“There’s nothing like a crisis to focus the mind,” remarked tourism doyenne Margi Biggs, convenor of the Wine & Food Tourism Awards, now in their second year. She was speaking at the announcement of this year’s honourees.

“When the entire premise of your business is pulled out from under you, you either focus fast or you fail.  The nine honourees of 2020 have each in their own way demonstrated a remarkable agility, creativity and dynamism in responding to the constraints imposed by Covid-19.”

What was very encouraging, she said, was that this year’s line-up had comprised a combination of both emergent and established tourism providers from Cape Town to Stellenbosch, Somerset West, Franschhoek, the Swartland and Overberg. “This suggests that the resilience and tourism excellence encountered by the judges was not limited to a specific region or type of tourist provider. We think it bodes well for the future of this country’s wine and food tourism industry.”

Panel judging chair, Jean-Pierre Rossouw, publisher of Rossouw’s Restaurants and the Platter’s South African Wine Guide said what had been particularly noteworthy was how the setbacks precipitated by the pandemic had not held back tourism providers from innovating. “On the contrary, they have continued to improve their offerings, make themselves more accessible and to raise standards in their execution. It says a lot about their willingness and capacity to adapt.”

Looking ahead, Rossouw advised tourism providers to concentrate on three key elements to not merely stay afloat but to flourish in these persistently uncertain times. “Step one is to revisit your core customer promise or your point of difference. Ask yourself: are you still happy that your business does this well? Is what you do sufficiently unique or relevant?

“Secondly, when you are clear on your core promise, reconnect with your key markets – your fans, your mailing list and your return customers. Remind them of who you are and what you offer. They are essentially your ambassadors and thus your best “marketers”.  Make a point of inviting them to return in person or to reconnect with you through your other communication channels.

“And lastly, make absolutely sure all your first points of contact, from your website to your telephone lines, your e-mail, or indeed your front door, reflect clearly who and what you are and what you stand for. And then do everything you can to ensure that what your customers perceive about you is consistent with the image you want to portray.”  

The 2020 honourees in each category were:

The Vinpro Award for The Authentic South African Experience

  • AA Badenhorst Family Wines, Swartland
  • Leopard’s Leap, Franschhoek
  • Upper Bloem Restaurant, Cape Town

Innovation

  • Benguela Cove, Walker Bay, Overberg
  • Creation Wines, Hemel en Aarde, Overberg
  • La Motte, Franschhoek

WWF Conservation Leaders

  • La Motte, Franschhoek
  • Spier, Stellenbosch
  • Vergelegen, Somerset West

Given lockdown constraints this year, it was not be possible to keep the category for service excellence. For obvious reasons, judges were not able to visit competing establishments, nor could they evaluate service levels.  This is a temporary situation and the category will be restored when conditions in the industry normalise. 

The judging panel included marketing specialists Su Birch, Mac Mabidilala and Steve Massey, Belinda Lamprecht (luxury travel), Glen Christie (luxury hospitality), Pearl Oliver (sommelier), Nancy Richards (environmental and lifestyle journalist), Janet Pillai (strategist, academic and travel entrepreneur), Darryl Earl David (academic and heritage conservation activist) and Maryna Callow (wine communications).