Wine Glasses at the Ready!
All aboard the famous South African Franschhoek Wine Tram back on track following a six-month hiatus due to strict sanitary regulations in light of the Covid-19 pandemic — as was the case with many businesses across the globe who saw their activity shut down or negatively impacted by the global coronavirus health crisis.
David Blyth, owner and founder Franschhoek Wine Tram, explains the return to the business activity, "In February it was a thousand people a day. And today, on Saturday, we're doing 250. And this is the third Saturday we've been going, so the numbers are going up. They are going up. But we only work on the weekends, which is Saturday and Sunday."
During South Africa's lockdown, the total of 100 of the Franschhoek Wine Tram staff had to be put on unpaid leave for almost half a year. Just like the tram itself, the wine farms were also closed to customers for almost six months. A necessary evil that hurt the income of the associated business such as bars, restaurants and guest accommodation.
And now, passengers can now ride through South African wine country — sipping on a few glasses aboard and experiencing full-on wine tasting at designated farm stops along the route.
Sweety Roro, a local tourist, shares her excitement, " Ooo, it's fabulous. You know with COVID-19, being a healthcare worker, it's very difficult because you're in and out, you're either at work or at home. So being out definitely doing wonders with the fresh air, you know. Escaping the mask as much as we can. So it's fabulous. And we're slowly opening the economy. So it can only be good for us."
International Tourists are Wanting
However, with the nation’s borders still closed to the outside till October 1st, the lack of international tourists to partake in the activity sees only doùmestic visitors on the wine tasting trail. As such, in spite of the local market being good and the initial semblance of the return to normalcy, trade is far from being at pre-Covid 19 levels.
Dani van Velden, the Tasting Room Manager at Rickety Bridge wine farm, shares his insight into the situation, "Our biggest foot traffic is international tourists. Especially off the tram and the big groups that we get from the tour operators in Cape Town. Those are all international guests. We do have a small percentage of local families that come out for the day but definitely the borders being closed is terrible for us. Especially in this side of the valley."
The tram The wine tram — a popular solution for wine tasting and safe alcohol consumption, has a total of eight lines which circulate every half hour, but only four are currently in operation.
Franschhoek, known for its many wine farms, art galleries and upscale restaurants, is one of the most popular tourist hotspots in South Africa.