The third annual Business of Wine & Food Tourism Conference convened at Spier on 17 October. This year’s focus turned to innovation and taking lessons from recent events to inform and educate.
Keynote speaker Cathy Huyghe, CEO of the international data and analytics company Enolytics, set the tone with a hard-hitting presentation on the power of big data. “Big data entails pulling together multiple sources and making the aggregate information widely accessible,” she explained. Its immense value will only be unlocked through collaboration and visualisation, which she sees as the sole reason for Enolytics’ existence. “Data takes us from our gut to our head and helps us make smarter decisions,” she said. “But to get there, you have to go through the heart.”
Peter Greenwall is all about heart. With the aid of music and creative illustrations, the author and entertainer demonstrated how frustration can be used as inspiration and turned into innovation. “Innovation happens in the worry zone,” he said.
This is where media strategy planner Katlego Dithlokwe shines. The idea of creative disruption means defining the “category code” – the traditional way of communicating an idea – and then creatively breaking it in order to differentiate your product. An example in the wine category might be simplifying overly complicated messages, for instance turning difficult pronunciations and boring catalogues into a more engaging experience. Products promise emotional or functional benefits. Focusing on a single benefit simplifies the message which allows marketers to disrupt the code through reframing it.
Wesgro CEO Tim Harris shared lessons learnt from the water crisis. Efficient collaboration prompted the Western Cape to come up with a distinctive and innovative marketing campaign called Nowhere does it better. It similarly communicates a simple and effective message about Cape Town as a tourist destination. As the marketing material is unbranded (white label), this is something every stakeholder can get behind and make its own.
Making a message our own means engaging all local markets, said Khutala Gula-Holten, MD of brand and communication agency Joe Public. She said the wine industry should be concerned that aspiring and affluent black consumers are looking elsewhere for meaningful experiences. They are spending most of their disposable income outside South Africa. To capture the imagination of these market segments, the wine industry has to represent them authentically, especially online, where influencers can become powerful allies.
Soweto-born chef Wandile Mabaso explained how he brought the experience he gained from a successful career in New York and Paris back to South Africa. He creates innovative dining experiences through bookings-only popup events in partnership with local venues and businesses, which involves careful research and planning bespoke dishes for each particular group.
Vinpro’s Marisah Nieuwoudt closed the day off with market research conducted in the UK which showcased South Africa’s diversity while gathering biometric data for personalised itineraries. Wine was fourth on their list of associations with South Africa, meaning it’s not just seen as a “sun, sand and sea” destination. Apart from wooing international tourists, Marisah explained the importance of building the base of the pyramid, which means converting domestic daytrippers into overnight visitors who travel deeper into the countryside. These travellers buffer the industry against events that influence international travel.
The Business of Wine & Food Tourism Conference provided an insightful peek into the future of the industry. The presentations offered stimulating perspectives from knowledgeable speakers on the impact of various innovations on the tourism industry. Only by remaining relevant through such innovations can the industry ensure a more sustainable and attractive environment for international tourists and local consumers alike.