For Terri Axani, the owner of Kamloops-based DiVine Tours, taking part in one of her boutique wine tours is more than just a day event. It’s about creating a “lifetime memory.”
Axani, who was a Women of Influence nominee at the 2020 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards earlier this year, and the winner of the 2020 Bold Hospitality Award for DiVine through Tourism Kamloops, says her tours are about the experience. She says she even prefers to call herself DiVine’s “director of hospitality and fun.”
“So it’s not really about the wine, it’s about the experience and showcasing our beautiful backyard and region and creating memories with groups,” she says.
When asked what inspired Axani, who is a Métis woman based out of Kamloops, B.C., she says it was “divine intervention.”
“I was a food and beverage manager with the Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver for a decade, working my way up to that position,” she says, adding that she was able to learn about many B.C. wineries there.
“I worked with them. I got to know the owners, the winemakers, their stories. And I knew that this was an emerging industry.”
Axani explains that, in 2002, while in the Okanagan, she planned her first wine tour for her husband’s birthday.
“I organized a smaller group [with] family and friends where we did travel to the Okanagan,” she says. “Driving them home as the designated driver, I said, ‘I’m going to turn this into a business.’”
From that moment, Axani says she began planning the business that would eventually lead her to move to Kamloops.
“I planned everything that day in my head. I knew the name. And when I started my business back in 2015, I had no idea we would have our own wine trail like we do today. And it’s just amazing.”
Variety of tours
DiVine Tours offers a variety of options, both in Kamloops and the Okanagan, including the Wineries and Wildlife Tour, which stops at two wineries and the British Columbia Wildlife Park. The company also offers the Kamloops Wine Trail Tour, DiVine Craft Beer & Wine Tasting Tour, and Wineries and Waterfall Tour, which includes up to four wineries and a stop at Chase Creek Falls.
Axani says the company also takes requests and will accommodate guest preferences for wineries.
“Sometimes I ask them if they have a favourite winery in the region and then I kind of know what they like, because everyone’s palate is different. So it doesn’t matter how many awards someone has. It’s subjective, there’s no right or wrong with wine. Not meant to be intimidating. It’s meant to be fun.”
Navigating a pandemic
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit B.C. in March, Axani says, “everything came to a screeching halt.”
The company’s last tour was with a group of bachelorettes, she says, on March 7. They got back to work on June 5, with some distancing measures in place.
“As we transitioned back, we did a ‘bring your own bubble tour’, BYOB [bring your own beer], and kept everything private. And just in the last couple of weeks, we certainly accommodate those that request a private tour. But because we have a larger bus, 16-passenger, it’s very easy to do a couple of small groups within that.”
Axani says her favourite part of running the business is “watching the locals see their own backyard through fresh eyes.”
Some of DiVine’s tours are focused on more than just wine, as guests are able to learn more about the Kamloops landscape.
“I love scenery, as many do. So I do a number of winery and waterfall tours. I think that’s the perfect pairing. Just down the road, we have the most amazing B.C. wildlife park with a Kermode Spirit Bear.”
While Axani says DiVine Tours has developed a steady customer base, she says she wants it to remain a “boutique” company.
“Although I turn people away on a very regular basis, I don’t want to have a big company. I want to be boutique by choice. And, you know, although we may be small, we create big experiences.”