If you’re a meeting planner, what comes to mind when you think of Sonoma County? Odds are it’s probably vineyards, wineries, etc. And of course, you’d be right! But did you know Sonoma County also boasts amazing experiences beyond the vineyards? Besides, its convenient location outside of San Francisco, Sonoma County is full of outdoor adventures, unique venues and wonderful experiences for attendees. Today, Jamie Ward, National Sales Manager with Sonoma County Tourism explains how she and her team work with planners throughout the planning process to provide memorable meeting experiences attendees come to expect.
SUZZANNE: What makes Sonoma County a great meeting destination?
Sonoma County is only 30 miles North of San Francisco and offers a gorgeous blend of venues, team building, and adventure for many types of programs. Our hotels boast award-winning service and offer excellent value in Northern California. Group properties range from small independent Inns set in a picturesque setting among the vineyards, to our larger meeting properties of up to 250 guestrooms. Additionally, Sonoma County provides unique meeting and event venues including wineries, wine caves, elegant estates, retreat venues and an African wildlife preserve. Your meeting attendees will learn to find their passion in Sonoma County and have an authentic, genuine experience that sets our destination apart from the rest, all at a great value.
SUZZANNE: What is the one thing planners are always surprised to learn about the Sonoma County area?
Definitely the amounts of things to do that don’t involve wine! In addition to over 400 of the world’s most award-winning wineries, we have over 55 miles of Pacific Coastline for fishing, whale watching, and boating. We boast the Armstrong National Redwoods for hiking or zip lining, and the Russian River where attendees can kayak or canoe through the vineyards towards the ocean. Cycling, Hot Air Ballooning, and Horseback riding are all extremely popular in our destination as well. You can find something for just about anyone in Sonoma County!
SUZZANNE: What might we find you enjoying in the destination on your day off?
Definitely trying new wineries, I like the small out of the way places where you can go in and often meet the winemaker or owners and learn their story yourself, it makes for such an authentic experience. That or out at the Pacific Coast, soaking up the beauty and peace there. Sunset on the Pacific Ocean is simply breathtaking.
SUZZANNE: What are a couple of your favorite places to dine or get a drink?
Willis Wine Bar in Santa Rosa is a “go to” favorite of mine. With seasonal small plates, and local wines it is just the perfect place to join colleagues and friends for great food or drinks. Francis Ford Coppola’s Rustic Italian Restaurant is also a must do while in Sonoma County. One of the only wineries with a restaurant on site, the food and setting is fantastic and unique.
SUZZANNE: What do you see trending in the meeting’s market? How is your CVB proactively addressing this trend or staying current?
I would say that we are currently seeing a shorter booking window, with clients who are looking at a greater variety of destinations and want to see what we can offer which is unique. Our team does an excellent job of communicating the latest team building trends and new locations to produce that out of the box, amazing meeting or event planners are searching for.
SUZZANNE: What is an innovative service offering at the CVB?
I would say what we do best as a team, is listen to each planner individually to learn the details and scope of each program and what they are hoping to gain from it. We definitely do a great job of personalizing our services to each client based on these needs and then creating the best RFP response possible, or site experience of the destination in order to gain the business. We are truly passionate about what we do and it shines through in working with us during the entire process.
SUZZANNE: What’s the latest news, developments, or events in your destination you’d like to share with planners?
There are always so many things going on in Sonoma County! We do have a few hotels adding inventory this year which will assist us in hosting larger programs. The Hyatt Vineyard Creek for example is adding an additional 90 guestrooms in a new wing of their property, and Vintners Inn is adding another 34 guestrooms which will almost double it in size. To stay up to date on what is new in Sonoma County, please visit the link below and sign up for our quarterly newsletter:
SUZZANNE: What size/type of meetings fit best in your destination?
Sonoma County is known as a small meetings destination, anything from 10 rooms per night all the way up to 200+ is perfect for us. We have a large variety of properties ranging from high end luxury, to mid- level properties, and even those for the budget conscious planner and program. We cater to a lot of executive level meetings or board retreats, incentives, corporate programs or smaller association meetings, as well as specialty markets. We can absolutely work with you for just about any program that will fit into our destination to find the right hotel and make it as successful as possible.
Thank you Jamie for talking with us today about Sonoma County and the endless possibilities for meeting planners! To find more information about Sonoma County or any of the top 150+ meeting destinations, visit www.empowerMINT.com.