How To Choose The Best Kelowna Wine Tour Company
How to choose the best Kelowna wine tour company for your perfect day? It’s a tough question with so many options, tour companies and experiences offered. In fact, there are currently 51 Kelowna wine tour companies, each operating similar experiences, but many with very different service levels.
For many wine lovers, making the wrong choice can lead to a disappointing day, a negative experience and perhaps even ruin your vacation. Finding this out the hard way once the tour has started is never good and watching a group with another company having the time of their lives while you’re unhappy is the worst case scenerio.
Fortunately we’ve put together a list of everything you should look at when researching Kelowna wine tour companies. This article offers in depth tips on what you should know to make the best decision, red flags, questions to ask and everything in between. Let’s Go!
Response Times to Wine Tour Inquiries
Communication is everything these days! Whether by phone, email, text, Messenger, Social Media etc.., there are so many ways to connect with Kelowna wine tour companies to inquire about tour packages, service levels etc. As a general rule, inquiries should be responded to within 4-6 hours. Any longer and you should start asking questions whether your business is valued!
Guest experience and service is paramount and when companies fail to respond in a timely manner to inquiries, it raises a lot of questions. Supporting Kelowna tour companies that communicate efficiently will likely result in a positive wine tasting experience!
Make Sure The Company You Choose Has a Current Website!
It’s 2023 and there’s no excuse for having an outdated online presence. When browsing online and wondering how to choose the best Kelowna wine tour company, you’ll likely see several websites that have not been updated for a decade or more! This should be cause for alarm!
Look for companies that have a current website using the latest technology. Ensure they have information relevant to tour packages, the city, information about their business and service levels, social media etc. If a tour company doesn’t take the time to have current and relevant information on their website, what will the experience on the day of your tour look like?
Reviews Matter – Read Them!
One of the most important considerations when researching how to choose the best Kelowna wine tour company is through online reviews and platforms such as Google, Trip Advisor, Facebook and Yelp are a very good indicator of what the experience will be like on your Kelowna wine tour. Companies can control their messaging on their own advertising and websites, but online reviews are controlled by the consumer. It’s the best opportunity you’ll have to dig into what each companies wine tour offerings are really all about!
When researching how to choose the best Kelowna wine tour company, check for current or recent reviews as well as the quantity of reviews across all platforms. If you’re viewing a website that looks amazing and says all the right things, but they haven’t received an online review in months or years, you should ask why that is? Most reputable tour companies have several new reviews daily in the high season (May – October). If they don’t it’s a red flag!
Ask What Type Of Tour Vehicle You’ll Be Traveling In!
Most Kelowna wine tour companies host their tours in Mercedes Sprinter or Ford Transit high roof passenger vans. Some offer elevated features such as leather interior or guest controlled audio systems. Make sure to connect with prospective tour operators and confirm what type of tour vehicle you’ll be in for the day!
Reputable operators will have brand new or at worst, vehicles that are only 1-2 years old. New vehicles matter. In the height of the summer when temperatures can rise to 35 degrees C or higher, you’ll need to be traveling in a vehicle that’s not only safe, but mechanically sound! This is not the time for high milage vans with air conditioning systems that don’t work or without USB inputs etc.
Always confirm the type and year of the vehicle you’ll be in. There are several tour operators in Kelowna that show shiny new tour vehicles on their websites, only to show up on the day of the tour with a 15 year old van. Wine tour guests deserve better! It’s also good practice to check out their social channels to view actual photos of vehicles on tour!
The Guiding Team
Your wine tour guide matters…a lot! The success of the day hinges on having a competent, high energy wine tour guide that compliments the group and the wineries visited. In fact the guide may be the most important component when wondering how to choose the best Kelowna wine tour company!
Your wine tour guide is the first person you’ll see at the start of your tour and will be there to ensure a safe, fun and informative experience as you go from winery to winery. Not only should they be qualified in terms of wine knowledge and of the Okanagan Valley, but they should be an organic extension of your group!
The best wine tour guides ensure you’ll never have to open a door, are always with your group (not sleeping in the van during your wine tasting) and organize your wine purchases and carry them to the van. You deserve a VIP experience and don’t settle for any less.
Most tour companies in Kelowna have guiding teams consisting of older, retired professionals. While they may be qualified, ask yourself if that represents your vibe or expectations? If not, yup, it’s another red flag. Instead look for youthful guiding teams that bring the energy and will foster the best experience throughout the day. Better yet, look for companies that offer both male and female guides and request your preference.
Social Media – Is It Current and Updated Often?
One of the biggest differentiators between operators when researching how to choose the best Kelowna wine tour company is their social media. Of the 51 licensed tour operators in the city, less than 10 are actively posting on social media. This speaks volumes. These days, Social Media is an extension of any business and if a company can’t be bothered to post regularly, how can you be confident they’ll be able to run a quality wine tour?
Look for companies that are posting to Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok and other platforms daily or even multiple times a day. If they’re posting a solid amount of content it means they’re out on the wine trails and busy! It also helps when you can see images or videos of guests having fun in real time. This is the truest account of what your wine tour will look like and you can bet it’s a good place to start when wondering how to choose the best Kelowna wine tour company.
Wineries Visited On Tour
One of the most important aspect of any wine tour are the wineries you’ll be visiting! While there’s no shortage of wineries in the greater Kelowna area, some provide incredible wine tasting experiences, and some not so much. It can be hard to know which ones are best and that’s why so many guests put their trust in wine tour companies to take care of all the little details and create amazing itineraries. Sadly, this is also the cause of the most disappointment.
When working through how to choose the best Kelowna wine tour company, make sure to know which wineries you’ll be visiting and do your research. Many tour companies in the city only visit the wineries that offer the least expensive or shortest tastings. This may be good for the wine tour company, but it’s horrible for the guest! Look for wineries that offer premium or elevated tastings, pour a minimum of 4 wines (or even better yet 5), and offer a thorough tasting experience including time to answer any questions you may have!
The name of the game in this industry is “Hospitality”. There are some amazing wine tours companies in Kelowna that will offer flexibility when it comes to tour times, pick up / drop off locations or a customized itinerary. “Cookie cutter” style of tours have their place of course, but sometimes that just doesn’t work for your group.
We’ve seen dozens of examples of guests having their accommodation canceled the evening before their tour and then having to scramble to locate a new one. The new location may be outside your tour companies pick up range, but this is where having a flexible operator is important! The companies that go the extra mile to accommodate their guests tend to be the best reviewed and most respected. It’s the little things after all that can make or break your experience and flexibility is essential when looking at how to choose the best Kelowna wine tour company.
Stock Photos Vs. Real Photos
Take a closer look at each wine tour operators website, especially at the photos on each page. Are they actual photos of guests having fun or are they staged, professional Stock photos? Stock photos are easily purchased from any number of large commercial websites by searching for the exact photo you’re looking for. They’re easy to spot and quite simply look out of place.
When researching how to choose the best Kelowna wine tour company, be careful to not be fooled by companies that simply add professional images to their website. If tour operators can’t fill their website with actual photos of guests having fun, be wary. This is a very big red flag!
Wine Tour Operators Must Be Licensed
In the Province Of British Columbia, all wine tour operators must hold a valid “Passenger Transportation License” to carry passengers. License holders must display their “PT Number” on the rear of each tour vehicle. Always make sure you are working with a licensed tour operator. This ensures they are carrying the proper insurance and that they’ve gone through the correct steps to comply with provincial regulations.
Pricing – Value vs. Lowest Cost
We all love great deals, but the old adage of “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is” rings true when looking for a wine tour. Most tour companies in Kelowna offer comparable rates (+/- 10%) and run similar tours. If you notice a company advertising a regular priced tour that’s drastically less than the market, there’s likely a very good reason for it. Perhaps they are running old vehicles, visiting wineries that don’t offer a great experience, visit less wineries than most, have lack lustre guides or don’t put in the time to secure proper tasting reservations. Whatever the reason, you can bet your experience will be less than that of reputable, competitively priced operators.
If you are looking at an operator which offers a significantly lower price, make sure to have them put in writing exactly what you are getting. This is critically important when looking at how to choose the best Kelowna wine tour company.
Give Back Component
While maybe not the most important component when researching how to choose the best Kelowna wine tour company, working with operators that include a give back component as part of their corporate culture, goes a long way to understanding their integrity. Far too few of our local operators work with important causes, but for those that do, they effect real change in the local community.
Knowing that a small percentage of your tour fees go to worthy causes is a feel good story that most folks can get behind. It also says a lot about the integrity of the company you’re working with.
Well there you have it wine lovers! 12 things to think about when you’re looking for your next wine tour in Kelowna. There’s no reason why your wine tour can’t be absolutey perfect and by researching the categories above, you’ll be making the best decision for your group and ensuring a memorable wine tour experience in the greater Kelowna area Enjoy!