Wine and food tourism experts talk growth


Trends in tourism – visitors seeking experiences – and ways to market South Africa’s excellent wine and food tourism industries were unpacked at the first annual Business of Wine and Food Tourism Conference.

wine food tourism conference
Strategies on growing South Africa’s wine and food industries were debated at a conference in Stellenbosch, the epicentre of the country’s winelands, in November 2016. Wine tourism contributes R6-billion annually to South Africa’s GDP. (Images: Alfred Thorpe, @Vuurtoring)

Melissa Javan
More tourists were interested in sharing their experiences of South Africa’s wine and food tourism industry, delegates heard at the Business of Wine and Food Tourism Conference. It is planned for the gathering to become an annual event.

The two-day conference, which took place on 1 and 2 November 2016 at Spier Wine Farm in Stellenbosch, was attended by industry insiders and experts.

Research undertaken by the Western Cape’s destination marketing, investment and trade promotion agency, Wesgro, found that 86% of tourists wanted to sample local wines and food. SABC also reported that more people wanted customised experiences.

A million bottles of South African wines were sold daily worldwide. “This is a million opportunities to tell South Africa’s story through wine tourism,” said Mariette du Toit-Helmbold from destination and tourism marketing agency Destinate.

Destinate has been commissioned to develop an industry-led wine tourism plan as part of the Wine Industry Strategic Exercise. This initiative was introduced to promote a robust, adaptable and competitive industry.

“South Africa’s competitive edge is not only our wine, but also our hospitality and passionate people. That matched with unique experiences, exceptional food and breath-taking scenery, all accessible to the visitor,” said Du Toit-Helmbold.

Plenty of the ideas were given about ways of enhancing wine and food experiences:

A strategy being developed

Wine tourism currently contributes R6-billion annually towards South Africa’s GDP. The aim is to increase that amount to R15-billion by 2025, with the help of the wine tourism strategy.

Du Toit-Helmbold said the strategy was being developed as a dynamic industry framework and practical plan. “Our immediate priorities are to get buy-in from role players and to finalise the implementation plan with input from and alignment with the government.”

Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom said he supported the development of a wine tourism strategy that would unite the industry behind a common vision, brand and aligned plan to take wine tourism forward. “We look forward to working with the industry to help realise the enormous potential wine tourism has in contributing to our country’s overall tourism growth.”

Watch Tim Harris, chief executive officer of Wesgro, talk about the different food and wine experiences in the Western Cape:

Rico Basson, chief executive officer of VinPro, said the conference would have long-term benefits for wine tourism and related industries: “We need to adapt to international trends, while offering the best authentic, local offerings – best of what is local.”Wine tourism is a major revenue generator for South Africa. It also presents an important opportunity in terms of job creation,” he said.Already 289,000 jobs had been added in the wine value chain to date, said Basson. “The new strategy will pave the way for significant growth in the wine tourism sector over the next 10 years.”

VinePro represents South African wine cellars and wine grape producers. It had provided funding to conclude the strategy and implementation plan and enable a number of interventions within the next 12 months, said conference organisers.

On the strategy agenda is the development of a national wine tourism brand and message with a wine tourism marketing kit to train the trade and hospitality industry, providing them with the tools, messaging and visual inspiration to promote wine tourism more effectively.

Furthermore, the establishment of a neutral wine tourism digital marketing platform with interactive website, activated social media platforms, aligned wine tourism event calendar, and fresh content providing links to all the wine regions and routes for cross- marketing purposes is a priority.

Collaboration is key

bottles wine food tourism
One million bottles of South African wine are sold daily worldwide. (Image: Alfred Thorpe, @Vuurtoring)

Siobhan Thompson, chief executive officer of Wines of South Africa said: “South Africa exports wine to markets across the world. The bulk of the country’s exports are aligned with South Africa’s key source tourism markets such as the European Union, with exports to markets in the rest of Africa, the US and China growing.

“It makes sense for wine and tourism to collaborate and promote our wine tourism offering as a differentiating factor within our broader wine and tourism marketing initiatives.”

Hein Koegelenberg, chief executive officer of estates La Motte and Leopard’s Leap, said: “We need each other – not only to create a successful and profitable wine tourism industry, but also to sustainably have a quality offering that will result in job creation and that will make a difference to the lives of our people and communities.”

The conference was a wonderful opportunity for the industry to get together and discuss the various facets of wine tourism, which included international best practice and benchmarks; getting to grips with digital aspects; and the importance of service excellence, he added.

“What I hope everyone took away from these two days is that wine tourism is a national asset that requires commitment and strategy and very importantly, co- operation between industries, between disciplines and also between Cape Town and the winelands.”

Other topics

Dax Villanueva wine food tourism
“Relax with Dax” blogger Dax Villanueva is a speaker at the Business of Wine and Food Tourism Conference on 1 and 2 November 2016. (Image: Alfred Thorpe, @Vuurtoring)

The importance of marketing, whether face to face with customers or virtually, was another topic discussed at the conference. Other topics included Marketing what’s hot? What’s not?; Maximising direct customer sales; and Eating South Africa: How do we plate ourselves to the world?

Asked about the next big thing in marketing, Paula Hulley of digital agency Gloo singled out short form video. She stressed the importance of visual storytelling in a content-cluttered world.

Tips were given on Twitter:

The conference ended with an awards ceremony celebrating South Africa’s 2017 Great Wine Capitals Best of Wine Tourism Award winners, with the country’s global and regional winners honoured.

The next Business of Wine and Food Tourism conference will be held at the Vineyard Hotel in Cape Town on 19 and 20 September 2017.

Sources: Destinate and BrandSouthAfrica reporter.

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