Stellenbosch - South Africa’s first and foremost wine destination, the Stellenbosch Wine Routes, has embarked on a dynamic wine tourism marketing initiative – the Stellenbosch Wine Experience – in collaboration with Stellenbosch 360. The initiative, which covers the greater Stellenbosch region and the Stellenbosch Wine Routes, aims to position Stellenbosch as the leading wine tourism destination in Africa, and amongst the top in the world. “Stellenbosch is one of the most significant landmarks of the Cape and although it has a well established tourism and wine legacy, being the oldest town and wine route in the country, there is a great need for closer partnership between the wine and tourism industries supported by a dynamic marketing programme and campaign,” said Ken Forrester, Chairman of the Stellenbosch Wine Routes. The initiative is spearheaded by Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, founder of Destinate, a specialised destination and marketing agency launched in 2013 after a successful ten-year stint as the CEO of Cape Town Tourism. Under her leadership, Cape Town Tourism won critical acclaim as a Destination Marketing Organisation (DMO) and was formally recognised by the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) for its ‘world best practice tourism organisational model and innovative initiatives in destination marketing’. “The potential of wine tourism in South Africa is significant, but then a far greater and more aligned effort should be made on a local, regional, national and international level to promote wine tourism. This will hold great benefit for both the tourism and wine sectors and add to South Africa’s overall appeal as a destination,” said Du Toit-Helmbold. Although the initiative will benefit the region and the wine and tourism sectors at large, a limited number of wine and tourism-marketing partners are being identified as marketing partners to ensure direct involvement by the private sector. “Stellenbosch 360 is committed to working with Stellenbosch Wine Routes and the wine and tourism sectors to position Stellenbosch as one of the top wine tourism regions in the world,” said Annemarie Ferns, CEO of Stellenbosch 360. “The Stellenbosch Wine Experience campaign will not only grow the wine tourism sector, but will benefit the region at large. We will be able to make a much bigger impact through this joint venture using our limited resources available for destination marketing more effectively,” she added. The programme and campaign kicks off at the Stellenbosch Wine Festival on 24 January 2014 with the launch of a new interactive wine tourism focused mini-website and blog called StellenBlog. The region and participating marketing partners will then be represented at ITB, Berlin in March for the international launch of the Stellenbosch Wine Experience to the world's top travel trade and media followed by the Tourism Indaba in May. Other elements include a themed annual communication plan to enhance the regional offering and events; an enhanced digital presence across all social media networks and an innovative wine tourism blogger campaign with top international and national travel, lifestyle and food bloggers between April and September. Growing domestic tourism and improving visitor numbers over winter are important objectives. Domestic travellers, families and wine lovers from South Africa, in particular Gauteng, will be targeted with an appealing events calendar and complementing wine tourism packages. “More and more visitors to our wineries want to engage in wine tourism activities at or near the site where the wine is produced. Visitors typically learn the history of the winery, see how the wine is made, and then taste the wines; often complemented by a fine meal in one of our award-winning restaurants. More and more wineries offer accommodation, meeting facilities and activities. Wine remains the ‘hero’, but a lot of focus is placed on the experiences that complement the wine and provide wineries and establishments with additional sources of income,” explains Annareth Bolton, CEO of the Stellenbosch Wine Routes. For the Stellenbosch Wine Routes it all started back in the summer of 69 when the famous fearless visionary trio – the late Frans Malan, beloved patriarch of Simonsig Estate, the late Neil Joubert of Spier and the inimitable Spatz Sperling of Delheim – started speaking to authorities to entice visitors to the wine farms in the Stellenbosch region. The Stellenbosch Wine Route was founded officially in 1971 and this pioneering initiative has changed the face of wine tourism in South Africa. Spawning a host of similar regional wine routes of which there are 18 today, the Stellenbosch Wine Routes remain the biggest and most visited of them all. The Stellenbosch Wine Routes now boast 152 wineries as members, offering a myriad of unique attractions and leisure invitations ranging from modern to time-honoured, traditional cellars, a spectacular array of restaurants, a vibrant coffee culture and world-renowned hotels and guest houses, all fringing or filtered through the historic oak-lined town of Stellenbosch.