I’ve been fortunate to be a guest at, as well as organize, press trips to wine regions around the world. Recently I’ve been asked to share best practices for hosting groups. Below are my five tips for structuring a successful visit.
1. Plan in advance. People’s schedules book up. If you have identified people that you want to participate, be sure to give them three to five months’ notice on dates, and formal itineraries six weeks out.
2. Consult your guests. Ask confirmed attendees what they want to get out of the trip, and build the itinerary around those expectations. It’s critical that you marry your goals as host with those of your guests. It’s also a good idea to introduce all of the writers to each other over email a few weeks ahead of time to coordinate minor logistics such as airport arrival times, what to pack, etc. It helps establish a pre-trip rapport.
3. Don’t overprogram. Having experienced this from both sides of the equation, this is critical. We are people, not machines. People get tired, mentally and physically. Build in down-time, and don’t schedule long, drawn-out dinners the day that people arrive, particularly if they have had a long journey.
4. Always accompany the group. I once went on an otherwise well-organized trip where we were shepherded onto busses and then our hosts travelled separately and met us at each destination. However, while on the bus, there was no one to direct the driver, answer guest questions, check headcounts, etc. On another trip, the group was left to dine on our own at formally organized dinners that hadn’t considered details like the wine (on a wine trip!) so we were left to select the wines ourselves (fortunately for them, we did not abuse the privilege). All of this can be avoided if a host is present at all times.
5. Remember that wine is more than tank rooms and tasting rooms. Wine is about context – that is why you have invested money and resources in bringing people to visit, and why they have invested their time. Create a memorable experience that incorporates cultural activities and brings to life what makes your place special. For example, set the stage with a mini-tour of the region – this can underscore key messages, like the importance of the terroir. This can include experiences surrounding the production of local meats or cheeses, architecture tours or other complementary aspects that offer editors valuable content and context.