The South African wine tourism industry is about to take off big time – at least, if Minister for Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk gets his way.
“The wine industry in South Africa plays a vital role in both job creation and rural economic growth,” said the minister while giving a talk during a workshop for stakeholders at the Spier Estate in Stellensbosch, one of the country’s largest wine growing regions.
“2009 saw wine tourism contribute around R4.3 billion to the overall tourism revenue in the country, and there is a lot of potential for this sector to continue to grow.”
Van Schalkwyk may be onto something.
With its gorgeous weather, warm-hearted people and breathtaking scenery, South Africa’s wine regions are indeed a traveler’s dream.
The country features some of the liveliest wine festivals found anywhere in the world, while the focus of the industry is on its famous “wine routes”, of which there are more than 14 in the Western cape alone – South Africa’s most popular wine region.
One of the best of these is also the world’s first ever ‘brandy route’, in the Klein Karoo and Boland, while the ‘Green Mountain Eco wine route’ is said to be the world’s only biodiversity wine route.
Meanwhile, the region is also home to the ‘Route 62 wine route’, thought to be the longest such route in the world, with more than 70 wine stops where travelers can join in the tasting, take part in adventure sports, go sightseeing and more.
And now is the time to really open up such wonderful destinations to the world, says Van Schalkwyk.
South Africa needs to safeguard against international economic volatility from factors such as demand and foreign currency fluctuations, the minister explained.
“And wine tourism offers the most natural way for us to do just that.”
It’s hoped that wine tourism will also play a part in helping the country increase the geograophic spread of its tourism, which is right now centered on its beaches and safari options. It’s hoped that South African’s beautiful wine growing regions will provide tourists with additional travel options.
“Wine tourism is vital if South Africa is to compete with growing destinations like Thailand, Brazil, Australia and Kenya,” said Van Schalkwyk.