In May of this year, our tourism office had the opportunity to host the Midwest Travel Writers Association’s (MTWA) annual spring conference. they stayed at The Inn on the Lake  in Canandaigua.  We hosted 61 travel writers, photojournalists and industry suppliers for a four-night/five-day itinerary.  MTWA active members are writers, editors or contributors actively engaged in producing travel-related content for newspapers, magazines, web or specialty publications.  MTWA associate members are public relations professionals working in the field of travel and tourism.  We have hosted many travel writers in the past but this was our first time with an organized group of this size. What an adventure it was sharing the Finger Lakes with them!

This is when I met Mary Lu Laffey, editor of Group Tour Media. What’s most memorable about Mary Lu is that she always had a smile on her face and was such a happy person - always willing to experience something new and  a wonderful sense of humor!  I thought it would be fun to do a post conference interview with her and ask her the following questions.

Q: How long have you been a member of MTWA?  

Mary Lu: After a year of gathering published material to qualify, I joined Midwest Travel Writers Association in 1998 and, like other members, have been vetted each year since. Twice a year we convene somewhere on the planet, sometimes at destinations less traveled like Korea and at popular spots like the warm and welcoming Finger Lakes.

Q: What was your favorite experience during the conference?  

Mary Lu: Experiences are what it is all about in group travel. Experiences give people bragging rights back home.  I have been bragging about finding hop shoots in my salad at the New York Wine and Culinary Center ; making amoeba-shaped crepes (which will never catch on) at Simply Crepes , and meeting local artists while painting a keepsake view of boathouses. To start and end each day with a view of the water? It doesn’t get much better than that. 

Q: What is your impression of the Finger Lakes for group tour itineraries? 

Mary Lu: The Finger Lakes region provides an exciting variety of attractions within a finite and accessible area — it is easy to get around so no one has to spend an inordinate amount of time on the coach. Group tours take the worry out of getting from here to there, plus the itinerary defines what is going to be seen and done. In your area, there also was a delightful element of surprise at the stops.  While we knew we were going to taste grape pie at Monica’s Pies  in Naples, we didn’t know that she would be sharing baking secrets about her crust — and my lips are sealed.  Or that Nedloh Brewing Co. in East Bloomfield grows its own hops and the white corn harvested at Ganondagan in Victor, comes from heirloom seeds from past centuries.

What was your most memorable taste while visiting?

Mary Lu: Without fail, each wine tasting and meal pairing shone. Finger Lakes wine has earned its reputation.  

Q: What did you think of that grape pie contest?  

Mary Lu: It was big fun. And gave us an excuse to indulge in more pie. 

Thank you Mary Lu (pictured here on right), for your responses and for being a valued guest in the Finger Lakes and a new friend of Finger Lakes Visitors Connection!