Wine tourism in its current form will have to change post-COVID-19, and to survive in the short to medium term it will also need to appeal to a wider audience, including the domestic market.

That was one of the key takeaways from the second session of a webinar series titled, ‘The Future of Wine Tourism’ hosted this week by destination management and tourism marketing agency, Destinate.

Founder of Destinate, Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold, said the domestic market would be the first to recover but that this market’s expectations of travel and tourism would have changed due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

She asked the panellists how to breach the current disconnect between the wine industry and the domestic market.

South African actor and co-founder of the Nero Wine Club, Thapelo Mokoena, said the wine industry needed to make its tourism offerings a relatable experience. “We need to be simpler and more human about wine. Stripping it down to the truth and making it relatable to the average South African.”

He said his objective with Nero was to make wine a relatable topic to mainly black South Africans in an authentic way. “Right now more than ever, we realise we need each other and we need to connect wine tourism to a human story.”

Professor at Rosen College of Hospitality Management in Florida, Robin Back, said it was important to market wine tourism in a way in which the domestic market would be comfortable. “So often the wine industry is its own worst enemy in making wine an intimidating topic and we do need to bring it back down to earth for the average consumer.”

CEO of La Motte and Leopard's Leap wines, Hein Koegelenberg, agreed with Back. “We do make wine a complex topic when it shouldn’t be. We are going to have to work with the local tourism bodies to develop special packages to make wine tourism appealing after the lockdown,” said Koegelenberg.

“The impact of COVID-19 will mean that we will have to make packages for smaller, more intimate groups that follow all-important health measures, and are within the financial reach of the domestic market.”