SA leads way in wine tourism

10 July 2007

France has much to learn from South Africa and California on the subject of wine tourism, a special seminar heard at Vinexpo, the global wine industry’s biggest trade show, in Bordeaux last month.

Wines of South Africa CEO Su Birch detailed the successes of South Africa’s wine routes at the seminar, speaking of a “collective approach to wine tourism” that has allowed for the formation of 18 wine routes in the Western Cape province, each with its own distinctive personality.

“One winery alone can’t market a region,” Birch said. “Wine routes work best when properties work together with a common goal … and where they cultivate a marketing proposition.”

To illustrate this, Birch spoke about the long established and successful Stellenbosch Wine Route, but also about Durbanville’s focus on Sauvignon Blanc, Elgin’s focus on biodiversity, and Franschhoek’s on gourmet food.

She emphasised the importance of working with the local tourism office, finding marketing approaches that reflect the strengths of an area, and holding fairs and unusual events to attract visitors in the off-season.

Catherine Leparmentier of the Great Wine Capitals organisation described Birch’s presentation as “useful, to the point and, as usual, the South Africans used the most beautiful imagery. The South African contribution was of extreme value.”

Francois Lurton, CEO of France’s Domaines Francois Lurton, said the “great advantage of the New World is their flexible hours, whereas it is very rigid in France, with the 35-hour week and little working at weekends.

“In South Africa and California, they have a fantastic ability to organise opening times so people can come when they want.”

Other speakers at the forum included Marimar Torres of the Spanish Torres family and owner of Club Marimar in California’s Russian River Valley, and Maryan Bautovich of Schramsberg Wines, also in California.

Speaking to WineNews after the seminar, Birch said that wine Tourism had grown to the point where it was now “an integral part of any wine producing area’s marketing strategy.”

In South Africa, she said, the wine tourism industry had “grown organically and expanded at an expotential rate, fuelled by passionate individuals and product owners.”

She stressed, however, that the job was far from done. “We cannot ignore the importance of delivering a professional and unique experience.”

Source: Wine.co.za