Building a destination brand

Introducing the Elgin Agritourism Route

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The Elgin Agritourism Route is the first in South Africa and presents an opportunity to sustainably grow Elgin’s existing tourism potential. The leveraging of the strengths of collective marketing of agritourism offerings and services has been successful worldwide, especially in Italy, Canada and New Zealand. The benefits include increasing the length of stay, offering a wider variety of activities and distributing economic benefits across a larger spatial area.

The Elgin Valley lies 70 km southeast of Cape Town, just beyond the Hottentots Holland Mountains. One of the more intensively farmed districts of South Africa, the Valley produces approximately 60% of the national apple crop. In the 1980s the Elgin valley farmers started growing vines successfully, and the area is now South Africa’s coolest climate wine-growing region, largely due to its high altitude.

Elgin has an interesting agricultural history. The town of Grabouw was founded in 1856. My parents were farm managers of Palmiet River Farm, owned by fruit pioneer Kathleen Murray, who planted her first apple orchard in 1915 at the age of 24. Kathleen started without any farming experience or finance, but she was fiercely determined. Other pioneers included Sir Antonie Viljoen, the Moltenos and the Moodies. Included in the Route is the Elgin Apple Museum which documents the history of the valley.

I have been fortunate to witness the development of the Elgin Valley into a multi-activity tourist destination. Today there is the Elgin Valley Market in a converted old apple warehouse in a railway-side setting. A regular steam train service operates between Cape Town and the Elgin Valley Market, an experience that I thoroughly enjoyed. Each of the wineries have their own unique tastings, which attracts a large following of regular wine buyers.

The advantage of the Elgin Agritourism Route is that there are many different accommodation offerings for visitors to extend their stay into a relaxed holiday break. I was particularly impressed by the first Cycle Hotel in Africa. There are bicycles everywhere on the walls of the accommodation as Elgin has one of the foremost mountain bike routes in South Africa. Cycling along farm roads in this beautiful valley is a must. There are other attractions for the more adventurous and extreme-minded youngsters such as the Cape Canopy Tour, Suicide Gorge, stand-up paddle-boarding and kayaking.

For many of us who prefer a more relaxing visitor experience, a visit to the spectacularly situated South Hill Farm is a must. Owners Kevin and Sandy King pay exceptional attention to detail in every aspect of their agritourism experience. Apart from their delicious wines, they offer luxury accommodation, a function and wedding venue, an art gallery and a restaurant serving country tapas and platters.

The Elgin Agritourism Route owes its continued success to understanding the importance of a destination brand. Events play an important role, including the 2019 Elgin Cool Wine and Country Food Festival, the Overberg Wedding Fair, several cycling and trail run events, and the Elgin Open Gardens Festival.

Agritourism routes are successful because all agritourism farms have to be working farms that agree to a code of conduct and standards so visitors know what to expect. This is a world-wide USP of agritourism. Agritourism farms are recognised by their signage: an agritourism logo and the name of the farm. Agritourism routes include sub-sectors, for example, heritage or culture, an important differentiation because visitors have specific interests and needs. The agritourism category is increasing world-wide as visitors seek unique experiences at value for money prices. The farmers in the Elgin Valley run farming businesses and understand the importance of working together to create a destination. ¢

Jacqui Taylor, Founder & Managing Director, Agritourism South Africa 

Further information can be found on www.agritourismsouthafrica.comor from Elgin Tourism.

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