“Tea Tourism” – The new growth engine of 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 turning point to tea tourism worldwide.

Adele du Toit, spokesperson 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 planters’ houses and turned into boutique hotels and lodges. Here tea lovers can enjoy a quiet stay away from the city surrounded by nature while learning more about their favorite brew.

“Most of these tea plantations are over 100 years old, so staying there and learning 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. It takes you to a century-old community that has been growing and processing tea for generations.

Rooibos is only grown in the Cederberg region of the Western Cape and many of the farms over 150 years old are now a symbiotic mix of tourism and agriculture.

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

“Travelers are beginning to trade ‘sun and sand’ holidays with new niche travel experiences that appeal to them, and beverage tourism, which encompasses tea, coffee, wine, whisky/whisky and beverage tourism. 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.

Du Toit believes the combination of Rooibos farming 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 – the heart of Rooibos) says he has seen an increase in international travel to the region 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. .

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

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Skimmelberg Farm (Clanwilliam) offers regular Rooibos and Buchu tours. Visitors will be able to see these two plants as they occur naturally in the wild, how they are grown organically and sustainably, and enjoy a tea tasting that is sure to awaken all the senses.

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.

Here is a list of activities you can expect along the Rooibos Route:

· Learn how Rooibos is produced – from farm to cup (harvest season only, December to March). Skimmelberg offers educational tours of the Buchu and Rooibos farm, as well as tea tastings where you’ll learn about the different varieties and recommended brewing techniques.

· Rooibos heritage tours (history of Rooibos and the town of Clanwilliam).

· Sevilla Rock Art Tour, which includes a moderate 5 km hike to ten rock art sites dating from 1600 to 8000 years ago.

· Fynbos/Flower Tour, Biedouw Valley (go in the spring when the Cederberg is adorned with an immaculate floral display).

· Hike, jog, mountain bike and horseback ride through beautiful rugged landscapes.

· Go star gazing.

· Enjoy a boat cruise on the Clanwilliam Dam.

· Bouldering at Rocklands – a world class bouldering site.

· Bird watching.

· Let yourself be tempted by a Rooibos spa.

· Camp and/or picnic in the Cederberg.

· Mingle with the local community and learn about their life and culture, and how to dance Riel.

· Sup on Rooibos infused cuisine and appetizers.

Seville Rock Art Trails and Excursions from Cederberg Ridge Wilderness Lodge

Photo courtesy of Cederberg Ridge. The Cederberg is not only home to Rooibos, but is among the best sites in the world for rock art with some 2,500 documented sites.

Photos courtesy of Cederberg Ridge

The Cederberg Ridge Wilderness Lodge is an ideal base for exploring the region. They offer mountain biking, star gazing, boat cruises on the Clanwilliam Dam, Cederberg tours, rock art tours, as well as Rooibos and citrus farm tours.

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Photos courtesy of Cederberg Ridge

The Biedouw Valley in Clanwilliam is world famous for its breathtaking wildflowers in spring.

For more information on the Rooibos Route, visit www.rooibos-route.co.za

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