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December 12, 2016

Wine & Food tourism conference bears food for thought and good wine ideas to drink to

While there is no commonly agreed on definition of wine tourism, a clear message from the delegates and speakers at the first annual ‘The Business of Wine & Food Tourism Conference’ is that collaboration across the industry is key.
The conference, hosted on 1 and 2 November 2016 at the Spier Wine Farm outside Stellenbosch, set the stage for delegates representing the wine, food and tourism industry, to debate the many facets of wine tourism.
Wine tourism, loosely explained, encapsulates experiences in and around the wine regions as tourist destinations. This includes visits to vineyards, festivals and shows, food, wine and (restaurants, the landscape and activities where tourism is at the primary core and wine the context.
South Africa might be small in size, but it’s big in quality and diversity, and that should be the calling card for the new age tourist that is honed in on an authentic experience to add to their travel repertoire. They want to explore beyond the local neighbourhood and experience a fusion of art, drink, food and design as new hybrids to suit their individual needs. In order to achieve the former, a platform is needed to share resources and experience not only to survive, but to flourish with the demands of emerging markets and the affluent consumer in search for more.
Anemé Malan, deputy director-general: International Tourism Management from the National Department of Tourism stressed the importance it bears on job creation and improving the livelihood of South African communities.
“The wine industry offers great potential for tourism but we have to pull together our resources, concentrate on broad-based conversation and greater engagement between the public and private sector.
Marianne du Toit Hembold, Destinate, believes it is all about how the tourism and wine product is perceived, adamant that South Africa can raise the annual GDP bar of R6 billion generated by die wine industry sector, to 16 billion.
She goes on to say that “Wine tourism is a national asset to be used strategically in the marketing of our country. Alleviating poverty should be our common vision and goal.”
Du Toit Hembold mentioned there are plans in place to institute the Wine Tourism Advisory Council. The aim is to establish a three year action plan, a neutral wine tourism platform for cross-marketing purposes, food and wine tourism campaigns, training, helping each other make informed business decisions, developing wine and food career pathways, working with government and continue to innovate.
Robert Mondavi, the father of modern wine tourism believed that “the rising tide lifts all the boats” and in doing so turned America into the biggest wine consumer.
Clay Gregory, CEO of Visit Napa Valley, used Mondavi as an example of where all wine regions should go if they want to be successful and highlighted the importance of a collective marketing strategy and the funding structure. He emphasised the importance of brand distinction, consumer engagement, loyalty and enduring tourism authenticity.
“Collaboration remains the key to Napa’s success, also diversity of experience, entrepreneurship and proximity to San Francisco.”
Tim Harris, CEO of Wesgro, has a powerful view on the business of tourism in the Western Cape, and narrowed the success of future ventures and projects down to three points: Personal motivation, the need of a smart strategy and the uniqueness of the South African tourism product.
He points out that: “Studies have shown adventure (especially cycling), culture (Madiba’s legacy) and food and wine are the greatest drivers of our tourism economy. Also, 64.2% of booked itineraries include a wine tour.”
“We can take the lessons from California and acknowledge the similarities between us, the strong wine and culture offerings, and like Silicon Valley, become a leading region in the world. We are already selling one million bottles of South African wine per day in the world. The challenge now is to align strong city brands with wine valley brands, grab the emerging tourism opportunities from that and learn how to leverage the different aspect of branding to promote ourselves.”
As a final thought, Peter McAtamney, of Wine Business Solutions from the USA had this to say about the industry: “Choose your customer. Different people want different things. It’s how you put the package together. No doubt there are great opportunities for South Africa going forward. Create an experience that can be replicated everywhere but that cannot be copied by anyone. People want to see a smart, evolved version of what you are.”
• The next conference will be held at the Vineyard Hotel in Cape Town on 19 and 20 September 2017, and planning will soon get underway to build on the success of this year’s conference.