Cape Town - At the Business of Wine and Food Tourism Conference, the South African wine tourism industry hopes to reach the R15-billion mark by 2025.
On 20 September the conference kicked off at the Spier Wine Farm with industry stakeholders, farm owners, tourism operators and tourism management organisations sharing their insights into growing this vital part of South Africa's tourism.
A big topic from many of the speakers was the need for South Africans to take ownership of tourism - everyone contributes to this billion-dollar industry in their own way. The need for collaboration between tourism vendors was also highlighted, especially on wine routes.
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Tim Harris, CEO of Wesgro, reiterated this sentiment that our communities are our messengers and that we all need to share our stories with tourists to help shape their experience of South Africa. He also adds that tourism operators don't have control any more over the stories being told of their packaged experiences on social media, but they can help manage the story and thus need to improve their social media tactics.
Rico Basson from VinPro gave a brief rundown of the Wine Industry Strategic Exercise's (WISE) goals to grow the industry in various sectors by 2025. This includes increasing market access to Africa, USA and China, increasing wine tourists by 25%, increase their contribution to SA's GDP, create 10 000 new jobs as well as upskill 20 000 new and existing employees, have 20% of land and water black-owned and help redistribute visitors to even smaller towns.
"We know we are successful in four, out of five big regions. How do we get to Darling? How do we get to Northern Cape? How do we get to KZN? By using big and small regions to assist," said Basson.
They launched their new wine tourism portal - www.visitwinelands.co.za - in June this year, which serves as a one-stop, searchable tourism gateway to the winelands, which will attract more visitors.
SEE: Wine worth travelling for: South Africa's wine tourism goes digital
Other speakers highlighted that there are new markets and customers that can be pulled to wine tourism, focusing specifically on the new 'afropolitans' of South Africa.
Jerry Mabena from Thebe Services advised that the Cape Winelands need to make wine more accessible by taking out the 'snobbery' but leaving some of it's upmarket attributes.
"Price is a consideration, but not a limitation," says Mabena, adding that afropolitans go to places where they can 'be seen' in the right places.
He also asks that wine farms in the Cape consider the land claim issue when marketing to this demographic, which can have an impact on their decision to visit a winery.
Other parts of the conference included best-practices talks that looked at improving customer service, preparing for worst-case scenarios and the use of virtual reality to market wineries at expos.
Partners for the event included Delta Airlines from the US, who is looking to include South African wines on their in-flight menu and their master sommelier explained that the airline's selection of wines reflect their passengers' destinations.
Overall those who attended were invited to stretch their perspective with panel discussions looking at food waste and sustainability in the restaurant sector, as well as how to create an engaging tasteroom for visitors.
Cellar master Kevin Arnold takes his visitors on a tasting in the vineyards and asks, "Do you offer a tasting or a tasting experience?" He also believed that it's a winery's responisbility to ensure that their visitors are not too drunk to drive and should step in when deemed necesary.
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