Stellenbosch has the power to rival world's best wine regions - Expert

Cape Town - Stellenbosch is set to host Business of Wine and Food Tourism Conference, set to focus the enormous potential of South Africa's extraordinary wine producing regions.

“Stellenbosch has the potential to become as significant as the Napa Valley,” says Clay Gregory, President and CEO of Visit Napa Valley.

Gregory, who will be a headline speaker at the Conference in Stellenbosch taking place on 1 and 2 November, believes South Africa already has the skills and assets but currently lacks the investment.  

"You have the wine, the people and the natural beauty to rival any wine tourism region of the world. But South Africa first needs to spend more on marketing and getting the region top of travellers’ minds,” he says.

South Africa is also set to launch its first ever wine tourism strategy at the conference, to be opened by Minister Derek Hanekom.  

SEE: 6 Responsible improvements planned by SA Tourism

Market research by Destination Analysts of San Francisco, on behalf of Visit Napa Valley, showed that 3,3 million tourists visited Napa Valley in 2014, an increase of 11% on the prior year, spending $1,63 billion (about R22,82 billion), of which $1,2 billion (about R16,8 billion) was spent in hotels. By contrast, Conningarth Economists estimated the entire wine tourism industry of South Africa’s Western Cape to be worth R4,8 billion (about $358 million) in 2013.

The size of the global wine travel market alone is estimated to be $17 billion (R238 billion), and the culinary travel market is estimated as $25 billion (R350 billion). This has encouraged local tourism entrepreneur Margi Biggs to convene South Africa’s inaugural The Business of Food and Wine Tourism Conference. Her goal is to provide insights and practical information that not just Stellenbosch, but all of the local industry can use in growing business to realise the still vastly untapped potential.

SEE: 5 Most fascinating travel destinations for wine lovers in the world

In a recent article published on, Erik Wolf, executive director of the World Food Travel Association, states, “if we look around our entire planet, there are a few destinations that stand out with underdeveloped potential to lure food/beverage travelers.

"These destinations include: Poland, Ecuador, Chile, South Africa, Finland and Iceland, just to name a few. What qualifies these as up-and-coming destinations? The reasons are many and include quality, diversity or uniqueness of local products; entrepreneurial proclivity of food/beverage manufacturers and providers; and destination readiness to receive foodie travellers.”

Gregory is one of four international speakers who will take the stage at the conference.

Australian Peter McAtamney who runs an international wine business consultancy will present on creating and delivering a world-class wine, food and tourism experience, including how South Africa can promote its key points of competitive advantage. Other international speakers are Felicity Carter, editor of the authoritative Meininger’s Wine Business International, based in Germany, and Dr Robin Back, a US-based academic who conducts wine tourism research in both South Africa and the US.

SEE: 5 Adventures to put the spring in your step

Currently tourism in South Africa provides employment for 4,5% of South Africa’s workforce nationally, and in the Western Cape  accounts for 204 000 formal jobs. The Western Cape Government’s Provincial Strategic Plan has set a goal to grow employment in this sector by 60%, adding another 120 000 formal jobs by 2019.

"With the wine industry working together with government, who are set to launch the first-ever National Wine Tourism Strategy at the conference, the future looks bright," says Biggs.

What you need to know about the Business of Wine and Food Tourism Conference:

When:  two-day conference from 1 and 2 November  

Where: Spier wine estate, Stellenbosch

Cost: R4 800 per delegate (excl. VAT).  If you register and pay before 31 August 2016, the cost is R3 800 (excl. VAT).

What to read next on Traveller24: 

-  SA Tourism industry set for R2bn budget boost

Tourists to SA hits new record for January 2016

SA expecting China tourism boom

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