Big data for bigger tourism

by | Apr 19, 2018 | Business and Marketing, Blog, News, Wineland

Margi Biggs – convenor of the Conference

Wine tourists in the Western Cape are increasingly opting for guided tours with a growing preference for tailor-made itineraries to suit their specific interests, says Margi Biggs, convenor of the annual Business of Wine and Food Tourism Conference that takes place in October.

Sourcing her information from Wesgro’s recent Wine & Food Tourism Study, she believes that greater insights into travellers’ needs will unlock still further growth in this fast-expanding sector of South Africa’s travel industry.

“Wesgro research shows a year-on-year growth in wine tourism of 16% in 2017, thanks to the rising reputation of the Western Cape’s wines, the region’s increasingly innovative offerings, as well as its varied and exciting customised cellar door experiences.

“But as an industry, we’ve only tapped the surface. There is still so much more potential to be unleashed, particularly now that we have access to big data and the deep learnings its analysis can bring. With more nuanced understanding of consumer preferences, their spending and other behavioural patterns, it becomes easier to address their needs and to do so in a way that is far more customised. I think we can expect the advent of big data to have a dramatic impact on our industry.”

With this in mind, Biggs has secured US-based big data wine specialist Cathy Huyghe as this year’s headline speaker for the conference, which takes place on October 17 at Spier in Stellenbosch. This will be the first visit to South Africa of Huyghe, who is also a wine columnist for Forbes and who has written for the Harvard Business Review. Co-founder and CEO of Enolytics LLC, she consults globally on big data to wine companies, is a digital media specialist and has authored wine books.

Other speakers at this year’s conference include Marisah Nieuwoudt, who is the wine tourism manager for Vinpro, which represents the country’s 3 500 South African wine producers, cellars and industry stakeholders; Brittany Hawkins, CEO of Explore Sideways that focuses on immersive food wine and cultural experiences for tourists in the Western Cape; and Spicer de Villiers, who owns A Single Thread, a boutique communications agency that is active in local wine.

The conference programme will also cover such topics as sustainability, food and dining trends, as well as innovative product development.

Go to to view the full programme and find out more about the line-up of speakers, to be updated as more speakers are confirmed.

Trainees and professionals working in the Cape’s wine, food and tourism industries are encouraged to register to attend the conference. Early Bird registration is now open at a fee of R2 950 (excl. VAT) per delegate, and ends on 30 June. A fee of R4 400 (excl. VAT) per delegate will apply thereafter, while students only pay R1 750 (excl. VAT) per person. Special discount is available for SAACI, SATSA, SITE and Cape Town Tourism members.

For more information on the conference, or to register online, visit

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