On Nov. 8, Penticton will be celebrating Wine Tourism Day with the first-ever Canadian Wine Tourism Summit, joining in a worldwide series of events and promotions to encourage travel to the world’s wine regions.
Since it’s still in its infancy, this first summit will be small, though not as small as organizer Allison Markin of All She Wrote expected at first.
“It’s something that I’ve been pondering a little bit, having travelled to similar events around the world and not having one in Canada,” said Markin.
“I thought let’s get a bunch of people in a room and start talking about what is Canadian wine, what is the Canadian wine brand, what can we do to push it forward and make Canada a bona fide wine tourism destination,” said Markin. The Penticton Lakeside Resort and Casino offered her a meeting room and some room nights for guest speakers to help make it happen.
“I thought, if I am lucky I will get 10 or 15 people in a room and we would just sort of have a roundtable discussion and move forward from there,” said Markin. “But as soon as I started posting about it, a lot of the associations in the region and other groups were interested in participating. I think the room I booked seats 50 … I may have to find a bigger room.”
Markin said that includes local representatives, but there are also participants coming in from Vancouver and Calgary. The concept is to develop a Canadian wine “brand” and start a conversation about wine tourism across the country.
“The challenge is getting people to think bigger and to think about Canada as a wine destination. The Okanagan is a pocket, certainly I think the best one we have in the country, but there are other regions,” said Markin.
If, she explained, someone can be enticed to Nova Scotia to try their wine, that same wine tourist may be enticed back to visit Niagara or the Okanagan.
“The potential for wine tourism, making Canada as a whole an international wine destination, is an incredible opportunity,” said Markin. Canadians need to collaborate on developing this vision, she continued, and establish itself before other emerging wine regions do.
The planned discussion also includes how wine tourism can support other sectors of tourism and develop economic growth. Guest speakers include Markin, vice-president of government and public affairs for the Canadian Vinters Association Beth McMahon and travel-food-wine-adventure blogger Marc Smith.
Wine may be the first motivating factor for a traveller, but according to Markin, to be successful a wine region needs to have robust activities in other areas such as sports tourism, arts and culture, and outdoor activities to draw visitors and keep them for longer stays.
The summit will also include discussion on Canada’s internal barriers to shipping wine and work being done to eliminate them.
“I will certainly be talking about Free My Grapes, because that is quite honestly a barrier to wine tourism in Canada,” said Markin, adding that when she is travelling to wine conferences, people are sometimes shocked when she tells them she can get a French wine easier than she can get one from Ontario.
That is part of the whole tourism package they will be talking about, she said, as is Canada’s export strategy, which the Canadian Vintners Association will be making a presentation on. The B.C. Wine Institute is also presenting their vision and the work they do to implement it.
Registration is $25 per person and runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Penticton Lakeside Resort. Purchase tickets on EventBrite at http://www.eventbrite.com/e/canadian-wine-tourism-summit-tickets-13537738741