It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected the tourism industry in South Africa. But one Western Cape wine farm has used digital innovation and adapted to the pandemic by creating virtual wine tasting experiences and tours.
La Motte Wine Estate, located in the Franschhoek valley, has leveraged digital technology to cope with the needs of the time.
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The estate has seen a surge in online orders for its wine, which resulted in it bolstering its e-commerce store. Customers are able to order wine, but also items from the La Motte Farm Shop (which includes gifts and decor).
But one of its most innovative offerings is the introduction of virtual wine tastings.
Virtual wine tastings
Virtual wine tastings give customers the social experience of typical tastings, while enabling social distancing.
These tastings act as a virtual version of the estate’s tutored wine tasting experience. A La Motte Wine Tasting Ambassador hosts the virtual session.
Meanwhile, customers enjoy their wine from home — with the option to have it delivered by a courier. At the time of the tasting, those attending are taken through the different wines and invited to give their opinions.
Werner Briedenhann, Experiences Facilities Manager at La Motte and Leopard’s Leap, says that the virtual wine tastings were first introduced in June 2020.
“Although the take-up was slow, it is getting increasingly popular as people are allowed to get together and book the tasting as an activity for a group of friends or a birthday party,” he told Memeburn.
Customers can choose to specifically book a virtual tasting of different collections. However, they also qualify for a free virtual tasting when ordering 12 bottles online within South Africa.
Even when the pandemic passes, virtual tastings will continue as an offering from the estate.
“Our core focus from a tourism perspective is of course hospitality at the estate, but virtual wine tasting is a crucial add-on as it allows us to take the experience to the customer,” Briedenhann says.
He notes that it offers a personalised introduction to the wines. Meanwhile, supporters from overseas are also able to enjoy the virtual experience.
You can make a reservation for a virtual tasting on the La Motte website.
Additional virtual experiences at the Western Cape wine farm
The virtual approach to traditional Western Cape wine farm experiences continues to expand at La Motte.
According to Briedenhann, the estate added additional experience options for customers.
“Since introducing the virtual wine tastings, we have also introduced interactive virtual experiences for our art and culture offering – virtual art tours and experiences, virtual historic walks and virtual sculpture walks,” he says.
“The point of difference is that these experiences (similar to the tastings) are interactive and tailored according to the guest’s expectations or special requests.”
Rather than watching a pre-recorded session, customers tune in live and can interact with the host.
Meanwhile, interest in ordering wine online has also continued even as restrictions loosen in South Africa.
“It seems that South Africans’ hesitancy to order wine online has also been addressed and people are more open to using the platform,” Briedenhann says.
Where to from now?
While a vaccine is in sight for 2021, the digital shift seen in 2020 will continue to impact businesses.
And as South Africa faces a potential second wave, innovation will be essential for businesses’ survival.
Microsoft South Africa has highlighted the many ways that digital technology can be an essential tool.
“Digital technology is one way in which organisations are able to adapt and thrive, to respond to and recover from challenges and to reimagine ways of working,” Amr Kamel, Enterprise Director at Microsoft South Africa, said in a statement highlighting La Motte’s approach.
“Focusing on building digital resilience will help businesses stay relevant, regain competitiveness, and drive economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic.”
He adds that a broad range of industries needs to innovate, not only tourism. Very few sectors remain unaffected by the pandemic.
“Industries have no choice but to adapt and transform their businesses to ensure business continuity and success,” Kamel says.
He notes the willingness of local companies to reimagine their businesses to adapt to the times.
Feature image: La Motte