Marisah Nieuwoudt, VinPro’s tourism manager, chats to tourist specialist and convener of the annual The Business of Wine & Food Tourism Conference, Margi Biggs, about the 2018 edition of the event that takes place at Spier on 17 October…


Marisah Nieuwoudt (MN): The conference is now in its third year. What was the original vision and how has it changed?

Margi Biggs (MB): My goal was to provide a forum to share best practices to ensure that the quality and standard of our tourism offering is world class. The overall vision hasn’t changed. What has changed is the focus; originally it was on collaboration, the following year on service standards, whereas this year it is on innovation.

MN: Why innovation?

MB: There is hardly a wine producing country in the world that doesn’t offer some form of wine tourism. It’s a very competitive market. Governments, for example in Australia, are investing heavily in this aspect of tourism. This sector has secured federal government funding of approximately $2.8 million (R28 million) to invest in wine tourism projects, with the aim to attract an additional 10 000 international visitors to the wine region in Southern Australia by 2020. We can only compete with the best-of-the-best by remaining innovative.

MN: Are there some good examples of innovation in the Cape Winelands?

MB: Of course there are, but we need more. We must leverage our natural advantages like fantastic scenery, great wines, top-quality produce, beautiful design and so more, by presenting them in a uniquely South African way. So whether it is utilizing Cape fynbos as a flavour component or maximizing on the lesser known fish from our oceans, we need to be thinking about how we can be both different and wonderful.

MN: Tell us about the keynote speaker?

MB: Our keynote speaker is Cathy Huyghe who hails from Atlanta in the United States.  She’s a graduate of Harvard University and a freelance contributor to the Harvard Review. She’s a very much a modern woman: a wine writer, author, business woman, entrepreneur, and mother of twins. Cathy’s company, Enolytics, looks at using big data in analysing wine consumer behavior. She was the recipient of the Diaz Communications Innovator of the Year Award in 2016.

MN: What are your thoughts on growing local tourism?

MB: It’s vital that we do so, because we need to shift our strong seasonal bias. We have to get more “Afropolitans” visiting the Cape Winelands. So the speaker presentations by Johannesburg chef Wandile Mabaso, and advertising dynamo, Khuthala Gala-Holten, should be very interesting.

MN: I see that social media is on the programme. Hasn’t that been done to death?

MB: Our research shows that delegates want to stay on top of social media trends. They have been asking for an update. With visual media becoming so important, using video well and targeting campaigns wisely are key.

MN: So who should be attending this conference?

MB: Anyone who has an interest in food, wine and tourism: those working for wineries, hotels and other accommodation providers, restaurants, bars, tour operators, educators, students and tourism bodies. Sharing ideas is the only way for us to go.