Growth in bookings in the wine and food tourism sector in 2018 surpassed that of previous years, with operators indicating growth of over 60%.

Operators attribute this to improved local offerings, with more authentic and tailor-made experiences for specific travellers.

Food is at the heart of the South African tourism offering, says Barba Gaoganediwe, Gauteng Tourism Authority’s Head of Destination Promotions and Marketing. “Memories are stronger when linked to food. It delivers an intense experience that is remembered long after tourists return home.”

Lana Carls, Niche Tourism Co-ordinator of Wesgro, says each source market has its own preference when it comes to foodie experiences. “These experiences are packaged according to market insights. The key is for the experience to have an authenticity and local ‘flavour’. One of the reasons the Cape Malay cooking courses are so popular is because of the cultural attachment to the experience.” ‘Dining with a local’ experiences in areas like Kayamandi and Khayelitsha are examples of this.

Authentic South African food like the kota (hollowed out bread with chips) in Soweto or bunny chow (bread with curry) in Durban or mogudu (tripe) are important elements of the foodie experience, as this is what transforms it into a cultural experience, with the opportunity to share stories and recipes, says Gaoganediwe.

A good foodie experience has to be tailor-made to the individual or group but it also needs to include a little unexpected extra, says Angela Lacovazzo, Head of Global Sales and Product Development of Touchdown DMC.

Operators need to keep abreast of new offerings, trends, and products to build on their food experiences, she says. “It also helps to ensure the experience highlights the quality of our locally grown produce and creativity of our chefs.”

There is a return to showcasing local produce (as opposed to flaunting fancy imports), says Sharon Hunnink, Sales and Marketing Manager of Indaba Hotel. “Food offers the opportunity to not just delight the traveller but also show the diversity of South Africa and to educate tourists, she says. “There is also a focus on sustainability and awareness around wastage.”

Good foodie experiences are multi-sensory, says Lisa Goosen, CEO of Tintswalo Lodges. “This can be anything from waves crashing at one’s feet to breath-taking scenery overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, to being immersed in the experience of the nocturnal sounds and smells of the bush, with game passing by. It is about seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling and tasting.”