The South African Cheese Festival, presented in April this year for the 17th time, was honoured on World Tourism Day as the Festival of the Year.
World Tourism Day is commemorated annually on 27 September and, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), creates awareness of tourism’s real and potential contribution to sustainable development.
The Festival of the Year Award was initiated by the Cape Winelands District Municipality’s Executive Mayor, Councillor (Dr) Helena von Schlicht, as part of the sixth annual Mayor’s tourist awards at a gala function at Simonsvlei outside Paarl.
These awards celebrate the performance of role players in the Cape Winelands tourism industry.
The executive mayor highlighted the SA Cheese Festival in her speech as a world-renowned highlight for visitors to the Cape Winelands.
According to a statement, the awards emphasise the value of tourism’s contribution to the local economy as well as to positive international relations.
For every eight tourists visiting the district, one new permanent job opportunity is created.
According to Johan Ehlers, Chief Executive Officer of Agri-Expo, the SA Cheese Festival has grown to become one of the largest culinary outdoor gatherings in Africa since 2002.
This world-class event attracts 30,000 visitors over three days, of which more than 40% come from outside the Western Cape. The festival is regarded as an excellent platform for businesses to introduce new products and to bring their brands to consumers and to the attention of retailers,
including many small cheese makers who have already achieved great success thanks to their participation in the festival.
“It’s an exceptional privilege for Agri-Expo to be honoured by the regional authorities for the SA Cheese Festival’s contribution to tourism,” said Ehlers.
“The festival is a unique culinary experience of cheese, with more than 160 exhibitors displaying their products and creating awareness about the versatility of the variety of SA’s cheese and related products.
It is, however, so much more than just a festival – it includes renewal, job creation, entrepreneurship, product development and, of course, consumer awareness, “adds Ehlers.
“It is especially pleasing that, through the festival, we have a direct economic impact by boosting job creation in the immediate environment, as well as small businesses and other entrepreneurs’ product marketing.”
“Tourism is everyone’s business, including agriculture, especially in the wine-growing countries where farms form the backbone of wine tourism – both for creating visitor experiences as well as for job opportunities,” said Ehlers.
“Agriculture offers many opportunities for marketing tourism in the Western Cape. Consumers today are more adventurous and therefore we must expose them to the full value chain – from the animal in the field to the cheese on their plate.
The challenge of renewal means we need to work together to continuously offer honest and unforgettable experiences that exceed visitors’ expectations. “
According to Ehlers, they look forward to further developing these partnerships with a view to the 30th International Agricultural Conference of the Commonwealth, to be hosted by Agri-Expo in the Cape in 2022.
The SA Cheese Festival has been awarded several times, including the best Consumer Exhibition in Africa (larger than 12 000m²) by AAXO (Association for African Exhibition Organizations).
The 18th SA Cheese Festival takes place on Friday 26th to Sunday 28th April 2019 at Sandringham outside Stellenbosch. Tickets are available at Computicket from 1 December. For more, visit www.sacheesefestival.co.za.