Wine & Food Tourism Awardees Show Pandemic Resilience

Des Langkilde
5 min readSep 30, 2020
Leopard’s Leap kitchen staff preparing authentic South African cuisine
Leopard’s Leap chefs preparing authentic South African cuisine.

The capacity to quickly adapt to, and recover from, the global coronavirus pandemic appears to be a common denominator amongst this years’ Wine & Food Tourism Award honourees.

Speaking at the announcement of this year’s nine award honourees, Margi Biggs, convenor of the Wine & Food Tourism Awards, now in its second year, said that there’s nothing like a crisis to focus the mind.

According to Biggs, the after-shock on tourism brought about by the Covid19 pandemic should not be taken as a signal of defeat. “As traumatic and disruptive as the effects have been on the entire tourism industry supply chain, there is a lot we can do to improve our offerings, their accessibility and the way they are executed. The show can and must go on, albeit in a different way. South Africans are remarkably resilient and responsive to change. Time and again we’ve proved to be survivalists. Now, if we accept that domestic tourism will take precedence and we remain calm and focused, opportunities will prevail.” she said.

Hands holding a La Motte hiking trail map with scenic wine farm view
A scenic view of the award-winning La Motte hiking trail in Franschhoek.

An initiative of the Wine & Food Tourism Conference held annually in Stellenbosch, Cape Town, the awards aim to inspire and promote local wine, food and hospitality in a variety of categories. These include the authentic South African experience, innovation in concepts, products and services, and their newest category, the WWF Conservation Leadership Award.

“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 remarkable agility, creativity and dynamism in responding to the constraints imposed by Covid-19,” said Biggs.

Margi Biggs presenting the Innovation Award trophy to Penny Streeter of Benguela Cove
Margi Biggs presenting the Innovation Award trophy to Penny Streeter of Benguela Cove.

This year’s line-up 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,” said Biggs. “We think it bodes well for the future of this country’s wine and food tourism industry.”

The 2020 Wine & Food Tourism Award honourees in each category are:

The Vinpro Award for The Authentic South African Experience

This award acknowledges original initiatives that create authentic South African experiences in which individuals can fully immerse themselves, and at the same time promote our cultural heritage through food and wine.

The 2020 awardees are:

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

Innovation Award

This award recognises outstanding and original innovation in concepts, products or services that make a valuable contribution, offer unique experiences and boost food and/or wine tourism in South Africa.

The 2020 awardees are:

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

WWF Conservation Leaders Award

This award, sponsored by WWF South Africa through funding provided by Pamela and Neville Isdell, celebrates those wineries that consistently minimise their environmental footprint in all aspects of their operations, from vineyard management and wine production to tourism offerings.

The 2020 awardees are:

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

Spier wine farm staff member receiving the 2020 Wine & Food Tourism award trophy
The sustainability project manager, Wilton Sikhosana, receiving Spiers’ WWF Conservation Leaders Award trophy from Shelly Fuller of WWF South Africa.

Given lockdown constraints this year, no honourees were selected for the service excellence category. “The judges were not able to visit competing establishments, nor could they evaluate service levels,” said Biggs. “This is a temporary situation and the category will be restored when conditions in the industry normalise.”

Watch the 2020 honourees receiving their awards in the video clip above.

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).

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

Vergelegen Wine Estate staff showing off their 2020 Wine & Food Tourism award trophy
Proudly displaying their award at Vergelegen Wine Estate (from L to R): Andre van Rensburg (winemaker), Sharon Hosking (hospitality manager), Wayne Coetzer (MD) and Leslie Naidoo (commercial manager).

Looking ahead, Rossouw advised tourism providers to concentrate on three key steps 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?

“Step two is to be clear on your core promise when reconnecting 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 step three is to make absolutely sure all your first points of contact, from your website to your telephone lines, your e-mail, or even 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,” said Rossouw.

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Des Langkilde

Travel & Motoring Journalist specialising in Africa.