Wine Tourism taking flight in Cape Town

The advent of Vindaba, taking place from September 25 to 27, 2012 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC), is a heartening window into the potential we have to work co-operatively and yet with great focus in the tourism industry. Last year, Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said that wine tourism contributed R5-billion to the economy and noted that it was one of the fastest-growing sectors in the global tourism market.

Then, earlier this year, International Wine Review reported that South Africa is producing some of the best sweet wines in the world and that wine tourism is better developed in South Africa than any other country the writers (Don Winkler and Mike Potashnik) had researched. They said that “while the country is located far from most foreign wine lovers, it offers huge rewards to those who visit its wine country".

Just last week, National Geographic included the Groot Constantia Manor House and Wine Museum on a list of recommendations for the world’s best museums called I Heart My City.

For me, a key reason that this tourism niche is so rewarding is the fact that it is so experiential. Above all, the Cape’s wine routes are experiences of beautiful landscapes, grand dreams, the echoes of history and a kaleidoscope of tastes – both of cuisine and wine.

But of course, the sector wouldn’t be complete without its people – diverse, hospitable and innovative role-players in this industry have worked together to build a strong brand presence for their routes, and a global identity for South African wine; one in which tourism is welcome and encouraged. I am always pleased that it is word of mouth, above all else, that drives visitors to tour the wine routes. They arrive at our Visitor Info Centres knowing that the Western Cape is one of the Great Wine Capitals of the World, and that a wine route excursion is a must.

How has the wine tourism industry managed to harness their collective resources so successfully?

Perhaps its secret lies in the very geography of a route. Participants on a route must naturally pay it forward; each stop a pleasant part of an organic whole. Maybe it’s because wine producers see the financial benefit of tourism and are predisposed to partnering with tourism service providers to bring more feet – and more buyers – through the door. No doubt it’s because of the leadership of organisations like WOSA, which has seen that wine is a conduit for an experience, the bottled essence of a story. Most likely, it’s a combination of these and many other factors, but as tourism stakeholders we can learn much from the wine tourism sector about working together for the greater good.

Vindaba is an important moment for this relationship, as it brings together a variety of products and services offered within the Winelands; from tastings, food and wine pairings, wedding venues and suppliers to accommodation establishments and hidden gems along the wine routes of the Cape.

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