Champagne Travel owner and founder Hinke de Jong has a passion for champagne. Trade journal Travel Incentives & Destinations talked to her about the champagne trips she offers through Champagne Travel.
De Jong: “I have always travelled a lot, and eventually visited Champagne. That’s where I discovered my love for champagne – the product and the region. In 2011, I started importing champagne to the Netherlands under the name Brouzje. It wasn’t long before I wanted to offer trips to the Champagne region too. It combines perfectly with my passion for travel. These days, I’m a champagne specialist and I know the region really well. I visit frequently and it’s such a beautiful area with many diverse possibilities. The demand for champagne trips has grown. Because organising the trips and importing champagne are two such different activities, in 2016 I decided to establish a new business for the champagne trips: Champagne Travel.”
For every purpose and budget
“Champagne Travel organises champagne trips for private and business groups. For the business market we offer incentive trips, team building and meetings or trainings in the region. I worked for years as an HR Consultant in a corporate environment, so I have a good understanding of what clients are looking for. This has turned out to be valuable practical experience. When organising a trip, it’s important to establish what the purpose is. We think with the client: what type of group is it, what do they want to achieve and experience? Then the program, activities and locations are custom-arranged for the client. We can create a champagne trip for every budget. Although it can be very exclusive and expensive, lower budget trips are absolutely possible too. And you can get just as much out of the trip; the experience is still exceptional.”
Champagne, gastronomy and the outdoors
“The trips we organise always consist of a combination of being outdoors and getting to know the region, tasting and discovering champagne, and of course the gastronomy. For incentive business trips we organise walking, biking or classic car outings with champagne related themes. There’s a visit to majestic champagne house and a champagne producer, followed by champagne tastings, a lovely culinary lunch or cooking workshop. For large business groups, I go along so I can offer a masterclass or tasting during the trip. The Champagne region is so diverse which means you can do so much, like water sports or hiking in the forest, but also walks in the vineyards or a champagne tasting in a treehouse bar. We want people to really enjoy themselves. The highlight of incentive trips is often a gala dinner. This usually takes place in the cellars of a large champagne house. An impressive formal dinner often consists of 4-10 courses, served with various champagnes from the relevant house. The location is so unique and experiencing this kind of dinner is unforgettable. We arrange these dinners for groups of 25 people or more. We always seek out a suitable, beautiful location which exudes the grandeur people are looking for. Trips for team building, trainings or meetings can easily be organised in Champagne instead of somewhere in the Netherlands. It’s so inspiring and memorable. Meetings can be held at magnificent locations among the vineyards, in the French cities or in the champagne houses. We provide a varied program which offers plenty of space for relaxing activities, too.”
Hinke de Jong was proclaimed Champagne Ambassador of the year in 2016, an enormously prestigious and well-deserved title. The Comité Champagne is the regulatory body for the product of champagne and organises the elections for ambassador. “The competition has a different theme every time, and for me it was the use of reserve wine in champagne, which is a highly technical subject. I’m extremely proud to have received this title, especially as it’s a permanent title, not annual. It’s a huge achievement. I’m a relative newcomer in the branch, so winning this title means a great deal. Next year I’ll be on the jury for the 2018 election. I’m looking forward to attending the ambassador elections, but this time on the other side of the table with the title safely in my hands!”