Cultivating Connections through Culinary Tourism by Renee Ventrice of WineauxClock

Cultivating Connections through Culinary Tourism by Renee Ventrice of WineauxClock

Episode Overview

Episode Overview:

Episode Topic:

In this episode of Travel-Preneur, host Megha McSwain digs into the world of relationship marketing within the tourism sector with special guest Renee Ventrice CEO WineauxClock Culinary Experiences. The discussion focuses on how relationship marketing transforms the way businesses engage with travelers, emphasizing the importance of creating immersive experiences and fostering emotional connections.

Lessons You’ll Learn:

Listeners will gain valuable insights into building successful tour operations by prioritizing emotional connections over sales-driven content. Renee Ventrice shares practical advice on curating wine events, incorporating educational elements into tastings, and collaborating with local businesses to create unforgettable guest experiences. Listeners will learn how to leverage social media platforms effectively and anticipate trends in the evolving travel industry landscape.

About Our Guest:

Renee Ventrice is a relationship marketing coach and the CEO of Wino Clark Culinary Experiences. With a background in wine education and culinary tourism, Renee brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the discussion. As a former owner of Cork and Keg Tours, she successfully harnessed the power of relationship marketing to establish over 40 partnerships and create memorable experiences for travelers.

Topics Covered:

Throughout the episode, Megha McSwain and Renee Ventrice cover a range of topics related to relationship marketing in tourism. They discuss the importance of collaborating with local businesses, curating immersive experiences, and focusing on emotional connections rather than sales-driven content. Renee shares her insights on building successful tour operations, leveraging social media platforms, and anticipating trends in the travel industry. The conversation also finds the impact of cultural engagements on participant experiences and the evolving role of tourism operators in creating memorable travel experiences.

Our Guest: Renee Ventrice – A Pioneer in Relationship Marketing and Culinary Tourism

Renee Ventrice, our esteemed guest on this episode, is a seasoned relationship marketing coach and the CEO of Wino Clark Culinary Experiences. With a background deeply rooted in wine education and culinary tourism, Renee brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the discussion. As the former owner of Cork and Keg Tours, Renee successfully harnessed the power of relationship marketing, establishing over 40 partnerships and crafting unforgettable experiences for travelers. Her unique approach to tourism, combining expertise in wine, education, and culinary experiences, sets her apart as an influential figure in the industry.

Having served on the board of Visit Loudoun and the DEA Council, as well as the Arrival Destination Experiences Advisory Committee, Renee’s influence extends beyond her entrepreneurial endeavors. Her commitment to advocating for immersive travel experiences that highlight cultural engagements is evident in her work with both local and global tourism organizations. Through her coaching and consulting services, Renee continues to empower tour operators worldwide to thrive in the competitive tourism landscape, emphasizing the importance of collaboration, emotional connection, and community engagement.

With a passion for supporting local businesses and a keen understanding of consumer behavior, Renee has demonstrated a remarkable ability to curate events that showcase the best of each destination. From wine tastings paired with local cuisine to virtual chef’s tables featuring Food Network celebrity chefs, Renee’s events offer guests a truly immersive and unforgettable experience. Her dedication to creating meaningful connections between travelers and the destinations they visit underscores her commitment to transforming the travel industry one unforgettable experience at a time.

Cultivating Connections through Culinary Tourism by Renee Ventrice of WineauxClock
Cultivating Connections through Culinary Tourism by Renee Ventrice of WineauxClock

Episode Transcript

Renee Ventrice: I know that a lot of people, especially when it comes to their digital profiles, like to focus on content. But what I find is that a lot of times the content is really salesy and it really just talks about, hey, save $20 if you booked this tour on a Monday instead of that, I always advise them to make their posts create FOMO when it comes to your content. You want to connect through a conversation, not have content that is just a commercial. You want to tap into the emotions of your client. It’s either what problem do you solve or what pleasure do you bring?

 Megha McSwain: Welcome to TravelPreneur, the weekly business show for the travel industry. I’m your host, Houston based travel journalist Megha McSwain. Each episode will be exploring what it takes to thrive as a business owner in the travel industry. From conversations with leading travel business executives and industry focused venture capitalists to exploring the innovations that are shaping the next generation of travel businesses if it impacts the travel industry, we cover it here on Travel Preneur. Welcome back to the Travel Preneur podcast, the go to podcast for anyone passionate about transforming the travel industry. I’m your host, Megha McSwain. Today we have the pleasure of diving into the world of relationship marketing within tourism. Our guest, Renee Ventrice, is a relationship marketing coach, CEO of Wino Clark Culinary Experiences, and an influential figure in tourism, serving on the board of Visit Loudoun and the DEA Council, as well as the Arrival Destination Experiences Advisory Committee. Renee’s unique approach to tourism, combining her expertise in wine, education and culinary experiences, sets her apart in creating unforgettable guest experiences. Renee. Welcome to TravelPreneur. Thanks for joining us.

Renee Ventrice: Thank you. Megha, it’s so nice to meet you today.

 Megha McSwain: Renee, you’ve successfully harnessed the power of relationship marketing in the tourism sector. Can you share how this approach transforms the way businesses engage with travelers?

Renee Ventrice: Absolutely. Usually people are looking more for experiences over just going and doing a tour. What I did when I was the owner of Cork and Keg Tours founded it back in 2016. We started off the first year just doing tours, and then as people started coming from out of town, I started realizing there is an opportunity to partner with local B&Bs, local hotels, experiences like alpaca farms and spas, and even making golf and brunch reservations. I just started reaching out to these companies and saying, hey, when we have people who are coming to Loudoun County to drink wine, they also are staying here. We want to get them to stay and play wine and dine in Loudoun. From there they’re like, we’re in, what do you want? And I was like, I don’t want a discount. I would rather upgrade the experience. Whatever it is that makes your business stand out, offer that to my clients and we’ll bring your business doing it that way, actually going to them and making them say, I want a part of your audience that worked. When I sold Cork and Keg tours at the end of 2023, I sent it to the new owners with over 40 partnerships.

 Megha McSwain: Oh wow. That’s impressive. With your role in both local and global tourism organizations, how do you advocate for immersive travel experiences that highlight culture engagements? You clearly build those relationships and know what’s hot in certain places and what might appeal to certain travelers.

Renee Ventrice: Yeah, that’s a lot of fun, because when you’re working with somebody who’s in a different region, which is what I do now when I coach, I’ve worked with people from different countries, all different types of experiences, though it’s the same formula. You have to figure out what people like to do for your specific tours, and then you have to think outside of that and say, okay, who else is their audience? I’ve got people coming for winery tours. They might also be interested in dinners at restaurants that have amazing wine lists, or have events that same weekend that are also wine events. I looked at some of those and then from there I also thought, are there any other tour companies that do something that may be adjacent to these tours that someone could enjoy? If they’re doing the tours on Saturday, they could do this other tour on Sundays, historical tours, some culinary tours, walking tours of the small towns that are near where they’re doing the, you know, staying or doing their winery tours. That’s what I would do. I would start with my tours and what my people liked, and then think about who has that same audience, and then just keep on circling it out. As far as globalization goes, it’s the same thing. I work with an amazing company out of Greece called Narratologies, and I’m working on just trying to get them some different tours in the US. What makes it cool is that their tours are so immersive. People go on treasure hunts. When I thought about them when I was speaking at arrival last year, I was like, we have some towns that have some really great history, African American history, Civil War history. People who love wine, but also are history buffs can now have two different experiences on one trip. Like I said, it’s the same formula. You just need to apply it to where you are and then maybe you need an expert. I don’t know how to actually implement it. I got those ideas.

 Megha McSwain: As someone who coaches tour operators, what’s the first step you advise them to take in building a tour operation that not only stands out, but also scales and thrives?

Renee Ventrice: I know that a lot of people, especially when it comes to their digital profiles, like to focus on content. What I find is that a lot of times the content is really salesy and it really just talks about, hey, save $20 if you book this tour on a Monday instead of that, I always advise them to make their posts create FOMO. When it comes to your content. You want to connect through a conversation, not have content that is just a commercial. You want to tap into it. The emotions of your client. It’s either what problem do you solve or what pleasure do you bring? In our industry, it’s really more about pleasure. The wine tourism at least, and sometimes some of those more difficult historical tours like the Holocaust tours and some of the history tours that really do dig into some painful parts of history. It could be more about education and how it will enhance you. To know these things. You have to decide what that is, but look at your posts and see if they start a conversation. That’s the first thing I tell them when it comes to their content.

Renee Ventrice: Then the second thing I tell them. If what we’re focusing on is digital media and platforms is to really connect with that audience, that is your actual target. For example, here, there’s a really great local community that still wants to do the wine tours. They don’t want to drive, right, or they have out of town guests coming in. There’s a rediscover your own backyard type of a campaign. A lot of them can run if you are in an area where you really don’t have a local audience, you have to decide where your people hang out and you have to go hang out with them. Facebook groups are amazing for that. Instagram is incredible for that. If you’re doing something that’s more geared toward corporate or professionals, LinkedIn is incredible. For that, I don’t. Tiktok or snap or X or Twitter, whatever it’s called now. But those work. Know your platform. Don’t try to be all things at all times. Create conversations over commercials and you know content is just the tip of the iceberg. You’ve got to connect with your ideal clients.

 Megha McSwain: I’m glad you mentioned things like this not being too salesy on these platforms, because it seems like ever since social media just really ramped up in the last decade, there are so many more ads. You’re being sold in so many more ways, not just on watching the TV, right? It’s not just commercials or radio anymore. It’s. And you don’t want to feel like that all the time. it’s smart that you said like tugging on their emotions because that will reel them in more than an ad where you’re just scrolling and see ad after ad.

Renee Ventrice: So exactly. It doesn’t really stop the scroll when somebody says, hey, come buy this thing. But when it’s your special day, you want to feel like you’re the only one in the world with a birthday on that day. That’s the way we make our clients feel. Who would you bring on your special day? Things like that. And it just worked. When I started, I had 300 Facebook followers and 80, I think, Instagram followers, and within three years I had thousands on both. People were like, oh my God, that sounds like so much fun. Katrina, do you want to do this with me? My birthday is coming in two months. Maybe I should start planning and then you just have to engage with anybody who gives you the privilege of actually saying something on your page. Yeah, you got to engage back with them for sure. 10,000 impressions a day people are going through. Take a second to eat, post on your thing. You got to show that appreciation. Sure.

 Megha McSwain: Yeah.

Renee Ventrice: Of course, it pours back into you to use it. Does it? Yeah.

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Renee Ventrice: Oh yeah. This has been so much fun. These things found me organically. And then I ended up saying, this keeps working, I guess it’s time to brand it and monetize it. The impact that it has is it brings new audiences to local restaurants. I have done these now at three different restaurants, and when I do these events, people who love wine but didn’t realize that maybe this restaurant had such a great ambiance or that it was an upscale menu. So, bringing them new clients is huge. That’s my biggest overall reason for doing it. I love supporting locals, and when I go to a place that I think is amazing, I’m going out of my way to bring other people to share that amazingness. They got started because I went to Tuscany a few years ago, went to a winery and got to talking with winery founders’ nephews, which the family goes back to the 1700s with this winery. It’s amazing. When I told them what I did, by the time I got back to the US, I had an email saying, hey, we like to send our sommeliers to the US every now and then to do wine events. Would you be interested in hosting one? And I was like, hey, you might be interested in those two months. That’s amazing. I already know your wine. I have great pictures at your winery. At first, I was going to do a private event at my house or a friend’s house, get a caterer, do all these things. I was like, why did I do all that work when I could just have a restaurant, charge a ticket fee and everybody wins? And then I partnered with local lodging to get them a great place to stay, to showcase more of our amazing county.

Renee Ventrice: So now they’ve done three events with me, and just yesterday I was networking with a bunch of Italian wineries at an event.  I’m going to be able to get more people to send their sommeliers or distributors to me to bring a unique experience to somebody here that’s just happened. And then with the local wines. I live in Loudoun Wine Country. It’s billed as DC’s Wine Country and I live near 50 wineries. I was working with the Marriott and they have a Food Network celebrity chef there, Charlie Loomis. He and I had done something during the quarantine called the Virtual Chef’s Table. What we did was he was a celebrity chef, so he sent out the list of all the things people had to buy for the recipes. And then we chose a local winemaker who came and got three bottles of wine for everybody who was coming, and they either mailed it or people picked it up. And then we went live. We did a zoom, or maybe it was a Google meet, I remember.  Charlie goes on and he shows people how to cook the meals, live camera on his food, camera on him. We’re bantering back and forth; the winemaker comes on and we talk about her winery and her wines. And then I’m giving wine tasting advice. How do you do a tasting? What are some of the, you know, little secrets just going beyond the basics, pairing wine with life, giving it personalities. And they liked that virtual chef’s table and what we were doing so much that now I have something called Loudoun Wine Nights, where every other month we do an event pairing creative culinary cuisine with local wine and it sells out. It’s really fun.

 Megha McSwain: Being Wz2 certified, how do you incorporate educational elements into your wine tastings to enhance guest experiences? Obviously, there’s like the swirling and the tasting and teaching those basic elements, but even deeper than that, I’m sure there’s people who stump you with questions and stuff like maybe really dig deep into the wine education.

Renee Ventrice: Yeah. And people do try to stump me, which is fun. I love it when I have someone who is just beginning with wine, and then somebody who’s been a sommelier for 30 years in this. Right, because it’s fun. So, yeah, people try to stop me on things. The fact that I study wine and have a passion for it, I don’t get stumped too often, but if I don’t know the answer, I’m like, that’s a great question. And I don’t know the answer, but I know how to find the answer. And when I do, I will tell you. And then I go, hey, Alexa, what’s the answer? I make a joke out of it, and I’m like, I say, listen, what I don’t know about wine could fill more cases of wine than what I do know. And that’s the beauty of wine. There’s always something new to learn, but sometimes I turn it back on them. I’m like, what do you want to do with that information? Are you like a student of wine or what makes that interesting to you? Honestly, right. And sometimes really great answers. And other people are like, I never thought about using that information that way. Sometimes they’re using it to decide where they want to go on a vacation. So that’s fun. It doesn’t happen a lot, but what I do that’s really unique is I give wine particular personalities. If I’m drinking, let’s say a Cabernet franc. I like to call that the patriarch of the family because it is very smooth and it’s very deep. It doesn’t show up in these big, crazy, fancy ways.

Renee Ventrice: But when you do have a sip of it, you sit back and you savor it. Just like when that patriarch speaks, everybody is quiet and they listen to what uncle Ray has to say. And then when I do these for corporations, for example, I find out a little more about their industry, who the audience is, and then I would actually give wine like business personalities. Chardonnay is that executive assistant who is in charge of the events and wants everybody to be happy. She would do whatever it takes just to be approachable and bring things together. Same thing Chardonnay does, and I’m able to talk about it in that way. I give it personality and then I also give it a circumstance. Are you drinking this on a ski slope in front of a fireplace, or is it at a beach watching the sunset? I get people to close their eyes and really envision where they’re going. It’s really fun because you’ll get half the people who have the exact same answer, and the other half of the people have the exact same answer. It’s great to be able to tell people that’s what’s great about wine. Everybody has a different experience with it, because if everybody always had the same experience, we only need one wine. It’s fun to get people to really think about it as who do you enjoy it with? Where do you enjoy it, and how do you make a decision on what other wines you might like based on liking this particular one?

 Megha McSwain: Looking ahead, how do you envision the evolution of relationship marketing in tourism and what trends are you aware of? Sure.

Renee Ventrice: Being immersed in an experience means a lot more than just doing a single tour. I think that the trend is really going toward tourism operators needing to collaborate with other businesses to create a full experience for someone. You’re seeing a lot more concierge curated, packaged experiences than just come here and do a winery tour, come here and do a history tour. It’s more about instead of thinking of people as tourists, we’re starting to think of them as travelers. We want to keep them as close as we can with our experience, even doing multi-day experiences. That is something that we’re seeing more of in the different travel and tour operator circles that I communicate with in groups, whether it’s on LinkedIn, Facebook, I’m seeing a lot of them saying, how do I make this into an experience? My tours only last two hours, but I really want people to remember us, and I want them to spend more time here. And I’m like, you have to figure out who it is that you can endear yourself to, who else you can collaborate with. Getting people to really think, like I said, in that little circle, to say this is an adjacent business, this is something that can really make them remember this destination and send other people here. Because it wasn’t just two hours in Loudoun County wine country, it was a full weekend.

Renee Ventrice: We stayed at this B&B, we ate brunch at this restaurant. We went to this alpaca farm. Just contact cork and keg tours and they will arrange it all for you. It’s becoming more about you representing your destination than just representing yourself and people. They key in on that. They can really tell when somebody is plugged in to everything else that’s going on around them, and it makes it so that you’re more referable, because you might have a friend who wants to go on vacation in Virginia that doesn’t even drink wine. And they can say, I went on a winery tour while I was there, but it’s got picking apple orchards, and there’s all kinds of things you can do that don’t involve alcohol. They set up for us, so you still end up doing that. Guess what that does that makes your DMO or DMC, depending on where you live, your tourism bureau happy that you are a part of helping to send business to the destination. Guess what happens? They support you. And now all the thousands of dollars a month that they spend on marketing work for your advantage, because they will shout you out. As somebody who is an advocate for the destination, I like to say I like to create minions to make millions.

 Megha McSwain: For individuals aspiring to make their mark in the travel industry, especially in creating unique experiences like you’re doing, what advice would you offer based on your journey and success?

Renee Ventrice: I would say this. This is crucial. Shout out to others. Don’t just focus on selling what you do. As a matter of fact, you don’t even have to work on selling what you do because when you shout out to others, they will promote you. People understand that you’re a business when you’re posting ads for XYZ tours, they get that you sell tours. But when you say when you come to our destination, make sure you try XYZ restaurant. Oh my gosh, their babaganoush is amazing. Whatever it is, right? You can tell I’m hungry because that’s one of my favorite things to eat. When you shout out to others, they show appreciation. You get a chance to now get in front of the audience that loves them.  Therefore, if they love that restaurant, then they love that you shouted out that restaurant. It’s a warm transition for them to now love you. And then when the restaurant. These that you shout at them out. Now they’re going to in turn eventually shout you out. And how much money have you spent? None. How much time did you spend? Maybe ten minutes per one. Yeah. You want to do it authentically, or you want to make sure that you’re promoting somebody who’s got an audience that you want, not somebody 100 miles away. Obviously, you want to have that experience there so that you can really be truthful and not just, oh, they have a big Facebook or Instagram following. Let me go ahead and shout them out, even though I’ve never been there.  authentically shout out others as part of your strategy. It is so much more important than your pricing than promoting yourself. And then the other part of it is to immerse somebody in how your experience makes them feel, not how much it costs. If you focus on price, so do the people who are looking at your content. But if you focus on your value, so are the people. They will see your content.

 Megha McSwain: Definitely. That’s great advice. That wraps up our conversation with Rene Ventrice, a true innovator in relationship marketing and culinary experiences and tourism. Rene, thank you so much for sharing your insights and these very personal stories of your journey and enlightening us on the power of connecting deeply with culture and community. Can you share how our listeners can learn more about wine O’clock and you just connect online?

Renee Ventrice: Absolutely. It is very easy. It is my name ReneeVentrice.Com and there you would find the coaching that I can do for tourism professionals and also the events that we hold here in Virginia for wine o’clock culinary experiences. It’s a mouthful. I need to come up with a shorter name.

 Megha McSwain: But I love that. I love wine o’clock, though. That is a cute name and it’s always 1:00.

Renee Ventrice: In my opinion.

 Megha McSwain: 1:00 okay, great. To our listeners. Thank you so much for tuning in. Don’t forget to connect with Renee. Don’t forget to follow and subscribe to travel Preneur for future episodes and delve into the innovations shaping the future of travel. We will see you next time. Goodbye for now. You’ve been listening to TravelPreneur by Travel payments. Com make sure to subscribe on your favorite podcast listening platform so you never miss a new episode, and we’ll see you again soon on travel Preneur.