Franschhoek was destined to be popular with travellers due to the sheer natural beauty of the valley. But put this natural drawing card together with period architecture, rich history, internationally acclaimed restaurants, wineries, galleries, niche retail, craft breweries, other artisanal delights, not to mention a superb range of accommodation, and it’s clear why Franschhoek has become such a favoured destination both locally and internationally. That’s according to Ruth McCourt, who took over the reins as Franschhoek Wine Valley marketing manager in March 2021.
Ruth and her husband Frank have been residents of Franschhoek for more than 18 years. They owned and operated a five-star safari lodge in Zimbabwe before purchasing and building up Rusthof Country House, now Leeu House, in the heart of Franschhoek village.
Has the Valley changed much over the past two decades?
“Both foreign and local investment has raised the profile of Franschhoek to a vibrant tourist and residential destination, creating a much needed positive economic impact for all who live here. The Rupert family has been a major contributor over the years, and large capital investments by Mr Analjit Singh has also injected a new energy into the village. But the landscape has been equally shaped by farms like Boschendal and Babylonstoren. Another beautiful, iconic and historical farm, Plaisir, which is now owned by Rose Jordaan, will add new and exciting offerings for Franschhoek Wine Valley.”
What does Brand Franschhoek stand for?
“It stands for being aspirational – award-winning wineries, the finest restaurants, chefs, and outdoor activities. Franschhoek is unlike any other place in South Africa with its spectacular views showing nature at its best, brimming with architectural charm and rich in history. Franschhoek is authentic, one of a kind, and only 60 minutes from the Mother City where another world awaits. Franschhoek is the valley of dreams!”
How did the travel restrictions and alcohol bans impact this offering?
“It has had a devastating impact in our entire village and the economy of valley. Weekends are busy with local visitors but weekdays are still quiet. There are however positive signs with foreign travel bookings for October and onwards picking up.”
What is your role as route manager?
“Thinking out of the box for new ideas in bringing more feet into our village. Covid-19 has forced us think more creatively in attracting visitors into our valley. Our festivals will be smaller and decentralised but with a twist and a special Franschhoek experience.”
What are your immediate and long term priorities?
“My immediate priority is to focus on local travellers from Cape Town and Gauteng. There’s a big market for us, as many South Africans are forced to travel locally as they’re unable to travel overseas yet. In the long term we’ll continue to focus on overseas market, as we’re such a sought-after destination. FWV will be focusing more on outdoor activities, as this has been untapped market for us up till now. Exciting projects are planned for the near future as we recover from the Covid impact!”
Can you elaborate on some of these plans?
“Re-inventing our festivals to be smaller, unique and exciting, while we focus on many more outdoor activities to encourage visitors to spend more nights in our valley. And of course we won’t neglect to market our acclaimed wineries, world class restaurants and chefs and overall magnificent and unique stays in our valley.”
Who do you rely on for support?
“I rely on my members for their support professionally and personally. We have community driven residents where we mine ideas collectively from our entrepreneurs to create unforgettable stays and experiences for our visitors.”
What’s your favourite pastime?
“I love to cook, eat and drink good food and wine. And walking or hiking in our beautiful valley. I also love to travel and have a particular love for Italy.”
And your favourite wine?
A good full-bodied red Shiraz, Cab Franc or Cabernet Sauvignon.