wine and food theme and allowed participants to experience a number of attractions, food products and beverages. Activities  included hikes in the Cowiche Canyon, massages at Ummelina, sipping wines throughout the valley and great meals including Italian fare at Russillos to a cooking demonstration at the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center in Prosser.

“The writers had a great time meeting the people, cultures and attractions of the region,” stated John Cooper, President & CEO of Yakima Valley Tourism. “Trips like these help writers craft authentic stories of the Valley.”

The tour was coordinated with our public relations firm Green Rubino of Seattle.

Yakima Valley Featured in National Geographic Book on Dog Travel

Dog Lovers coverNational Geographic Books has released The Dog Lover’s Guide to Travel which includes dog friendly businesses, attractions and outdoor areas in 75 pet-friendly cities and regions across the United States and Canada. The Yakima Valley is one of six communities in the Pacific Northwest featured in the book.

 The Dog Lover’s Guide to Travel was written by Kelly E. Carter, a New York Times best-selling author and pet travel expert for AOL’s Paw Nation and Elite Traveler. In each destination Carter highlights pet offerings including hotels, parks, pet shops and pet friendly businesses. Features of the book include walks to take with your dog, insider tips from local pet owners and sidebars detailing opportunities for people with a dog in tow.

Yakima Valley Tourism approached Carter in early 2013 as the book was being developed. In 2012 the tourism office had created WineDoggies.com, an award winning program developed to assist visitors traveling with their dogs to the Yakima Valley. “When we found out she was writing this book we knew the Yakima Valley was the right fit,” stated John Cooper, President & CEO of Yakima Valley Tourism. “We enjoyed working with Ms. Carter and are honored our community was included.”

WineDoggies.com provides pet-friendly businesses and must-see stops in the region. It also includes a ‘Doggie Bloggie’ hosted by a local canine, an interactive map of 50 plus dog-friendly businesses with open-pet policies and a section where dog-friendly businesses and guests can add pictures and stories of their dogs enjoying Washington’s wine country. In addition to featuring the Wine Doggies website, the book highlights numerous Yakima Valley walking and hiking trails, local pet services, dog friendly wineries and pet events.

The other Northwest cities included in the book are Seattle, Portland, Bend, Coeur d’Alene and Missoula. The Dog Lover’s Guide to Travel can be found at local bookstores,  Amazon.com and National Geographic’s online bookstore.

Yakima Valley Tourism Launches Spring Marketing Campaign

findSpringLogo

Yakima Valley Tourism has launched their spring marketing campaign to attract visitors. “Find Spring in the Yakima Valley” targets wine visitors, families and others interested in sunny spring events, local culture and activities.

Visitors to Yakima Valley Tourism’s website Find Spring will find details on seasonal festivals including Spring Barrel Weekend April 25-27, Cinco de Mayo festivities May 3-4 plus numerous other events. Visitors to the website may also enter a Wine Country Get-Away Giveaway that includes lodging, dinner in Downtown Yakima, VIP wine tasting at three Yakima Valley wineries plus a $100 gift card toward new Oakley sunglasses.

“Spring in the Yakima Valley is a unique Washington experience,” stated John Cooper, President & CEO of Yakima Valley Tourism. “In one destination you can combine sunshine, blooming orchards, spring barrel wine tastings and many other celebrations.”

The campaign is largely focused at consumers online and is supported by media buys in Sunset magazine, online versions of the Seattle Times, Washington Tasting Room Magazine (print and online) and 425 Magazine (print and online) plus social media placements in Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Yakima Valley Tourism Professional Recognized For Wine Tourism Efforts

WA State Wine Tourism Award 2014John Cooper, President & CEO of Yakima Valley Tourism, was presented the 2014 Tourism Concierge of the Year Award by the Washington State Wine Commission in recognition of his service to the wine industry and wine tourism.

Started in 2002 by the Washington Wine Commission, the Washington State Wine Awards acknowledges industry leaders that exhibit strong support of Washington wines and high professional standards in wine service. The Tourism Concierge Award recognizes an individual that represents the tourism or wine industry with the highest professional standards, serves as an example to peers and a mentor for new tourism industry professionals, advances the wine tourism industry as a whole and advocates for its causes.

“I am honored to have been nominated and selected,” Cooper stated. “I give credit to our staff at Yakima Valley Tourism and the wineries in the valley. They also deserve recognition for all they do to advance wine tourism.”

The mission of Yakima Valley Tourism is to stimulate economic development by marketing the Yakima Valley for conventions, groups and leisure travel. Cooper has been with organization since 2007.