“We have enormous potential in this country and while we always knew about the contribution of tourism, we suddenly realised the immense potential to contribute jobs”, Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk said during a live television broadcast from La Motte Wine Estate in Franschhoek yesterday. According to him tourism makes out 9% of the GDP and employs around 1 million people in South Africa while this number is being added to all the time as skills improve.
In a country where a lack of education as well as unemployment are some of the biggest concerns, the role tourism and especially wine tourism has to play, cannot be underestimated. Therefore the initiative of the Cape Wine Academy to train 200 young South Africans to become sommeliers is so important. Not only do they acquire skills and get a decent education, but they get to put food on the table, create a bright future for themselves, contribute to the quality of the tourism offering and therefore also to the local economy.
While South Africa might have more serious issues with unemployment than many other countries, there are also many opportunities for education and employment as the wine tourism industry here has so much potential and is already outperforming many other wine producing countries when it comes to creating a tourist offering.
Cape Town is one of the Great Wine Capitals of the World, a network of the world’s leading wine-producing countries that shares international best practice to advance standards in wine tourism across the world. Every year the GWC appoints a Best of Wine Tourism winner for each of the 9 countries. On Thursday, 8 November, it was announced that La Motte Wine Estate has won this prestigious awards for the second consecutive year, but more than that, the overall quality of the South African entrants impressed the international panel.
André Morgenthal, spokesperson for the awards, said, “It is very encouraging to see that since the inception of the competition over a decade ago, there has been a steady advance in the quality and sophistication of wine tourism experiences entered for consideration.”
South Africa is a country with wide tourism appeal and the wine industry is tapping into this to increase its offering with a host of experiences.
Many wine estates hosts award-winning fine-dining restaurants, informal bistro’s and quality deli’s – in fact the Eat Out Awards shortlist of the best restaurants in South Africa, currently lists 9 restaurants on wine estates among the 20 best in the country.
With activities such as horse-riding, hiking-trails, educational walks and tours, architecture, art galleries and museums, music concerts, special vineyards tours, tailor-made food and wine experiences, shopping, an array of accommodation options and events presented from South African wine estates, visitors can choose their level of participation and sophistication. In general, wine estates are family-friendly and the wine tourism offering is managed via wine routes focussing on the culture and specialities of each specific wine-growing area.
With wine-farming under economic pressure and wine sales and exports increasingly struggling under a relentless economic downturn, I tend to agree with Minister van Schalkwyk when he says, “The wine industry is actually about tourism” and that is why government and industry have to work together – to maintain and better the quality and the offering of wine tourism in South Africa, but also because of our social-economic responsibility to educate and employ