Delegates from the Cape’s wine, food and hospitality industries gathered at Spier near Stellenbosch for The Business of Wine & Food Tourism Conference to glean insights from local and international specialists, and engage in informative discussions focused on growing revenue and loyalty for tourism in the Cape Winelands.
Now in its second year, the annual conference is convened by seasoned travel and tourism specialist Margi Biggs. She believes travel and tourism can potentially contribute significantly more to South Africa’s national gross domestic product (GDP) than it currently does. The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has calculated that the travel and tourism sector’s direct contribution to the South African economy last year was R127.9 billion, accounting for 3% of the country’s GDP. Its indirect GDP contribution was about 9%, according to South African Tourism.
Rico Basson, executive director of VinPro, the nonprofit organisation that represents about 3 500 South African wine producers and cellars, used the Wine Industry Strategic Exercise (Wise) initiative to illustrate how collaboration is paramount to unlocking value and stimulating growth.
Launched in 2015, Wise was developed by the South African wine and brandy industry to help it reach a desirable future state by 2025. Its robust, adaptable approach is geared towards driving profitability, global competitiveness and sustainability. This collaborative effort is driven by VinPro, Salba (South African Liquor Brand Owners Association), Sawis (SA Wine Industry Information & Systems), Wosa (Wines of South Africa) and Winetech (Wine Industry Network of Expertise and Technology).
Looking ahead to 2025, Rico said key targets for
the industry include building a greater presence in strategic markets and specifically in America and Africa, growing Cape wine tourism to increase visitor numbers by 25% and increasing Cape wine tourism’s annual direct contribution to South Africa’s national GDP from
R6 billion to R16 billion. He also highlighted the use of technology and research to create a sustainable future for the overall industry.
Tim Harris, CEO of Wesgro, the Western Cape’s trade and investment promotion agency, foresees continued growth potential for tourism in the region. He referenced the Fourth Industrial Revolution and its disruptive effect on all economies, and the need for Africa to adapt in terms of digital skills development, changing business models and public-private partnerships to advance its “Africa rising” narrative.
“The Cape Winelands offers a high-quality slow product in a world where time is seen as increasingly rare and valuable,” Tim said. “The Business of Wine & Food Tourism Conference provides an incredible opportunity to celebrate this.”
Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo of South African Tourism explained how the entity is rallying South Africans and the economic sector to fully support tourism growth with the September launch of the We Do Tourism movement. “Every South African plays a role in local tourism,” she said. “We’re in a crisis if we don’t support tourism. It creates jobs, enriches lives and brings people together.”
Jerry Mabena, CEO of Thebe Services that owns the Thebe Tourism Group, said Afropolitans could boost the annual South African economy by more than R2 billion and grow tourism – provided they’re given appealing reasons to travel to the Cape Winelands. He described Afropolitans as cosmopolitan Africans, global in their outlook and straddling the divide between African and Western cultures. Despite having the disposable income for travel, Afropolitans are not actively targeted by the local travel and tourism industry.
Jerry said wineries should rethink their marketing efforts, and create and activate events around wine drinking in spaces that Afropolitans can relate to. “Make wine drinking accessible. Take away the snob value and mystery but leave some upmarket attributes. Encourage Afropolitans to meet the owners and winemakers at cellars. Make them feel like they’re guests, not just random customers.
“Big events such as the annual Soweto Wine Festival play a major part in bringing wine and wine-related experiences into the consideration sets of Afropolitans. Create more of these and combine wine with whisky, cognac and other spirit experiences. Experiences create stories. Polo and wine festivals seem to attract Afropolitans – expand these.”
Dr Robin Back, a South African-born academic based in American who conducts wine tourism research in both South Africa and America, shared the findings of his recent research study that looked specifically at the effect of a winery visit on brand loyalty and purchasing behaviour.
His research shows that winery tourism has a positive long-term effect on brand loyalty and purchasing behaviour, but that the strongest effect of positive winery visits appears to be on brand loyalty, which is shown not to diminish over time. He also highlighted the significant role of frequent and continuous communication with winery visitors to further strengthen the bond between the brand and the consumer, and stressed wine tourism should be incorporated into overall winery marketing plans.
Conference delegates learned about the art of impeccable service from Don Shindle, an expert in customer service from Napa, California’s renowned wine tourism epicentre. He explained the importance of expertly and thoroughly trained staffers who are empowered to act with confidence to achieve top service standards. “Everything communicates, so engage your workers and enable them to perform. Be agile in practices to create loyalty beyond reason and deliver your brand promise. Teamwork means I am you, and you are me.”
Don’s advice was echoed by Linda d’Holt-Hacker of South Africa’s The Touch Company that helps large and small organisations to develop and fine-tune outstanding customer journeys and brand experiences. Using the Hosting Paradigm as a tool for effective decision-making, she outlined how crucial it is for employees to clearly understand why they do what they do – in other words, to have a sense of purpose aligned with the brand they represent. She also shared insights on how to align guest experiences with a brand’s core values and highlighted the need for a shift in how service staffers are perceived and think about themselves.
Waterford Estate’s Kevin Arnold outlined best practice for winery tasting centres. He believes wine brands are built in the tasting room and that unique, innovative and personal tasting experiences are paramount to creating memorable value. “At Waterford, we’ve found that we sell more wine and build greater loyalty when offering guests not only a tasting, but an experience such as a vineyard safari where they get to taste our wines outside, in the vineyards. Personalised experiences help us form real connections with our guests. Wine brings them through the door, experience brings them back.” Arnold views visitors as guests, not customers. He also believes in in-depth staff training and development, mentorship, confidence building and ensuring that employee aspirations are aligned to those of the brand.
General manager of Contiki in South Africa, Kelly Jackson, presented ways in which virtual reality can be effectively used as a strategic marketing tool to bring a product or service to life. She however cautioned against using virtual reality as a gimmick, saying brands should use it only if it fits the experience they aim to promote.
America’s renowned lifestyle TV personality Andrea Robinson, one of only 23 female Master Sommeliers in the world, covered the process of choosing wines for Delta Air Lines and showed how the carrier uses its marketing and media properties, such as its in-flight magazine and on-board entertainment system, to highlight specific wines and wine routes. She also elaborated on other marketing activities, including sponsorships and partnerships, themed wine region promotions in strategically located hubs and the upskilling of flight attendants’ wine knowledge and service excellence.
Dr Jaisheila Rajput, founder and CEO of Tomorrow Matters Now (TOMA-Now), an independent consultancy focused on developing the green economy, Joe Stead of the Spur Corporation and Luke Grant and Jessica Shepherd of The Table at De Meye in Stellenbosch, winner of the Eat Out Sustainability Award in 2016, presented a panel discussion focused on the role hotels, wineries, restaurants and consumers can play in promoting a sustainable future, particularly when it comes to food waste management.
Jaisheila said the sustainability movement has already started in South Africa, with clear examples provided by the likes of Joe, Luke and Jessica. Although waste management is a complex issue, Joes said the Spur Corporation has had major successes, from Spur restaurants recycling cooking oil to produce biodiesel to John Dory outlets eliminating all plastic packaging in a bid to tackle the issue of ocean pollution.
Reputation management and strategic communication specialist Wendy Masters of Cape Town-based The Phoenix Partnership, looked at the key phases of crisis communication: Prepare, respond and recover. She believes reputation is about delivery, not promise, and described how proactive approaches to crisis situations can actually strengthen brand reputation, citing the example of the Vineyard Hotel in Newlands, Cape Town. “When the water shortage crisis in the Western Cape became evident, immediate action was taken to remove plugs from bath tubs and install low-flow shower heads in all guest bathrooms,” she said. “These efforts clearly demonstrate the hotel’s commitment to sustainability, and are recognised and applauded by guests and other stakeholders such as local government.”