Powerhouse wine strategist and futurist Paul Mabray, arguably the most pivotal international force in wine e-commerce, is one of two headline speakers at this year’s Wine & Food Tourism Conference on 2 December.

The California-based pioneer, who has spent the past two decades focusing on how to maximise marketing, sales and communication reach online, is to share the podium with another acknowledged trailblazer. He is Miles Kubheka, the well-known South African entrepreneur and restaurateur.

The two will lead a constellation of speakers at the annual conference, sponsored by Wesgro, the official Tourism, Trade and Investment promotion Agency for Cape Town and the Western Cape.

The theme for this year’s virtual event is The Next Decade: Wine Industry Sales and Sustainability.

Margi Biggs, convenor of the conference, now in its fifth year, explains: “Given the ongoing pandemic volatility and the way second-wave infections are breaking out in many parts of the world, it makes sense to offer the conference in a hybrid format. For those who want to attend the physical version of the event, they can join us in person in the Overberg. However, the digital option is available to anyone wanting to register. All overseas speakers will present digitally.

“Thanks to Wesgro, the conference can serve as a key tool in helping local wine and food tourism providers to revitalise their businesses. They will learn from seasoned authorities to become more Covid-19 resilient. They will also hear how to remain robust, focused and flexible in responding to expected changes in values and behaviours that could affect travel, purchasing, consumption and the environment.

“Paul Mabray is world-renowned for driving wine e-commerce and building social media and social customer relationship management strategies. We know how vital online communication and selling have been during lockdown. We look forward to learning from him how to advance and finesse our digital initiatives in an increasingly competitive space.

“Miles Kubheka has shown himself to be inventive, nimble and adept. He is an inspiration for how to successfully adapt to South Africa’s fast-changing environment, where thinking on your feet is only part of the story. He understands how great concepts must be backed by outstanding follow-through. He has much to tell us about how to participate more fully and effectively in the country’s food eco-system.”

Another of the speakers will be Wesgro CEO Tim Harris, who will be identifying challenges and opportunities to be navigated over the next decade. “The events and wine industries have been amongst the worst hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. One bright spot, however, is how the virus has accelerated the pace of digital transformation. Digital platforms as such as the Cape Export Network that was recently launched by Wesgro to promote the country’s wine exports globally, and this conference, featuring some top-line specialists in tourism, help pave the way to doing business in a world where we embrace new opportunities.”

Trends specialist, composer and left-field problem-solver Peter Greenwall will talk about disrupting local wine and hospitality tourism. Petra Mayer, who represents Wines of South Africa (WOSA) in Germany, will be highlighting what German tourists seek in their tourism experiences at the Cape, while Romanella Paggi of Ketek Events and Tourism in Mendoza, Argentina, will reflect on best practice in her region. VinPro tourism manager Marisah Nieuwoudt will address how best to ensure the longevity of wine tourism at the Cape. Catherine Leparmentier Dayot, who is based in Bordeaux as MD of the Great Wine Capitals Global Network will discuss how the South African wine industry can leverage on Cape Town’s membership of this network.

Shelly Fuller, a conservation ecologist, who is WWF-SA’s programme manager: sustainable fruit and wine projects, will talk about the role and impact of her organisation on sustainability in local tourism. André Morgenthal, a wine communicator who was instrumental in putting South Africa’s much-praised Old Vine Project on the global map, will be joined by celebrated winemaker Trizanne Barnard and environmental activist Diony Lalieu, whose Ocean Pledge is driving ocean clean-up projects. Their focus will be on how to take meaningful sustainability measures that earn consumer loyalty and support.

The conference will also showcase the latest Wine & Food Tourism Awards honourees.

Local delegates can opt to include a virtual tasting of wines from the recently demarcated Agulhas Wine Triangle as part of the day.

The virtual cost for the day-long event is R380 plus VAT for South African residents, and €200 per international delegate. Delegates who wish to attend the conference in person can do so at R1 600 plus VAT per head (including the wine tasting). Strict health and safety measures will be in place at the venue; Benguela Cove Lagoon Wine Estate near Hermanus in the Overberg with a maximum of 100 delegates in the room.