For the first time, a national government minister will attend the annual Wine & Food Tourism Conference, when Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, presents the inaugural Wine & Food Tourism Awards at Spier, near Stellenbosch on 18 September.
Conference convenor Margi Biggs said Minister Kubayi-Ngubane’s scheduled appearance at the conference signalled the importance of the fast-growing wine and food tourism sector. “There can be no more compelling way for travellers to access the heart and soul of a region, its natural features, its culture and its aspirations, than through its wine and food. The impact, however, is so much more far-reaching. It brings jobs, builds skills and enhances the opportunities and quality of life of otherwise marginalised rural communities.”
According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, all travel and tourism in South Africa contributed 1.5 million jobs and R425.8bn to the economy in 2018, representing 8.6% of all economic activity.
Biggs said the awards to be presented at the conference were intended to celebrate the inventive and appealing ways that local wine and gastro tourism providers were responding to global changes in travellers’ lifestyles, values and priorities. “These are the changemakers who are keeping our industry competitive, relevant and top of mind amongst travellers. They create superb, memorable experiences while addressing consumer concerns around eco and social sustainability, ethics, health and wellness.
“Minister Kubayi-Ngubane’s participation at the conference is an affirmation of their work. She is a member of the World Economic Forum initiative that has been established to ethically and sustainably advance the fourth industrial revolution through its Artificial Intelligence Council. So we hope to learn from her insights into some of the ways in which AI and machine learning are just starting to teach us about consumer behaviour and preferences to better inform and enhance the range and quality of local wine and food tourism offerings.”
Commenting on United Nations World Travel Organisation predictions that international growth in all types of travel was predicted to increase 3% to 4% in 2019, compared with last year, she said: “A big reason is the greater accessibility of air travel. Also, some of the growth can be attributed to the greater number of domestic and international travellers who are seeking out novelty in flavour and experience and finding both in abundance, especially in emerging countries. South Africa’s renown for value and variety obviously makes it a very appealing destination and explains why it remains the largest tourism economy in Africa.
“Local wine tourism providers are proving innovative and responsive in how they cater to traditional and mainstream wine and food lovers, as well as to those with an interest in ethical, sustainable, cultural, health and sports-oriented experiences. From the artisanal to augmented reality, South Africans are wonderfully adept at fashioning and curating world-class experiences and events that acknowledge long-standing traditions alongside the very latest in technology. No wonder then that we have had such an encouraging response to the awards with so many original and exciting nominations.”
The Wine & Food Tourism Awards will be presented in three categories: Innovation, Service Excellence and The Authentic South African Experience. Individual specialist panels have been established to judge all three.