It’s no question that the wine industry is crucial to the economic development of South Africa. Not only does the wine industry contribute over R36M to the GDP but it is an integral component of brand South Africa when it comes to exposing visitors to the breathtakingly beautiful winelands and stunning countryside. At Explore Sideways, we are very passionate about this subject and it is even part of the reason we came to be a company. To give you some background, we found that visitors to South Africa were only being taken to big, commercial wine estates rather than any of the hundreds of unique and authentic wine farms that illustrate how truly amazing South African wine can be. The root of this problem came from the wine tourism industry. Most visitors were sitting on scheduled bus tours that are more about filling seats than about wowing guests. Explore Sideways has been on a mission to solve this problem by cultivating exclusive relationships with relevant people across the wine industry, securing insider, immersive experiences for guests in addition to matchmaking them with private, specialist wine guides with knowledge, passion and experience in the industry.
To further our cause, we partnered up with Wesgro, the official tourism, trade and investment promotion agency for Cape Town and the Western Cape, to conduct an annual research report in an effort to bring more focus onto wine tourism and the changing demands of visitors to the Cape. Despite the importance of the wine and food industry in the Western Cape and South Africa at large very little information is generated to support strategy development at present. The research that was conducted was targeted at inbound tour operators and destination marketing companies (or DMC’s). The reason these service providers were selected is that they have first hand experience and direct interaction with local and foreign tourists and are acutely aware of the tourism requirements or those travellers. Key findings can be found below.
ROLE OF FOOD & WINE TOURISM IN THE WESTERN CAPE
The vast majority of tour operators (85.2%) believe that food and wine plays an important role when tourists make decisions around the destinations they plan to visit.
“South Africa is gaining traction overseas as having some of the best wine makers internationally, which is piquing tourists’ interests. And the Winelands offer incredible value for money with international exchange rates when paying for our wines.”
Visitor interest in food and wine tourism is on the rise. In the last 3 years food tourism has increased by an average of 17% YoY and wine tourism an average increase of 10% YoY. Tour operators surmise that 60% of all of their guests will be interested in wine tourism and 54% interested in food tourism.
“Now that the Winelands offers more food and adventure activities, it creates an even bigger draw card, especially for multi-generational families, everyone is included, not just wine lovers.”
It is incredible to note that wine tourism is the top activity requested by clients visiting the Western Cape. This is 15% more than cultural activities and a whopping 44% higher than adventure activities. There’s no question that cultivating the wine tourism market is key for expanding awareness about Cape Town as a globally viable wine destination for international travellers.
PROFILE OF A FOOD & WINE VISITOR
Nearly all of the tour operators book food and wine activities for guests from the United States. Other English speaking countries like Canada and Australia also show significant interest in food and wine activities with European countries Germany, France and Italy falling close behind. Very few operators listed any African countries.
Couples and honeymooners were most likely to request such tours followed by retired tourists. Business travellers were least likely to request such tours as can be expected when time limitations apply.
The majority of tourists visiting the Western Cape and requesting a wine tour are over the age of 35 and correlates with the type of groups that typically visit the Western Cape.
Tour operators were asked to indicate if the majority of food and wine tour requests came from new visitors or returning tourists. 73% of first time visitors requested food and wine tours with only 27% of repeat visitors making the same request. Our opinion is that repeat visitors will typically do their own bookings as they have previous experience.
GUIDED FOOD & WINE TOURS
According to the respondents, tour providers are selected based on their specialist knowledge and ability to create tailor made tours. This falls in line with global travel trends indicating that tourists are seeking out unique and authentic experiences rather than one size fits all tours.
The knowledge and specialisation of the tour guide is a crucial factor when booking a tour. The guide’s insider knowledge, ability to take tourists to hidden gems and provide exclusive access are key components of a wine tour.
“Luxury transportation” was one of the least importance factors, showing that visitors are shifting away from typical ideas of luxury travel and moving towards immersive experiences with local insiders.
'IMMERSIVE TRAVEL' DEFINES THE FUTURE OF LUXURY
“I feel guests are expecting more for less money and don’t want luxury but more “real experiences.”
“Luxury is more about being tailored to specific interests and having a truly inspiring, insightful tour rather than a fancy car and expensive restaurants.”
“In the past this meant a 5 star hotel or luxury vehicle only. Luxury travel still requires this, but it has to be immersive and authentic – travellers are more adventurous and research their options.”
“In the past a luxury tour was a luxury car on a normal tour. Now a luxury tour is all about exclusivity and the experience”