The winelands town of Stellenbosch in the Western Cape is positioning itself as the business tourism destination of choice by harnessing new environments, spaces and experiences in a concerted effort to grow demand while adapting to new business models and opening up opportunities for communities to directly benefit from the potential of business travel.
This was conceptualised late last month when Visit Stellenbosch hosted a business travel conference under the banner ‘Meet Stellenbosch,’ bringing together travel and event professionals and tourism stakeholders, representatives from Stellenbosch University, entrepreneurs and hospitality partners.
“We are positioning Stellenbosch as a business tourism destination of choice,” said Jeanneret Momberg, CEO of Visit Stellenbosch. “Globally, research has shown that second-tier destinations are preferred for business travel. Stellenbosch fits this bill perfectly, providing the perfect environment for business, leisure and bleisure travel. Stellenbosch was named one of the 100 most-loved destinations in the world, showing our recognition on the world stage, and is renowned for its scenic beauty, iconic food and wine scene, adventure, culture and heritage experiences.
“The definition of authentic travel is much debated, but let’s accept that it boils down to experiencing a destination like a local. We want to inspire visitors to stay longer, do more and visit us again – and this includes business travellers. There is a huge tourism potential we can unlock in Stellenbosch to be shared with all our communities – we want to give everyone access to this promising niche market.”
Nicolette Booyens, Socio-Economic Development Specialist, agreed. “The solution to economic development is trade, not aid.”
She cited authentic experiences and new spaces for business travellers to travel authentically, even while on business. Experiences such as the Amazink restaurant in Kayamandi, Local is Lekker tour exploring four cultures in one day, dining with the locals, Gembe drumming, exploring Kayamandi on foot, the very popular Stellenbosch wine walks and the Journey of Hope and Healing will immerse visitors into the local communities and bring traveller foot-traffic back.
“The biggest reason why SMMEs don’t succeed in South Africa is that they can’t access formal markets,” said Booyens. “The basic principle of the Stellenbosch Township and Village Experience is to give access.”
She said the initiative’s aim was to direct tourism income from the formal tourism market towards community-based enterprises, stimulating the development of local trade and employment.
Keynote speaker at ‘Meet Stellenbosch’ Social Justice Chair at Stellenbosch University, Thuli Madonsela, echoed these sentiments when she talked about “bouncing forward” instead of bouncing back, as not all communities have rebounded like others.
“COVID-19 is not the first black swan event and it certainly won’t be the last. The question becomes: how prepared are we?”
Martin Hiller, Creative and Content Director: Travel, Tourism and Creative Industries RX Africa, said savvy MICE destinations would harness 2022 as the year of hybrid experiences. Destinations will need to showcase “new ways to access shared experiences, as today’s hybrid events combine the best of both worlds”.
Monique Swart, Founder of African Business Travel Association, said it was possible to put travellers first and keep tabs on corporate budgets as the two concepts were “not two opposing forces”.
Swart said the needs of business travellers – personalisation, sanitisation, personal connection and sustainability – fitted into the authentic travel narrative. If done right, it even created the potential to connect the business traveller with the community.
Peter-John Mitrovich, CEO of Grosvenor Tours, agreed, saying that to create and offer beyond-the-norm meeting experiences that inspired, we needed to put the stories in the right place and echo them. Whether business travel or leisure travel or a mix of both, “the pulse of a town is what makes you stay”.
“For travel bookers and business travellers, we have developed a user-friendly website and online tool to facilitate accommodation bookings and programmes curated for your conference or meeting. It’s a one-stop shop to navigate the extensive array of options and capitalise on enjoying our diverse range of experiences,” concluded Momberg.