If there’s one lesson we can all take from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that a lot can change in a year and certainly, a lot can change in two years.
While many industries have been hit hard by the global pandemic, the tea tourism industry is singing a different tune with the rooibos farming showing a potential to become a new engine of growth for the local economy.
According to spokesperson for the SA Rooibos Council, Adele du Toit, the pandemic has turned everyone’s focus to “healthier living, which has fuelled a resurgence in tea consumption and exploring the unique regions where tea or tisanes are produced.”
She said travellers are starting to switch “sun-and-sand” vacations with new, niche travel experiences that interest them, and beverage tourism, which encompasses tea, coffee, wine, whiskey and beer tourism, all fall under the same umbrella.
“Globally, this trend has led to once dilapidated tea planter’s bungalows and houses being restored and turned into boutique hotels and lodges. Here, tea-lovers can enjoy a tranquil stay, away from the city surrounded by nature, while learning more about their favourite brew,” she said.
She added that from an economic perspective, tea tourism is promising a great potential and the market is sustainable and green.
“Most of these tea estates are 100+ years old, so staying there and learning about its history, tea culture and heritage is a unique experience in and of itself. When you go on a tea tour, a whole new world starts to unfold. It takes you inside a century-old community that has been farming and processing tea for generations,” she said.
Co-founder of the Rooibos Route, Sanet Stander said they’ve seen an uptick in international travel to the area and are booking more Rooibos tours. “We’ve hosted tourists from all over the world, but there’s been an influx of German and Swiss tourists of late, and as locals have searched for secluded spots during the pandemic, Clanwilliam has become a favourite among South Africans too.
“Gone are the days when guests would be happy with just sightseeing and a comfortable stay. The new crop of tourists love being part of adventurous, unexplored activities, and tea tourism ticks all these boxes,” she said.