The Franschhoek Valley has just been announced as one of TIME’s 2022 World’s Greatest Places. What an honour for our small community and what an opportunity for a Covid-embattled tourism-focused town.
Tourism and hospitality are often regarded as accommodation and activities – things to see and do and places to wine and dine. But if you make your living from this industry, you know it is about much more than the offering – it is about the people. Those that visit and those who receive them. And while it is a wonderful pat on the back to be on this prestigious list of the top 50 places in the world, what I really love is that TIME gets that it is about the human factor. “As persistent as the challenges of life in 2022 is the hope is that understanding and human connection can be found through travel.”
Travel is not only for the adventurous and those with deep pockets. It is a choice. A choice to explore and to connect with the unfamiliar. And Covid made us realise how much we enjoy making such connections. Facebook kept me posted about the holiday behaviour of contacts during the recent winter school holidays. I was amazed at how many families were travelling abroad, going on island escapes and notwithstanding our ridiculous fuel price, explored South Africa to its most remote corners. Despite tough economic times and it being a long haul from South Africa to most destinations, people chose to travel. Perhaps they will braai a little bit less, wear last year’s jacket or decide to go without birthday gifts this year, but travelled, they travelled. This is wonderful to see after two years of real hardship in our industry. I’ll never forget the depressing sight of chefs and front of house teams trying to keep themselves busy, waiting for someone to come. But although the landscape was forced to change and some beautiful establishments didn’t survive, there is hope. Renovations are happening all over the Winelands and new offerings are opening. The energy is back and the international spotlight on Franschhoek is a true blessing.
Its status as the culinary capital of South Africa has made Franschhoek a coveted spot, but it was often regarded as exclusive and expensive. This has been changing even pre-Covid. I love that TIME starts its introduction of Franschhoek with a focus on Klein Goederust, our neighbouring wine farm that makes exceptional wines, but invite people to an informal lamb spit for lunch. Yes, much of Franschhoek’s attraction is in its French winemaking heritage and picturesque wine estates. Much of what we associate with the town’s charm are the restaurants and shops dotted along the Main Road. But accommodation nowadays extends to much more than the luxury options. Eateries are not all white tablecloths and fine dining. You don’t need a babysitter when you plan a visit as we have plenty of family-friendly offerings. I think, the reason why Franschhoek made the list, is because of the choice it offers. Luxury is on offer in the most mind-boggling ways, but only if that’s what you choose. Wine is at the heart of what we do, but you can have a wonderful weekend without drinking a drop. Food is our passion, but if you eat to stay alive rather than live to eat, you can hike and cycle and go horse-back riding or book into a spa, relax in a sunny spot with a book, browse the shops…
Just last weekend, visitors streamed to Franschhoek for the return of its popular Bastille festival after an absence of two years. It wasn’t only the visitors who had fun. There was an energy in the streets and among the locals like never before. Smiling waiters forgot all about sore feet and residents who used to escape the festival noise embraced the influx. Of course, they are really happy to see some cashflow again, but it is about so much more than that. And to quote TIME one more time: “The hospitality industry is reopening and excited to safely welcome them and revitalize local communities.”
The 50 places on the TIME list will take you from familiar spots to places you’ve never considered. Start to plan (or save) for your travels – and remember to add the Franschhoek Valley to your itinerary!