If tourism in South Africa is to raise its contribution to GDP, expand economic opportunity and accelerate inclusive growth, it will have to tackle the issue of sustainability head-on, says Margi Biggs, convenor of the annual Wine & Food Tourism Conference.
“That’s why sustainability will be a central feature of this year’s conference in September. It is also why we are introducing a sustainable tourism category to our associated Wine & Food Tourism Awards. Called the WWF Conservation Leadership Award, it raises the number of categories in which wine and food tourism practitioners can compete from three to four.”
The other categories are for the authentic South African experience, for service excellence that contributes to memorable experiences and for innovation in concepts, products and services. The organisers are calling for submissions now, with entries accepted until 22 May. Entries will be assessed by a panel of seasoned experts chaired by Jean-Pierre Rossouw, publisher of Rossouw’s Restaurants and the Platter’s South African Wine Guide.
Biggs said the newest award, sponsored by WWF South Africa through funding provided by Pamela and Neville Isdell, was intended to emphasise the critical role of eco and social sustainability in the development and execution of a new generation of relevant, appealing and competitive travel offerings.
“With the rising awareness of over-tourism, the global trend is towards lesser-known travel destinations and in that sense, South Africa has an advantage. Nevertheless, if we are to remain at the top of our game, our wine and food tourism sector must ensure an array of transformative experiences that travellers know to be responsibly conceived and provided. Increasingly, tourists want to contribute to local efforts to promote biodiversity and protect communities.
“Rather than seeking out arm’s length experiences from the seats of their air-conditioned vehicles, they want a greater sense of participation – from volunteerism to making or doing things with community members in ways that are regenerative and that support the circular economy.
WWF-SA’s Shelly Fuller said: “Today’s travellers want to be the creator, producer and teller of their own personal sustainability stories and South Africa has a wealth of outlets for such expression. There are so many fine examples of projects to rehabilitate and protect indigenous habitat, to conserve cultural practices and traditions and to revitalise marginal communities, and many of them involve local wine and food.
“By allowing tourists to participate more directly in these initiatives, we help them forge their own narratives in refreshingly exciting and memorable ways. WWF-SA’s role is to support and reward initiatives that work towards restoring balance and reinforcing the planet’s natural defences. We are delighted to be partnering with the conference in celebrating South African excellence in sustainable tourism.”
Biggs said that up to three honorees would be named for each Wine & Food Tourism Award category. “As far as the sustainability category is concerned, I can think of no greater accolade for sustainability award honorees than to be endorsed by WWF-SA, earning each of them the title of WWF Conservation Leader.”
She added that in a further boost to the conference and its awards, WESGRO would be championing the award for the authentic South African experience category honorees. “WESGRO has been a strong supporter of the conference since its inception five years ago, recognising the value of tourism for the Western Cape economy. This competition category is intended to celebrate the expression of local culture through food and wine in original and fully immersive ways.”
The title of this year’s Wine & Food Tourism Conference, to be held on 30 September, is The Next Decade: Sales, Segmentation and Sustainability. For more information or to register, go to https://wineandfood.co.za/register/.