Culinary Tourism was on the agenda when renowned international guests and important global role players met in Franschhoek last week as part of the Délice Network of Good Food Cities’ first gathering in the Southern Hemisphere.
Délice is an international network of like-minded cities engaged in promoting the benefits of culinary excellence and good food. On the program was discussions on international best practice in culinary tourism, culinary excellence, city marketing, food sustainability and setting global food trends. At the same time, delegates had the opportunity to experience the culinary culture and hospitality of the Cape Winelands.
I was delighted when the Cape Winelands joined the Délice Network. Positioning the local industry within a global context is of the utmost importance – highlighting the quality of the offering available in the Cape and creating awareness on an international platform.
I have spoken my mind on the importance of wine and culinary tourism many times before. South Africa has earmarked tourism as a key sector with excellent potential for growth and Government aims to increase tourism’s contribution to the economy to R499-billion by 2020 (National Department of Tourism, 2012). And especially in the Cape Winelands, tourism is crucial to the economy. It is an important source of income to the local community and supports skills development and education – all important factors in a country with a 25% unemployment rate. Tourism supports one in every 12 jobs in South Africa.
One of the speakers at the conference last week, was blue-sky thinker Robert Joseph, invited to share his thoughts and insights on the importance of culinary tourism. I have much respect for this man who challenges the ordinary way of thoughts with exceptional creativity while still considering the practical.
And his main message?
Culinary and wine tourism is important, but perhaps not that much as a stand-alone industry. It has to work closely with the bigger tourism sector. Although food and wine enthusiasts might travel for the specific idea of exploring restaurants and wine estates, to attend cooking classes and learn about the local cuisine, they still only make up for a small portion of tourists. Many more people might be interested in food than they were in the past, but dining usually makes out part of a bigger travel experience. Most people focus on all kinds of other things and have only a limited interest in wine and food.
When one is as closely involved with an industry as we are, it is easy to forget this. Having said that, the Franschhoek Valley has been hard at work at creating complementary experiences to the food and wine offering – hikes, horse riding, art…
Being innovative (how about yoga and wine tasting?), being consumer friendly (perhaps visitors struggle with the unfamiliar cuisine? perhaps guests are older and need more focus on comfort? everyone wants Wi-Fi!!) and working with the bigger tourism industry (create a relationship with the concierge at the luxury golf estate…) are of the utmost importance.
And then: be on Social Media and be accessible on mobile platforms. Nomophobia, according to Robert Joseph, is a recognised psychological condition! Travellers find out about your business and offering via their mobile devices much more than via travel agents. Be clever about marketing your destinations to travellers. Some might still read travel magazines, but many will see what you offer on Instagram.
And while it might be so that only a limited number of tourists have an exclusive culinary focus, everyone has to eat – regardless of whether they are travelling for sport, business, family holiday, adventure, etc. And creating an experience that is more than a burger from a fast food outlet, is one of the aims of culinary tourism. Be known for your culinary offering so that travellers allow, within their wider itinerary, time to explore local restaurants, cooking classes, wine tastings, artisan food routes…