Rooibos can help attract more tourists to SA


The Western Cape wine routes have a new competitor: the rooibos tea route.

Globally, the so-called wellness tourism sector is experiencing unprecedented growth as tourists increasingly prioritize health, relaxation and self-care in their travel experiences.

The wellness travel market in Africa is currently valued by experts at around $89.56 billion, and it is expected to grow to $114.24 billion by 2029.

The top three provinces attracting foreign and domestic travelers for health and wellness experiences – including holidays and spa retreats – are KwaZulu-Natal (12.9%), Mpumalanga (14%) and the Western Cape (45.2%).

According to the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), wellness tourism is growing by 6.5% annually. The wellness tourism rate is currently twice the growth rate for tourism in general.

Adele du Toit, spokesperson for the SA Rooibos Council (SARC), says South Africa’s breathtaking landscape, vibrant culture and rich biodiversity are well placed to emerge as a leading African wellness tourism destination. “One asset that stands out is rooibos – a powerful botanical treasure unique to the country.”

According to Du Toit, rooibos offers a valuable opportunity for South Africa to differentiate itself in the competitive wellness tourism market. “By including rooibos in spa treatments, wellness retreats and culinary experiences, South African businesses can offer tourists a unique and authentic taste of local wellness traditions.”

Rooibos is already known for its antioxidant properties and numerous other health benefits that include boosting immunity and heart health to reducing stress. Worldwide, rooibos has gained a following among wellness enthusiasts who seek natural remedies for modern ailments. It has also become a symbol of well-being and rejuvenation.

Refuges in rooibos plantations

“Health retreats between rooibos plantations offer tourists a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the tranquility of nature while relaxing thanks to rooibos spa treatments, yoga sessions and meditation practices. These retreats offer a holistic experience that rejuvenates the body, mind and soul and attracts wellness seekers from around the world to South Africa’s doorstep,” says Du Toit.

Taste rooibos

Rooibos tasting tours introduce tourists to various flavors and aromas and are led by expert experts who reveal the nuances of rooibos varieties. “Visitors can sip freshly brewed rooibos, while learning about its cultivation, processing and health benefits. These immersive experiences not only showcase the country’s rich tea heritage, but also support local rooibos farmers and tea artisans. It also creates a sustainable link between tourism and agriculture.”

Spa and wellness packages

According to Du Toit, many of the country’s luxury resorts and health retreats use rooibos as a cornerstone of their spa and wellness offerings. Firstly, rooibos possesses remarkable antioxidant properties, which make it a natural contender for skin care. The inclusion of rooibos extracts in facial treatments or body wraps can help revitalize and rejuvenate the skin, providing clients with a holistic wellness experience.

Rooibos also boasts anti-inflammatory properties that make it an ideal ingredient for soothing massages and aromatherapy sessions. The integration of rooibos in spa therapies is also in line with the growing demand for sustainable and locally produced ingredients.

Culinary experiences

Rooibos stimulates culinary innovation by adding its unique flavor profile and health benefits to food. Locals and visitors can learn how versatile rooibos is in the kitchen, from tasty stews and marinades to sweet desserts and baked goods, through culinary tours and classes. The promotion of rooibos as a culinary component gives the South African food tourism industry a distinctive edge and attracts travelers eager to discover the dynamic culinary scene of the country.

“Wellness tourism has the potential to significantly boost the country’s economy, support sustainable development and draw attention to its beautiful natural environment,” says Du Toit.