2019 IFWTWA Conference
 Sponsors and Exhibitors
One-on-One Meetings with Travel Writers

Destinations And Writers Meet One-On-One to Discuss Travel in 2020!

On the second day of the International Food Wine and Travel Writers conference in Santa Fe, Exhibitors and Sponsors had the pleasure of meeting with enthusiastic travel writers to discuss their plans for 2020. This was a great opportunity for various destinations across the county to share with our writers information about their town, what makes it special, what they want to be promoting this year and collaborate on possible introductions and future press trips.

For many of the writers it was an eye-opening experience as they learned about places that might have not even been on their radar prior to the conference. As an organization, IFWTWA is very grateful for the support of our Exhibitors and Sponsors at our annual conferences. We encourage you to consider these spots to explore. Here are some quotes from our members who sat down with the various destinations and are sharing with us their one-on-one meeting experiences. It’s a great read!

Deirdre Michalski

Park City, Utah
– Visit Park City @visitparkcity

IFWTWA one on one meeting with Park CityIt was literally a breath of fresh air to sit down and converse with Park City, Utah’s Director of Communications Dan Howard. I had lived in Salt Lake City for three years many years ago. It was fun to reminisce with Dan about the past and the future of Park City and the sheer beauty of the destination. Since I am not a winter kind of gal, I asked about the 2020 summertime and fall offerings in Park City. To my great surprise, there were many more activities available for families, singles and couples then I remembered. Some of the ones I found most interesting were the summer symphony, hot air balloon rides, special pricing on lodging, distinctive culinary options, spa opportunities, whiskey distilleries and gin joints. I can’t wait to experience it all!

– By Linda Kissam

Birmingham, Alabama
– Birmingham CVB @inbirmingham

IFWTWA one on one meeting with BirminghamSeeing Vicky Ashford from Birmingham CVB as one of the exhibitors at the convention was a treat. I have known her for years and always enjoy the new things she has to tell about Birmingham. For a city ruled over by the 100,000 pound Roman god of fire, Vulcan, you expect a special spark and you do find it in this culturally diverse southern city.

My last trip there is one I would suggest every thoughtful person should experience. We mixed the seriousness of the Civil Rights Trail from the Bethel Baptist Church where the Birmingham movement really began to the Birmingham Jail where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his famous letter. We balanced that with a visit to folk artist, Joe Minter’s, African Village in America, described by one visitor as “That crazy artist who lives in the graveyard” and a trip to Gip’s Place, one of America’s last juke joints run by a 90+ year old gravedigger/bluesman. Thank you, Birmingham.

– By Katy Walls

Palm Springs, California
– Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels
@PSPreferredSmallHotels; @PalmSpringsPSH

Kim MunkresAs someone who lives out west and has only been to Palm Springs once, I was happy to talk with Kim Munkres to learn more about the Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels (PSPSH). There are 80 hotels, she told me, each with its own unique architectural style and color scheme. I love that guests can stay in everything from inns or bungalows to ranches or resorts. In addition, each provides a different experience, and travelers—be they alone or with a group—can find something they like.

Want to be alone? Try one of the more secluded choices. Prefer more action? You’ll find plenty of fun at the bars or pools. Want a Mediterranean or a Mid-century modern vibe? There’s a hotel for both. Want to ride a bike around town? They all offer that service. Kim also told me that because the owners are mostly local and not huge corporations, they are involved in making their guests’ experiences genuine, relaxing, and individual.

I’ve since checked out the PSPSH website, and I’m quite excited to experience some of them soon.

– By Chris Cutler

Albuquerque, New Mexico
– Visit Albuquerque @visitabq; @VisitAlbuquerque

IFWTWA one on one meeting with AlbuquerqueAlbuquerque, besides being one of our exhibitors at our IFWTW Convention, was where I had just experienced a delightful few days on a pre-trip. Brenna Moore, our CVB host, showed us as much of the city as she could crowd into those few days. It helped so much that she gave us a pass for museums and attractions for our free time. We stayed in the authentic Hotel Chaco; had delicious food; sampled some interesting wines and cocktails; watched authentic Native Pueblo dancers; visited museums like BioPark, Turquoise Museum, and Museum of Science and Natural History; and enjoyed one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen.

The top ranking one for me was perhaps the first thing most people think of when they hear "Albuquerque," a sunrise hot air balloon ride. We soared about 14 miles above the city and viewed if on a perfectly clear morning in a Rainbow Ryder's balloon. We landed in a grassy golf course where we met some of Albuquerque's native wildlife, tiny kangaroo rats. Thank you, Albuquerque.

– By Katy Walls

Brenna Moore avatarFrom my end, the individuals I got to know at IFWTWA were some of the kindest, genuine, and appreciative people I have ever met. I was grateful to be included in this opportunity, and look forward to working together in the future! 

Happy 2020, everyone!  Brenna

Brenna Moore, PR & Communications Manager at Visit Albuquerque

Albuquerque, New Mexico
– Celina’s Biscochitos

Celina's Biscochitos Logo

I was curious what was inside the little white take out box with a label from Celina’s Biscochitos. Much to my surprise the box had delicious cookies with the most beautiful design.

The cookies are the official cookie of New Mexico and the design on top of the cookies reflects the heritage of the Southwest state.

Since I tasted a bit of anise seed and cinnamon, I did some research for the recipe and found out this cookie is very special. It’s been made for generations and recipes are passed down to family members. They are made for special occasions and holidays, and a favorite traditional treat.

I’ll be trying my hand at making them for this holiday season. 

Note: Upon arrival to the conference we were handed a gift bag that was chock-full of wonderful treats (these cookies!), logo gift items, and gadgets from the various cities that were sponsors of the event. 

– By M’Liss Hinshaw

Medford, Oregon
– Travel Medford @TravelMedford

IFWTWA one on one meeting with MedfordAfter talking with Ashley Cates and Andrea Childreth from Travel Medford, I learned a great deal about their area. Medford offers the perfect opportunity for a memorable Southern Oregon getaway. It’s the gateway to some of the region’s most breathtaking natural attractions. Twenty seven miles north of the California border, Medford sits in the Rogue Valley, between the Cascade Range and Siskiyou Mountains. They shared that just two hours from Medford is Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the U.S. and one of the most pristine on earth. Hiking, biking, fishing, and foraging are just some of the opportunities to experience the beauty of South Oregon.

Since wine is my passion, I learned that wine also flows in the area. The Rogue Valley wine region is the southernmost in Oregon. Medford is the ideal starting point for the four area wine trails. Seventy grape varieties are grown in the valley, and there are 53 tempting tasting rooms in Rogue Valley.

– By David Nershi

Food, wine, outdoor adventure and more in Medford. If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest or have had the opportunity to visit the region, you might not have heard of a place called Medford. Fortunately, I used to live in Seattle and do know the area…well, at least I thought I did. And then I met Andrea Berryman Childreth and Ashley Cates, representatives of Travel Medford. Within minutes of chatting to these two bubbly women, I had to admit that the sole amount of my knowledge amounted to a mere drop in a very big bucket.

I was aware this southern Oregon town and the surrounding Rogue Valley is a wine destination, but I didn’t realize the sheer extent of this claim to fame, as I’m not savvy on the subject. With a whopping 88 vineyards growing over seventy varieties of grapes, combined with 53 tasting rooms and four dedicated wine trails, the Valley is a mecca for wine enthusiasts.

Where there’s wine, there has to be food, and according to Andrea and Ashley, you can easily indulge your inner foodie with artisan cheeses, handcrafted ice cream and chocolates, local produce and much more. Farm stands, farmers markets, food trucks and restaurants serving fresh, innovative fare abound, with a variety of cuisines from Greek and Korean to Mexican and Hawaiian. I am salivating as I write these words, itching to sample this world of flavors

The region is also an outdoor playground, with some of the state’s most breathtaking spots, from Crater Lake National Park and the Natural Bridge to the scenic Rogue River, Union Creek and Table Rocks. And I hear the waterfalls are spectacular. You can hike, bike, paddle, raft, fish, swim and even ski in this natural paradise. It’s heaven for adrenaline seekers, as well as those wanting to just stop and nibble at the blackberries. And the region’s 200 days of sunshine up the incentive to get outside and explore this picturesque area.

Just twenty minutes south of Medford is Ashland, home to the renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival, a must for theatergoers. But, there’s also plenty of arts and entertainment options right in Medford, with local theaters and performing spaces, some even historic and restored to their former glory. I was told I should definitely put the Britt Festival on my list. It’s a summer music and arts event on a hillside estate in nearby Jacksonville that draws world-class performers.

It’s time I took another look at Medford, as obviously I’m missing out on a lot!

– By Debbie Stone

I was sitting across the conference room and spotted two friends, I knew they were friends because they were laughing easily with each other and clearly comfortable in conversation. It was later I met Ashley and Andrea of Travel Medford and was embraced by their kind warmth. We all live in the same state, however, hours apart. I was excited to learn of Medford's anchor location to many hot spots in Oregon such as Crater Lake, Appelgate wine region, and the Rogue River. I didn't realize how perfectly located Medford is in Southern Oregon and as such a great place to day trip from. I am eager to explore destinations from Medford.

– By Valerie Estelle Rogers

Flagstaff, Arizona
Discover Flagstaff @DiscoverFLG; @DiscoverFlagstaff

IFWTWA one on one meeting with FlagstaffI haven't been there in a few years and heard about a couple of restaurants that sound yummy. I also have never visited the sites where the astronauts trained and am interested to go see those. As Meg mentioned, they have weather that is quite a bit cooler than Tucson, so a summer trip may be a very good idea. 

– By Joeann Fossland

It was so exciting to meet with Meg Roederer from Discover Flagstaff and find out what makes Flagstaff an ideal four-season destination. I was impressed with Meg’s in-depth knowledge of the region, covering all perspectives- history, opportunities for numerous activities and outdoor recreation, along with its food, wine, spirits.

My biggest surprise however was learning about its lunar legacy and role in the Apollo Moon Missions and that astronauts actually trained in Flagstaff on lunar mapping and mission simulations to name a few.

– By Noreen Kompanik

I was thrilled to meet Meg Roederer from Discover Flagstaff and sit with her during the IFWTWA dinner and cooking demonstration at the Santa Fe Cooking School, which was both informative and delicious by the way! I have yearned to return to Flagstaff since "discovering" what a unique town it is when my family, with dog in tow, spent one night at the DoubleTree on a road trip from California to Northwest Arkansas. Besides talking about the many opportunities for outdoor, art, music, and culinary enthusiasts that Flagstaff offers, Meg and I found we had much in common on a personal level as well. Since my focus is culinary travel, Meg and I decided that a visit in May to check out the culinary scene, explore Flagstaff's beer trail, and promote the Flagstaff Blues & Brews Festival in June is definitely in order.

– By Priscilla Willis

It was so exciting to meet with Meg Roederer from Discover Flagstaff and find out what makes Flagstaff an ideal four-season destination. I was impressed with Meg’s in-depth knowledge of the region, covering all perspectives- history, opportunities for numerous activities and outdoor recreation, along with its food, wine, spirits.

My biggest surprise however was learning about its lunar legacy and role in the Apollo Moon Missions and that astronauts actually trained in Flagstaff on lunar mapping and mission simulations to name a few.

– By Valerie Estelle Rogers

As someone who loves a road trip with her dogs, I was so excited to learn how pet-friendly Flagstaff is. I've lived in California all my life yet have not explored the city, or state, for that matter, much at all. It was wonderful to connect with Discover Flagstaff's Meg Roederer and learn so much about the Southwestern city. From loads of hiking trails, dog parks, hotels, and pet-friendly restaurants, Flagstaff will easily be a new favorite destination for your pooch. Getting to connect with CVB representatives like Meg is what makes the IFWTWA Conference worth every penny for my freelance writing career; not only do I have a story trip in the works with Discover Flagstaff, but it's a city I would not have thought much about on my own to research for story content.

– By Mary Farah

Memphis, Tennessee
Memphis Travel @memphistravel

IFWTWA one on one meeting with MemphisBrittney had mentioned The Beauty Shop and The Liquor Store. She said she could set up a tour of her favorite women-owned or women-chef businesses. I am interested in interviewing or meeting some of these women. My mother's family is from Arkansas, across the river from Memphis. I visited when I was small, but that was many years ago and I'd love to see the "new" Memphis.

– By Joeann Fossland

Brittney Adu did a fabulous job of introducing us to the exciting Mississippi Music City, Memphis. So well known for its Elvis Presley connection and numerous other musical styles, Memphis is the birthplace of the Blues and Rock & Roll! Perhaps, equally, Memphis is known for its outdoor activities and its famous BBQ. We will be planning a road trip down the Mississippi to experience the Memphis that Brittney has so vividly introduced to us.

– By John Compisi, Guest

Washington State
Whidbey and Camano Islands @gowhidbeycamano

IFWTWA one on one meeting with Whidbey Camano IslandsWhidbey and Camano Islands are not just summertime playgrounds. These scenic islands offer a dizzying number of events during Fall, Winter and Spring. Come for a Chili-Chowder Cookoff in November, a Parade and Tree Lighting in December, a Red Wine and Chocolate Festival in February, or the Mussel Fest in March. There's no shortage of fun on these easily accessible islands

But for me, I'm heading up there to explore the wineries, restaurants and art galleries. And when I'm done, I'll walk the beaches and explore a little more of the beauty and solitude before the summer comes around again.

– By Pam Baker

Scott and Kerry Rosenkranz enthusiastically offered so many great reasons to visit Whidbey and Camano Islands, Washington, State. As ambassadors for this destination it was very clear that they live there because it has fabulous activities to do and sights to see. The outdoor adventures, food and wine they described moved this destination from off the map to off the charts. Their excitement was contagious and we look forward to a future visit.

BTW: The Mukilteo Coffee was exceptional.

– By John Compisi, Guest

Paso Robles, California
Travel Paso @TravelPaso

IFWTWA one on one meeting with Paso RoblesI loved finding out that Alaska Airlines will be announcing its inaugural flight from San Diego to San Luis Obispo, the closest airport to Paso Robles wine country. I even received an invitation from Mike Dawson, from Travel Paso Media to be on that inaugural flight on January 7th and spend four days in this up-and-coming “wine region on the rise.”

It was also fascinating to hear about the breweries and distilleries in the region in addition to its many wineries.

– By Noreen Kompanik

I will be embarking on Alaska’s inaugural flight from San Diego to San Luis Obispo in the first week of January for a press trip, and I couldn’t be more excited. Although the entire itinerary is fabulous, I am most thrilled to visit a few distinct places. One is Sensorio, a sculptural exhibition, that includes 15 acres of 58,800 stemmed spheres which are lit by fiber-optics and morph in color. Like magic, these spheres illuminate the Palos Robles countryside.

In addition, I look forward to visiting the Elephant Seal Rookery in San Simeon. I personally can’t drive the coast without stopping to visit one of my favorite animals in the wild. They are extremely entertaining. Lastly, I am excited for our VIP tour of Hearst Castle. Throughout my many visits to the central coast, something always seems to get in the way of a visit to this famous property. I look forward to finally seeing it in person and learning all about its history.

A big thank you to Mike Dawson for hosting us!

– By Christina Kantzavelos

Dixon, New Mexico
Vivác Winery @VivacWineryDixon

IFWTWA one on one with Jesse and Michele of Vivac WineryPerhaps the most fun we had was visiting with one of the conference's sponsors - Vivác Winery. Thanks to special arrangements made by a few of our friends at the conference, we were invited to join co-owners Jesse and Michele Padberg at their tasting room in the Farmer’s Market Pavilion.

Originally self-taught winemakers, Jesse, President of the New Mexico Wine Association and Michelle, an international wine judge, are now both advanced wine sommeliers. Together with Jesse’s brother, Chris, and his wife, Liliana, this dynamic foursome is making a big name for New Mexico wine. Wine Enthusiast, Sunset Magazine, and USA Today all sing their praises.

Vivac has been producing classic European styled wines for 22 years and we had an opportunity to taste several of their delicious blends and varietals. While New Mexico has a long tradition of wine making, the industry is growing and these new generation wine producers have shown the world that New Mexico wines are edgy and sophisticated.

– By Pam Baker and Gary Baker

Phoenix, Arizona
Visit Phoenix @VisitPhoenix

IFWTWA one on one meeting with Visit PhoenixThanks to Sarah Boyd with Visit Phoenix for meeting with me at the IFWTWA Conference. I was especially intrigued to learn about the Musical Instrument Museum because I think it would be so cool to discover new sounds from instruments around the world. I’d also love to explore the Heard Museum for its rich information about American Indian tribes through art and cultural objects. But I confess I’m especially curious to experience The Breadfruit & Rum Bar for its Jamaican cuisine and of course, its unique rum cocktails. Time to pay a visit to Phoenix!

– By Nancy Mueller

Media Relations Manager, Sarah Boyd, truly offered an exceptional perspective on why Phoenix is worthy of a visit. The highlights she offered of the adventure, parks, museums and culinary scene reminded us that we need to visit Phoenix. Sarah’s Chef partner, Danielle Leoni, added to that sense of excitement. We look forward to visiting this southwestern tourist magnet. It is drawing us in.

– By John Compisi, Guest

Kansas City, Kansas
Visit KC  @VisitKC

Visit Kansas City LogoKansas City, here I come! Kansas City has never been in the top ten of my must-see list. I think it was because I didn’t know much about this Midwest town other than its reputation for barbecue and sports. Then at the recent IFWTWA conference, I met Toni Alexander from Visit KC, and everything changed. She proceeded to regale me with the multitude of attractions and experiences that exist in this vibrant locale and suddenly, Kansas City sounded like one of the country’s coolest cities.

I learned that when it comes to culture, KC boasts plenty of options. There are museums to appeal to a wide variety of interests, from contemporary art and WWI history to science, jazz music and even antique toys. And speaking of music, the city is a major mecca for jazz, with roots that date back to the Roaring ‘20s. After all, this is the home of Charlie Parker and Count Basie, and you have your pick of some forty clubs around town to catch a live performance.

I was surprised to hear of all the famous people associated with the city, including such icons as Amelia Earhart, Walt Disney and Walter Cronkite, as well as President Harry Truman, the outlaw Jesse James, Satchel Paige, and actors Ed Asner, Paul Rudd and Ginger Rogers, among others. Plenty of history was made here, as this was the site of Walt Disney’s first animation company and where Joyce C. Hall created Hallmark, the largest greeting card maker in the world. And who knew that the Rival crockpot, Wishbone salad dressing and the bumper sticker of all things, were invented in this town!

Toni got my taste buds primed for the city’s sizzling hot culinary scene. Yes, barbecue reigns supreme with over one hundred establishments serving up the city’s signature food. And, of course, I can’t wait to dig into some finger-licking dishes, accompanied by a cold brew, especially after I heard that KC is one of the fastest-growing craft beer destinations. But, I’m also eager to explore all the other food options, as the town showcases a wide variety of cuisine, from ethnic specialties to farm-to-table and innovative takes on the classics.

As someone who enjoys the outdoors, I was delighted to learn that the town appreciates nature and touts hundreds of parks, miles of trails and bike paths, and dozens of lakes. My interest was further ignited when Toni told me that KC has more than two hundred fountains – more than any other city in the world except Rome. I’m sure there’s a map of them and I’d love to go on a fountain hunt.

I’m packed and ready to head to the heartland! Anyone want to join me?

– By Debbie Stone

I heard a couple of interesting story ideas from my meeting with Toni Alexander, Regional Media Representative for Kansas City. I learned that Kansas City is more than just the BBQ capitol of Kansas. In fact, it is a world famous destination for BBQ competition. Every fall, Kansas City hosts 600 teams at the world's largest BBQ competition, the American Royal World Series of barbeque. The rest of the time, the city's signature food is served up at more than 100 BBQ establishments, each boasting a house specialty.

Did you know that Kansas City has more fountains than any other city in the world, except Rome? Kansas City is home to more than 200 fountains. From large and majestic to small and whimsical, I discovered that Kansas City's waterworks are dedicated to fallen firefighters, the city's children and women's leadership. The most photographed fountain is the ornate J.C. Nichols Memorial located near the Spanish-inspired Country Club Plaza.

– By Gary Baker

This was the first IFTWA Conference I attended, and as a 17 year travel writing veteran, I’m pleased to have made this investment in my career. The one on one conversations I had with exhibitors and destination representatives are invaluable to building relationships in this industry. While I made numerous connections, all of them memorable, one that stood out is meeting Tony Alexander from Visit Kansas City. Tony and I were able to have a conversation that we took off-site to continue. She’s a lovely representative for Kansas City and while I had visited there in years past, I was able to get a grasp on some of the newer and often overlooked places that are worth a revisit. She even took the time for an interview for my new podcast, Field Notes with Shannon D.

Shannon DalPozzal

Omaha, Nebraska
Visit Omaha @VisitOmaha

Tracie McPherson headshotWhen I think of Omaha, Nebraska, my mind goes to juicy steaks. The Midwest is known for their meat and I talked to Tracie McPherson, APR and Director of Communications for Visit Omaha about the food. (And I can vouch for the restaurants since I have experienced some truly special places like Le Voltaire)

Tracie told me yes, the best meats are there but there’s also wines. Really, in Omaha? Who knew! (I’m curious about wines.)

Tracie told our group that Omaha has one of the best zoos in the world. Really? Better than my zoo in San Diego? It’s open year round with much to see and experience and she was confident I’d be impressed with their zoo. (I can comment that they have some truly unique indoor exhibits that aren’t found elsewhere. Consistently ranked as one of the top five zoos in America, the Desert Dome and Aquarium is the largest indoor desert in the world.)

Now I’m ready to experience Omaha and I hear there are many ethnic bakeries which is right up my alley.

– By M’Liss Hinshaw

Most of us think “steak” and farms when we hear the word Omaha. But guess what? There is more excitement, culture and culinary experiences to be had in Omaha than one could ever imagine. When I sat down with Tracie McPherson, Director of Communications for Visit Omaha I was impressed with her devoted enthusiasm. I left my meeting excited about all the experiences and discoveries available to visitors.

Who knew Omaha had a coffee culture? There are also casinos, day spas, botanical gardens and…a fashion week. Love food? Omaha is on the fast track to culinary bliss. Think The Monster Club located in the Old Market. Make a memory at the horror-themed eatery serving yummy pub fare during the day and a full menu geared towards adults after 9 p.m. Lovers of everything horror will go wild for the props and posters that decorate the restaurant as well as the chillingly delicious cocktail selection. VisitOmaha.com

– By Linda Kissam

Another highlight was hearing Tracie McPherson speak at our conference luncheon buffet about all to see and discover in Omaha, Nebraska. While it's a goal of mine to see all 50 of the United States, I've not thought much about what I want to do when I get to Nebraska. After Tracie's speech, I was eager to connect with her as Omaha is a city that sounds right up my alley and ideal for my website and community! I cover quite a bit of traveling gluten-free, and sure enough, Omaha is crawling with delicious and progressive dining options. It's another great story angle that would not have been on my radar had I not attended the 2019 IFWTWA Conference.

– By Mary Farah

Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe Tourism #TheCityDifferent; @SantaFeTourism

IFWTWA one on one meeting with Santa FeI know lots of people who love Santa Fe, but it wasn’t on my top lists of places to visit until the IFWTWA conference was held in that interesting city. I had no idea just how much art and how many amazing restaurants waited just for travelers to experience. I loved the opportunity to experience some of the unique and truly Southwestern-focused restaurants at our “A Taste of Santa Fe.” Thank you, Joanne Hudson from the Santa Fe CVB, for letting us sample some of the best. I know I need to come back to try meals at these restaurants.

Finding out that New Mexico has one of oldest wine regions in the country and that a lot of the tasting rooms and wineries are very close to Santa Fe is pretty exciting, too. I want to visit these places.

One of the destinations where I wanted to travel was to the Puye Cliff Dwellings, but I ran out of time. To experience these native dwellings has got to be awe inspiring. The magic of the ancestral homes and the spirituality of the area intrigues me.

Santa Fe, you are on my list for a return trip to take in the wonders of the area.

– By Linda Milks