It was on a trip to Puerto Rico with my family that the switch flipped. We were in a new place. We didn’t know where to go or what to do. We fell into some of the usual tourist traps- spending money on things that weren’t that cool. Probably the funnest thing we did while we were there was tour the Bacardi facility. We learned about the history of the company and how it evolved in the town. We learned about the different styles of rum, how it was made and of course our favorite part was tasting the rum! It was a fun and educational experience that we all enjoyed. The last night we were in town, the girl serving us beer asked about our visit so far and what we have done. She asked us how long that we would be in town because she offers tours that introduce guests to the insider view of the city! How awesome would that have been to have her to help us navigate the unfamiliar city?!
After my Puerto Rico trip I realized that I could be that person in Portland for everyone coming to town! At the time I was serving Craft Beer at Hopworks, it was my role to introduce guests to our brewery/brand and taste a variety of styles of beer. When friends and family came into town I would play tour guide and introduce them to Portland by creating an itinerary crafted by a local. I had a passion for craft beer and was eager to share with the world. I bought a short bus and started offering all inclusive beer tours that worked with the breweries to showcase our amazing city and the craft beer it produces.
When I was writing my business plan in 2009, there were only a handful of other beer tour companies in existance. Not only has the craft beer industry grown but the tourism industry recognizes the passion people have for Craft Beer and that it is a huge incentive for travel. Our local DMO Travel Portland frequently runs campaigns around Craft Beer in the city and have taken me with them on sales missions to other countries to promote beer in Portland, check out my recap on the NZ / AU trip I had a blast. It’s been wonderful to see the industry grow and to be a part of it.
I frequently hear that BREWVANA was the blueprint for other beer tour companies starting out. Exobus is launching soon in Vancouver WA, and I’ve been glad to help Beny and his crew get started by sharing some of my knowledge. I’ve been contacted by several start up beer tour company owners seeking advice from someone who knows the ropes. When I was starting out I reached out to John and Mindy at Brewery Tours of San Diego as my mentors and they shared a ton of valuable information with me that help me get going. Since it is a new industry there isn’t a template for what tour companies are supposed to do and there are a million questions: how to structure tours with times pricing, what is included, how many guests, what size vehicle, what type of vehicle, who drives the vehicle, licensing, permitting, liability, where do you get your guides, how do you train your guides, how do you pay a manager guides, how do you manage your fleet, what third-party resellers do you work with, how do you market your products, how do you partner with companies to create win-win situations, how do you provide value to your guests, how do you grow? There so many questions especially starting out it can be very overwhelming. I have learned a lot mostly the hard way and it’s great to be able to provide valuable insight to other company owners so they don’t make mistakes that I did. I put together this document that helps with some of the challenges I face starting out: Starting a Brewery Tour Company.
The last two years I’ve attended the Beer marketing and Tourism conference with several peers. It was great to connect with others who are in the same industry to share challenges and struggles and find solutions. I was one of the panelists in a discussion with beer tour operators in a room with at least 40 people from around the world. It was so powerful do you see how much the numbers have grown! Since the event we put together a Facebook group that now has 85+ members, which has been great for connecting with other business owners and creating discussions. From there a few of us decided to move forward and create a formal association for craft beverage tour operators and we just launched in July!! The mission of the CBTOA is to support craft beverage tour operators and grow their business opportunities by building Bridges between its members and the craft beverage tourism and allied communities around the world.
CBTOA steering committee consists of yours truley (Ashley Rose Salvitti)as the Chair, Vice Chair is David Phillips of Dave’s Travel and Events Group, Treasurer Hal Mooney of LA Beer Hop, and Secretary and Communications Director Barry Hansen of City Brew Tours. We are looking forward to building our member base and providing valuable information to help grow beer tourism worldwide.