Tea tourism shows huge potential as a growth engine for the South African economy


Few industries have been hit as hard by the pandemic as the travel and tourism sector, but fortuitously it has given a boost to tea tourism worldwide. Adele du Toit, spokeswoman for the SA Rooibos Council (Sarc), said the pandemic has turned everyone’s attention to healthier living, which has fueled a resurgence in tea drinking and exploration of the regions. unique places where tea or herbal teas are produced.

“Globally, this trend has led to the restoration of once dilapidated bungalows and tea planter houses as boutique hotels and lodges. Here, tea lovers can enjoy a tranquil stay away from of the city surrounded by nature, while learning more about their favorite tea brew.

“Most of these tea plantations are over 100 years old, so staying there and learning more about its history, culture and heritage is a unique experience in itself. When you go on a tea tour, a whole new world begins to unfold, taking you into a century-old community that has been growing and processing tea for generations.

“From an economic point of view, tea tourism has great prospects. The market has huge potential, and it is sustainable and green.

“Travellers are beginning to swap ‘sun and sand’ vacations for new niche travel experiences that appeal to them, and beverage tourism, which encompasses tea, coffee, wine, whiskey/whisky and beer, all fall under the same umbrella,” noted du Toit.

Each year, tourism contributes around R130 billion (3%) to South Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) and provides employment for 4.5% of the population. The number of tourists fell by 72.6%, from 10.2 million in 2019 to 2.8 million in 2020.

Local economic growth

Du Toit believes that combining rooibos cultivation with tourism can become a new engine of growth for the local economy, which in turn could help create jobs and reduce poverty.

“The registration of rooibos as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) in the EU last year has heightened awareness among major tea-drinking countries in Europe of the origins of rooibos and the fact that it is unique and only grows in the Cederberg region of the Western Cape.News of its health benefits has also increased demand for the herbal tea.

Sanet Stander, co-founder of the Rooibos Route (established several years ago to promote tourism in Clanwilliam) says he has seen an increase in international travel to the area and is booking more Rooibos tours.

“We have welcomed tourists from all over the world, but there has been an influx of German and Swiss tourists lately, and as locals have sought secluded places during the pandemic, Clanwilliam has also become a favorite among South Africans. .

“The days when guests were content with just sightseeing and a comfortable stay are over. The new generation of tourists like to be a part of adventurous and unexplored activities, and tea tourism ticks all those boxes.”

Stander says the concept of a Rooibos Route came to life after being inundated with questions from tourists about Rooibos at the local Rooibos Teahouse, a boutique restaurant where tourists can sample more than 100 varieties of Rooibos. “We realized that an itinerary could add significant value to the tourist experience, and it does.

“Since 2014, we have welcomed many local and foreign tourists, and we look forward to welcoming more to our beautiful region,” she says.

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