Last year, over 130 000 Chinese travellers visited the country, a growth of over 50% on 2011. Numbers are expected to rise significantly after Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Jacob Zuma jointly declared 2014 the “Year of South Africa” in China, at this year’s BRICS summit. Already new visa application centres have been opened in Beijing and Shanghai.
“Research shows that China is set to become the biggest market in the world for wine after the US. With the preference still very much for imported wines, now is the time for more South African producers to start capitalising on the growth in travel and the interest in wine.”
Brouwer, who has worked for South African Tourism in Asia since 2007 and currently has responsibility for the markets in China, Japan and Korea, was at Vergelegen in Helderberg to address guests attending the Great Wine Capitals Best of Wine Tourism Awards earlier today (November 27). Vergelegen was judged South Africa’s outright winner at the international Great Wine Capitals annual general meeting in California earlier this month (November).
He said local wineries should capitalise more on the benefits flowing from growing Chinese affluence and interest in world travel by becoming more attuned to the needs of these tourists.
“The same holds for Japanese and Korean travellers, who are increasing in number to South Africa. Last year Japanese travel to South Africa rose by 31% on 2011.”
Currently, China is number 14 on the list of South Africa’s wine export destinations. Japan is in 16th place. Sales to both are rising, with sales to China up 8% for the 12 months to September, 2013, and to Japan by 31%.
He said that just because tourists were on a tight schedule and didn’t necessarily spend much time at each winery they visited, it did not mean they were not interested in purchasing wine and other memorabilia.
“Visitors from Mainland China, for example, will generally travel for eight to 14 days. They come to South Africa for the scenic beauty, the culture, the history, the wildlife and, increasingly, for the wine and opportunity to play golf. They can accommodate no more than two wineries and they want to be hosted with efficiency and cultural respect. They want to taste, take pictures and buy wine, with the facilities readily available to courier their purchases back home. They are not interested in long narratives or being kept waiting.”
Visits to wineries generally lasted between 45 and 90 minutes, he said.
He stressed the importance of gearing up for large groups. “In the first quarter of 2014, for example, we have a group of 5 000 visitors to the Winelands within the space of a week. This is just the tip of the iceberg if the potential is managed correctly.”
Wineries could enhance their relationships with Asian visitors by providing take-away information in Mandarin for the Chinese, and translating such information into Japanese and Korean for consumers from these markets. “Giving tourism offices information in these languages would also help them in raising the media profile of South Africa and its wineries.”
Mainland China’s interest in celebrities and icons had prompted SA Tourism to regularly host high-profile personalities on visits to South Africa, ensuring they visited iconic spots like Table Mountain, Robben Island, Boulders Beach (to see the penguins), and the V&A Waterfront. “Local wineries have not yet acquired iconic status but by raising their media profile, especially through social media, this is possible.”
He urged wineries to focus not just on large-scale groups but on the increasing number of Asian tourists coming as family units. “Most Chinese couples have one child. Provide activities for the children and show them educational audio-visual material so they can learn about South African wine. They are your future consumers.”
He said the potential growth of the conferencing market was also significant. “Wineries may not be hosting the conferences but delegates will definitely be visiting wine farms as part of their itineraries.
Brouwer also urged wineries to acknowledge the customs of their visitors. “Never take a business card and put it in your pocket. Take it with both hands and do not put it away until your visitors have left. Avoid black or white or black and white packaging as these colours symbolise death, as does the number 4.”