People often tell me what an amazing job I have, and I couldn’t agree more. I get to taste excellent Italian wines, talk about them, walk in picturesque vineyards, and get paid to do it.
Moving to the Italian wine-producing region of Abruzzo allowed me to turn my passion into a business. I always liked to have a good bottle of vino or two in the house, so going to local vineyards and meeting winemakers was somewhat of a pastime for me after I relocated to Italy. Soon I realized that nobody was offering English wine tours in Abruzzo, and I jumped at the opportunity to fill this space.
Starting the business was easy. As I don’t take clients to historic or cultural landmarks, I wasn’t required to get tour guide certification. I spoke to several producers whose wines I liked, created a website with an itinerary description, and launched the business.
For any small venture, finding effective marketing channels is key. I spend a couple of hours per week promoting my tours on Facebook and Instagram. My listing on TripAdvisor brings a good number of clients, but costs me 20% in commission to the booking platform, so focusing on increasing direct sales through my website is important. I put in a lot of time learning the tricks of Google search engine optimization to make sure my business has good visibility online.
When you’re building a tour business, finding a unique angle is crucial. My niche is private tours for limited groups to small-scale family-run wineries. We often meet the entire family and taste wines in the winemakers’ home rather than in a formal tasting room. I intentionally keep my groups small, as I enjoy talking to everyone personally and my goal is to make each tour feel more like a friends’ day out than a tourist activity.Word of mouth plays a big part in growing my sales. I often get inquiries from people who have heard about my tours from other happy customers, their family, or friends.
My tours start at €75 ($83) per person for a three-hour tour to two wineries. The price goes up if I have to customize the itinerary, add food to the tasting, or organize transport for the group.
Abruzzo doesn’t get many foreign visitors, but I still manage to earn good money. The number of bookings is growing every year and if it continues at this pace, I might have to hire someone to help me.
Apart from funding my life in Italy, running wine tours has other perks. I’m regularly invited to free tastings of the best Italian wines, a thrill for any wine aficionado. Getting to know people from all over the world, who like me are passionate about artisanal wines, is another part of the job that I enjoy immensely. On top of that, my small cellar at home is always filled with bottles of excellent vino that local producers gift me or sell at heavily discounted prices.
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