Visit Loudoun and the county’s wine industry professionals can understandably be proud when the 2015 Wine Tourism Conference opens at Lansdowne Resort opens today.
This is the fifth annual wine tourism conference—and the first time it has been held on the East Coast. The event is open to winery owners, journalists, wine associations, wine destination marketing organizations and tour operators. For attendees, the annual conference serves as a valuable networking forum and provides a myriad of educational opportunities for the industry.
Virginia officials, including Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore, were elated at the decision to hold the conference in Loudoun. Haymore said it represented another win for Virginia in its efforts to become “the premier East Coast destination for wine and wine tourism.”
He noted sales of Virginia wine are at a new all-time high, surpassing 521,000 cases last fiscal year and said Virginia is recognized as a rising star in the global wine trade. The conference would only serve to further that attention and reinforce all that Virginia has to offer as a wine destination.
Visit Loudoun President and CEO Beth Erickson agreed. “The fact that it is coming to the East Coast is wonderful for Virginia—and to Loudoun it is extremely exciting and a testament to the Loudoun wine industry and Virginia as a whole,” she said.
As of Tuesday, 178 attendees had signed up for the $350-per-person conference, which features a mix of wine industry professionals as well as tourism and marketing organizations from states across the country—including California, New Mexico, Idaho, Oregon, Colorado, Jersey, New York, Maryland and Virginia. Attendees also are registered from abroad, including Spain and Canada.
Loudoun wineries are well represented, and Erickson said, “I am very proud to have it here. It’s a fantastic opportunity for Loudoun wineries to attend the conference” and to make contact with their peers from across the country as well as marketing and tourism operators, she said.
The conference programming and education sessions are being run by Zephyr Adventures, with the support of Visit Loudoun, which secured sponsorships and worked on offsite events including pre-conference visits Tuesday and a lunch at Stone Tower on Thursday.
The official opening was set for Wednesday, featuring various workshops and a 5 p.m. reception. The big day is Thursday, Nov. 19, with an opening presentation at 9 a.m. in the Lansdowne ballroom. Christopher Thomson, president and CEO of BRAND USA opens, followed by a discussion on Virginia wine featuring Virginia Tourism Corporation President and CEO Rita McClenny and a 6:30 p.m. dinner hosted by the Virginia Wine Board Marketing Office and VTC.
There are more than 40 wineries in Loudoun, and 10 of those will be represented that night, featured at the pre-dinner reception. The Loudoun Wine Award winners will be poured during dinner. Not only Loudoun’s wines, but its craft beers, cideries and spirit industry will be featured.
The keynote speaker at the conference will be Sally Cope, a leading expert in Australia’s wine tourism industry, who will speak Friday, Nov. 20. Cope is executive officer of Ultimate Winery Experiences Australia. According to the event organizer, Australia is at the forefront among nations promoting wine tourism at the international level, and Cope’s presentation will allow wine tourism leaders to hear of that country’s success stories.
For full details of the conference, go to winetourismconference.org.