Wine tasting in South Africa is one of the niche tourism opportunities that may be hampered by closing-time regulations on tasting venues.

Regulations should be amended to allow tasting rooms to stay open later, said a panelist at the SA Tourism round-table discussion at ITB Berlin, which took place from March 6 to 10.

Enver Duminy, CEO of Cape Town Tourism, consequently told Tourism Update that “while early hours are mandated for closure for wine tasting rooms, visitors can generally continue to enjoy tasting wines in the adjoining restaurants many wine farms have available. Wine tasting in designated rooms takes place from 11h00 to 18h00 in order to remain compliant with the regulations.”

He did, however, say that there would be added benefits to relaxing regulations, especially the time limitations. “Wineries would have more capacity to make a profit with longer opening hours; more visitors could enjoy our wine experiences; and, potentially, more jobs could be created to meet the demands of an increase in business.”

Marisah Nieuwoudt, Wine Tourism Manager of Vinpro, commented: “From a tourism perspective, longer trading hours for wineries could certainly lead to the development of innovative visitor experiences such as night-time harvest experiences, full moon tastings etc. that happen outside of the restaurant or function venue. In summer, in particular, there is a need from our European visitors, when it is lighter and cooler in the early evening, for later tastings.”

Boosting the SA wine sector

A number of factors are bolstering the positive growth that is being seen in the wine tourism sector, said Nieuwoudt. “At a national level, ‘food and wine’ is one of South African Tourism’s five marketing pillars for the country, which means that our offering is messaged strongly in campaigns and promotional activities. On a provincial level, we enjoy great support as a priority sector in the Provincial Government of the Western Cape’s project Khulisa, straddling the agri-processing and tourism sectors, which have both been earmarked for stimulus as well as Wesgro’s ‘food and wine’ segment focus in both business and leisure tourism marketing.”

Globally, travel trends show a growing need for authentic food and wine experiences, “a call that we are well placed to answer as destination with a wine tourism offering of exceptional quality and diversity that is accessible and well-organised through established wine routes”, says Niewoudt.

Strategy and marketing

Cape Town Tourism along with other organisations such as Wesgro are incorporating wine marketing into their tourism business development strategies, says Duminy. “There’s immense value in drawing attention to our award-winning wines and wine-related tourism experiences."

Nieuwoudt concluded: “A key focus area of Vinpro’s Wine Tourism Strategy is on visitor experience development. This programme will see the organisation, along with the South African Wine Routes Forum (SAWRF) and public sector partners, identify opportunities for and barriers to growth for wine tourism, including legislation, and address these through consultation with industry, advocacy and lobbying. Vinpro is currently busy developing a Wine Tourism Industry Toolkit for which they are reviewing the legislation applicable to the tourism services of wineries and the impact that they may have on the industry’s business operations and the visitor experience.”