Travel trade in the Western Cape recorded 60% growth year-on-year in food and wine tour bookings for 2018, despite a very challenging year for the industry due to the drought.

This is according to research, targeted at tour operators and destination marketers, and conducted by Wesgro in partnership with Explore Sideways.

The study was compiled with the assistance of 30 tour operations in the Western Cape, selected for their expertise and experience in working with local and foreign tourists.

The final report included the profile of tourists requesting wine and food tours, spend patterns, preferred wine regions, key booking criteria, and sustainability and technology in the food and wine industry.

“Tourism niches such as ‘food and wine’ tourism are key to job creation; especially because they promote geographic spread of tourism across the Western Cape. The results of this study, and last week’s announcement that the Cape Winelands was selected as one of Lonely Planet’s top 10 best value destinations for 2020, are testament to the performance of the food and wine tourism industry,” says CEO of Wesgro Tim Harris.

He notes that Wesgro will continue to support initiatives in this sector and explore opportunities with partners and stakeholders such as Vinpro, WOSA (Wines of South Africa) and the numerous wine routes of the Western Cape.

"Research like this is incredibly valuable to the tourism, hospitality and wine industries. It helps us make informed decisions about our business objectives and marketing strategies. There's a growing interest in immersive authentic experiences with insider knowledge and private guides. The UK and US still make up a large percentage of the market. Franschhoek and Stellenbosch are still the top destinations for food and wine enthusiasts," says Ian Haggie, Business Development Manager at private tour specialist Explore Sideways.

“The tourism sector remains the backbone of the Western Cape economy, supporting over 300 000 direct and indirect jobs in our province alone. So it is promising to see that the food and wine tourism industry grew over the last year, despite the drought. This is a testament to the level of service excellence delivered by those working in this sector,” says David Maynier, Western Cape Minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities.