A tablet and laptop displaying an online conference
Image by Lynette Coulston from Pixabay.

Hybrid Conference To Address Post-COVID-19 Tourism Recovery

The global coronavirus pandemic has changed the way that professionals gather to confer on industry issues, making hybrid conferences the new norm, with surprising benefits.

South African event organiser, Margi Biggs, convenor of the Wine & Food Tourism Conference, now in its fifth year, explains: “Given the ongoing pandemic volatility and the way second-wave infections are breaking out in many parts of the world, it makes sense to offer the conference in a hybrid format. For those who want to attend the physical version of the event, they can join us in person in the Overberg. However, the digital option is available to anyone wanting to register. All overseas speakers will present digitally.

“Thanks to our lead sponsor, Wesgro, the conference can serve as a key tool in helping local wine and food tourism providers to revitalise their businesses. They will learn from seasoned authorities to become more Covid-19 resilient. They will also hear how to remain robust, focused and flexible in responding to expected changes in values and behaviours that could affect travel, purchasing, consumption and the environment,” says Biggs.

Wine strategist and futurist Paul Mabray, arguably the most pivotal international force in wine e-commerce, is one of two headline speakers at this year’s conference to be simultaneously convened online and physically at Benguela Cove Lagoon Wine Estate in Hermanus on 2 December.

Paul Mabray
Paul Mabray

The California-based pioneer has spent the past two decades focusing on how to maximise marketing, sales and communication reach online. Mabray will share the podium with Miles Kubheka, a well-known South African entrepreneur and restaurateur.

“Paul Mabray is world-renowned for driving wine e-commerce and building social media and social customer relationship management strategies,” says Biggs. “We know how vital online communication and selling have been during the lockdown. We look forward to learning from him how to advance and finesse our digital initiatives in an increasingly competitive space.

Miles Kubheka
Miles Kubheka

“Miles Kubheka has shown himself to be inventive, nimble and adept. He is an inspiration for how to successfully adapt to South Africa’s fast-changing environment, where thinking on your feet is only part of the story. He understands how great concepts must be backed by outstanding follow-through. He has much to tell us about how to participate more fully and effectively in the country’s food eco-system.”

Another of the speakers will be Wesgro (the official Tourism, Trade and Investment Promotion Agency for Cape Town and the Western Cape) CEO Tim Harris, who will identify challenges and opportunities to be navigated over the next decade. “The events and wine industries have been amongst the worst hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. One bright spot, however, is how the virus has accelerated the pace of digital transformation. Digital platforms as such as the Cape Export Network that was recently launched by Wesgro to promote the country’s wine exports globally, and this conference, featuring some top-line specialists in tourism, help pave the way to doing business in a world where we embrace new opportunities,” says Harris.

Shelly Fuller, a conservation ecologist and WWF-SA’s programme manager: sustainable fruit and wine projects, will talk about the role and impact of her organisation on sustainability in local tourism. André Morgenthal, a wine communicator who was instrumental in putting South Africa’s much-praised Old Vine Project on the global map, will be joined by celebrated winemaker Trizanne Barnard and environmental activist Diony Lalieu, whose Ocean Pledge is driving ocean clean-up projects. Their focus will be on how to take meaningful sustainability measures that earn consumer loyalty and support.

Winemaker Trizanne Barnard
Winemaker Trizanne Barnard

Other speakers include trends specialist, composer and problem-solver, Peter Greenwall, who will talk about disrupting local wine and hospitality tourism. Petra Mayer, who represents Wines of South Africa (WOSA) in Germany, will be highlighting what German tourists seek in their tourism experiences at the Cape, while Romanella Paggi of Ketek Events and Tourism in Mendoza, Argentina, will reflect on best practice in her region. VinPro tourism manager Marisah Nieuwoudt will address how best to ensure the longevity of wine tourism at the Cape. Catherine Leparmentier Dayot, who is based in Bordeaux as MD of the Great Wine Capitals Global Network will discuss how the South African wine industry can leverage on Cape Town’s membership of this network.

The conference will also showcase the 2020 Wine & Food Tourism Awards honourees. Local delegates can opt to include a virtual tasting of wines from the recently demarcated Agulhas Wine Triangle as part of the day.

Virtual access to the day-long event is affordably priced for both South African residents and international online delegates. The cost for delegates who wish to attend the conference in person is somewhat higher as it includes wine tasting onsite. Strict health and safety measures will be in place at the venue; Benguela Cove Lagoon Wine Estate near Hermanus in the Overberg with a maximum of 100 delegates in the room.

For more information on the conference and programme, or to register as an online or physical delegate, visit www.wineandfood.co.za.

Red wine glasses being clinked