On October 10, only two days after the fires first started in Sonoma County, we announced the Wine Marketing & Tourism Conference and the Wine Bloggers Conference would be held as scheduled in early November.
We admit this was early and that we received a number of responses from people telling us we were crazy. But we felt a need to assure our attendees and we had faith responders would put out the fires, people would begin to rebuild, and wine tourism would again return to its place of prime importance for the region.
In the past 48 hours, we have heard repeated calls that the local wine and tourism industries were not destroyed and that tourists should again plan to return. Visit Santa Rosa, which represents the city hardest hit, told us:
“Santa Rosa has recently experienced distressing fires for much of our community. However, the majority our of city is untouched and we were very lucky in that many of our properties were not affected directly by the fires. While our community is coming together to support each other, so many of our local businesses are open for business and eager to invites locals and visitors. We appreciate that the Wine Bloggers Conference and Wine Marketing & Tourism Conference are still conducting their events early next month and we look forward to sharing Santa Rosa with our colleagues from across North America.”
We have decided to address the fires head on by changing our agenda and adding a 90-minute session on “The Wine Country Fires and Crisis Management”. The panel is still being set but will include personal narratives from people in the industry affected by the fires as well as experts in crisis management who can talk about how to deal with a tragedy like these fires. We will have a similar panel at the Wine Bloggers Conference focused more on how media can react in a crisis.
We hope the Wine Marketing & Tourism Conference continues to serve as a means for wine and tourism professionals to come together, learn, share, and – this year – heal. If you have not yet registered, please join us November 6 – 8 at the Hyatt in Santa Rosa.