Tourism remains the wine industry’s brightest star. This is where South Africa has showed tangible growth and added value. Those who have experienced tourist offerings in the winelands over the past two decades can attest to this: a while back a wine-tasting tourist was lucky to be offered a Cream Cracker to accompany a pouring done in the tractor shed.
Today the Cape Winelands are filled with glittering and modern tasting venues, world-class restaurants and an astonishing diversity of outdoors activities and art shows – all situated in arguably the most beautiful wine scenery in the world. But the success of tourism, which contributes more than R6bn to wine industry income, is attributable to more than things physical.
Human capital should not be underestimated. Most wine farms and wineland communities have embraced tourism as the goose laying the gilded eggs.
The direct income generated by tourist offerings is a welcome cash injection. But tourism also provides a brand with the opportunity of creating thousands of loyal customers for 365 days per year.
Local and international research has shown that tourists having experienced a memorable interaction with a specific wine brand at its home are likely to remain supporters of that name. In other words, if you visited the Cape over a week-end and had a great wine-tasting at Diemersdal or enjoyed a plate of curried tripe at Muratie you will most likely be on the look-out for those farms’ wines when returning to Pretoria, Berlin or Perth.
But the major role-players are not limited to farms and wines. There are 21 wine route organisations in South Africa. Each co-ordinates tourist offerings in their respective regions as well as proactively marketing the different areas. The representatives of these wine route organisations play a major role in the success of wine tourism and can rightly be seen as the industry’s unsung heroes.
Not only do they have to contend with potentially divisive members, but are responsible for conducting current and effective marketing initiatives aimed at attracting visitors to the farms, as well as the region itself.
The wine routes organisations conduct this with amazing, measurable success. Thanks to them and their teams, the producers’ organisation Vinpro should reach the target it has set of growing wine tourism into a R15bn economic behemoth by 2025. With the expected decline in wine income predicted over the next two years due to the climatic conditions, this development is most certainly welcome.
The wine routes therefore deserve all the support that they can get. Vinpro and Wines of South Africa (Wosa) offer organisational support. But wine cellars and grape farmers contribute financially through a levy system. This, by the way, will be some 30% down this year due to the lower crop.
To ensure wine tourism continues to grow it is thus of the utmost importance that all wine cellars and grape farmers are members of the wine route organisation representing the respective region in which they are situated. Even if a cellar of grape farmer has no direct tourism activities to offer, fact is that their brands and their grapes used in those brands benefit from the work done by the wine routes offices.
Every visitor to each wine region contributes to the economic progress and sustainability of that region.
By ensuring all wine players become wine route members, the associations will have access to more – much needed – working capital. And as members of these organisations, wineries and grape growers will be exposed to the workings and benefits of wine tourism, allowing them to begin to play and active role in this potentially lucrative sector.
With its renewed emphasis on wine tourism, ensuring mandatory wine route membership is something Vinpro can expedite – to the greater good of all.
- From Die Burger