Sunday,  December 4, 2022  6:41 am

Partners in wine: Travel industry stops to smell the rosé at Niagara Grape & Wine Festival

Partners in wine: Travel industry stops to smell the rosé at Niagara Grape & Wine Festival
From left: Sandra Pennington, market sales manager at Celebrity Cruises Canada; Dayna Guay, travel consultant, CAA Niagara; Lois Sarkisian, group tours manager, CAA Niagara; Carol Hart. membership retention, CAA Niagara; Jenni Berg, national accounts director, TTC Tour Brands. (Pax Global Media)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

It’s wine o’clock somewhere.

At least that was the buzz in the Niagara Region this past weekend as downtown St. Catharines welcomed the return of the Grape and Wine Festival, Canada’s oldest and largest wine event that’s now in its 70th year.

The month-long celebration, which features parades, live concerts and, of course, opportunities to sample local wine and food tastings, is a Niagara tradition – and familiar faces in Canada’s travel industry played a role in this year’s festivities.

Manning a booth in Montebello Park – Grape and Wine’s main hub in downtown St. Kitts – travel advisors and staff from CAA Niagara engaged with festival goers, sharing the latest travel news, promotions and giveaways.

“It was a fantastic place for us to feature travel knowing more than 100,000 people visit the festival and surveys have shown that 73 per cent are interested in travel,” said Beth Fleeton, associate director of travel sales and experience at CAA Niagara. “We’re always looking for ways to engage with the community, and we wanted to promote our travel division specifically.”

From left: Jenni Berg, national accounts director, TTC Tour Brands; Beth Fleeton, associate director of travel sales and experience, CAA Niagara. (Pax Global Media)

People in the park who visited the booth were able to win instant giveaways and enter a draw for a $500 travel voucher and Celebrity cruise.  

The station also had an Instagram-friendly photo space that was decked out with travel-inspired props, like suitcases and a globe.  

And there were “show offers” offered by brands that co-sponsored the activation.   This year’s partners included Celebrity Cruises, Insight Vacations, Viking Cruises and Niagara Airbus.

CAA Niagara hosted a travel booth at this year's Grape and Wine Festival in St. Catharines, ON. (Pax Global Media)

“A good part of our business comes from cruises and tour operators,” Fleeton said, noting that CAA Niagara is focused on promoting and selling only preferred partners.

The booth, which ran over the course of two weekends, ending on Sept 25, was a great way for the team to connect with the community whether they are members of CAA or not, Fleeton said.

“We’re continuing to increase the overall awareness of our travel business,” she said.

Celebrity Cruises raises a glass

Spotted in the park on Sunday was Sandra Pennington, market sales manager at Celebrity Cruises Canada, which, as a sponsor, was giving away a five-night all-inclusive cruise on board the new Celebrity Beyond.

Beyond is Celebrity’s third Edge-series ship. She debuted earlier this year in Europe and she is soon sailing over to the Caribbean and will host some trade inaugurals out of New Jersey in October, followed by two inaugurals in November out of Fort Lauderdale.

Pennington said CAA Niagara is one of Celebrity’s biggest accounts. “Supporting them is very important,” she said.

Form left: Lois Sarkisian, CAA Niagara; Sandra Pennington, Celebrity Cruises Canada; Jenni Berg, TTC Tour Brands. (Pax Global Media)

Celebrity’s presence at Grape and Wine was also a perfect pairing as “we have a great appreciation for wine on board our ships,” Pennington added, noting the brand’s many accolades with the Wine Spectator Restaurant Wine List Awards.

“We can appreciate the good wine that's being offered here in Niagara. And we think some of their patrons will enjoy that on board a Celebrity ship,” she said.

A toast to Insight 

Also spotted in the mix was Jenni Berg, national accounts director for TTC Tour Brands, which represents Trafalgar, Insight, Luxury Gold, costsaver, Contiki and Brendan Vacations.

At the festival, Berg was specifically promoting Insight Vacations, which, as a premium touring company, matched with Niagara’s fine wine scene wonderfully.

“It’s been nice interacting with the patrons here at this event, getting to know their travel expectations and what they're looking for. And being able to match them with a great experience that might involve some wine, but also great sight-sighting,” Berg told PAX.

Insight’s premium, small-group guided tours bring guests up close and personal to destinations with authentic dining and unique experiences led by a dedicated Travel Director, who manages all the logistics while personalizing the journey.

CAA Niagara's Lois Sarkisian works the booth at the Grape and Wine Festival. (Pax Global Media)

Their motorcoaches have less seats, which allow for extra leg room. 

And great food is also at the heart of every Insight experience as guests can dine as locals do, whether it’s a traditional meal in a home or in a restaurant that only residents know about.

Berg spent the festival promoting the member benefits Insight has with CAA, such as one member benefit of getting a $100 off a tour and $80 extra towards excursions on easy pace and country roads trips.

She was just thrilled to engage with festival goers and talk more about the many destinations Insight operates in.  

“Here we are in Niagara, drinking some wine. Why not do it in, Tuscany, Italy?  We can take you there!’ she said.

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