The Franschhoek Valley is very close to my heart. It is where I live and make a living and it is important to me that it goes well with the community. With tourism and wine production our most important industries, we’ve had a tough two years, but I am proud to say that we never gave up and that right now, we have a new dream – one that is manifested and one that will not just stay a dream.
To stay positive when you must cut salaries or retrench staff is easier said than done. Wave after wave, the Franschhoek Valley tried to adapt its offering to a new market, to new regulations and new requirements. If there was one sure sign, however, that the fighting spirit remained, it was when in November last year, Franschhoek became the first South African community to have 80% of its population vaccinated. (Read more) Whether you are pro or anti-vax, the people of this valley realised the importance of being able to offer visitors an assurance – saying that we are serious about the well-being of our visitors. We want you to feel safe, we will do our utmost to make you feel welcome and secure. And that really is at the heart of hospitality and the reason why I know Franschhoek will not only survive but thrive.
We have introduced a new logo and a new strapline: Franschhoek, Valley of Dreams. Our manifesto focusses on our aspiration to be an unrivalled village for visitors. One of unparalleled class and comfort. International excellence meeting small town charm. At the same time, we want to be accessible. If there is one thing we’ve learned over the last two years, is that you must bring variety, something for everyone: from opulence to rustic charm. Are these ideas enough to make us unique? Perhaps not on their own, but when combined with our rich history – from a time when elephants roam the mountainsides and French Huguenots established a wine making industry, to today’s cutting edge cellar technology, fine establishments and some very exciting new developments to be introduced over the next two year – the Franschhoek Valley’s unique qualities lie in more than its picturesque location.
Our dream is to use this Valley of Dream manifesto to guide our thoughts and actions, but of course, action is required. We all know about dreams staying dreams without the other import d – doing. Strategies and plans to market our offering are the next step. We might have different opinions as to how to do this and that is also part of what makes this journey exciting. The local people are involved, they think, they care.
The French had a dream when they came to South Africa in the late 1600’s. Far from what was familiar to them, their language, culture and way of life, they dreamt about a future in a wild and foreign country. While we don’t speak French in the valley anymore, Franschhoek’s culture and industry are still very much French-inspired and there’s no denying that our French ancestors realised their dreams for this valley. It took a lot of hard work though.
And that is where we are now. We have come a long and successful way, but we had to reposition and we have a new dream. The dream has been formulated and communicated. Now, we have to strategise and implement. We must sell the dream. It will not always be easy. It might shake our comfort zone and we might have to get serious about investment. We will not only be pouring the best wine and serving delicious food, but we will also have to worry about traffic and facilities, staying true to our character, conserving the habitat and our natural beauty.
Will we make it work? I could see the dream awakening enthusiasm in our Franschhoek audience when we shared the manifesto this week. And then they asked the tough questions. I loved that. I know we will make it, because Franschhoek is a valley of dreams inhabited by passionate doers.