Does the word “gastronomic tourism” conjure up images of exotic gourmet food and fancy wine tastings? Think again. The gastronomic tourism trend is much bigger, with the gourmet market accounting for only a small minority of its participants.
According to 2016 research from the World Food Travel Organization, 93% of travelers can now be considered ‘food travelers’.
That is, travellers who participated in a food or beverage experience other than dining out in the past 12 months. Furthermore 81% of travellers believe that food and beverage can help in understanding a local culture.
Culinary Tourism In Action
If culinary tourism doesn’t necessary equate with serving gourmet dishes, what does it include? Think cooking workshops and classes, street food, visiting food markets, food tours and trails, fairs and festivals, craft beer distillery tours, and farm visits to name a few.
Browsing through Airbnb Experiences under the Food & Drink, there are no ends to what is being offered in this segment. From preparing hand rolled icecream in Los Angeles, an organic farm cooking class in Bali, an Irish food trail in Dublin to exploring the secrets of Parmigiano Reggiano in Florence, Culinary tourism is having its moment.
Spain’s recent gastronomy tourism conference in Spain, the First International Congress of Gastronomic Tourism Navarra, 22-23 February 2018, highlights the need to further understand and develop this important segment of travelers:
“It is important to understand that there is much more we can do beyond creating gastronomic activities. We must create experiences, increasing the emotional factors and the memorable consequences depending on specific tourist profiles.”
Which Destinations Are Known For Culinary Tourism?
According to the World Tourism Organization, these destinations are widely considered to have international recognitions as culinary tourism hotspots (though the list is certainly non-exhaustive):
Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Belgium, Portugal, USA (especially in areas such as California’s Napa and Sonoma Valleys), Brazil, Peru, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Chile, Malaysia, and Japan.
Further research on the gastronomic tourism industry conducted by the World Travel Organization is summarized in this infographic: https://www.worldfoodtravel.org/cpages/what-is-food-tourism
How Can Travel & Tourism Organizations Appeal to Culinary Tourists?
#1. Emphasise authenticity in your culinary experiences.
Travellers are looking to immerse themselves in the cultures they visit, so it's important that your culinary attractions showcase what's unique and authentic about your region. Just because gourmet burgers or vegan food is trending, it doesn't mean that's what you should target if that's not what your region is known for and does best - you should stick to the basics.
#2. Include Interaction With Locals.
Where possible, partner with local artisan companies, such as farmers markets or artisan makers to offer a discount for your customers when they visit. This helps promote local and will catch the eye of visiting foodies.
#3. Create Culinary Themes.
Promote your culinary tours through themes. You can base themes on seasons, festivals, holidays, or even certain products that your region is known for, such as cheese, peaches, or pumpkins.
#4. Promote your products as an experience, rather than just activities.
Culinary tourism is much more than crossing an item off a list. Engaging all of the senses, it's an experience that should be promoted as such. Make sure this comes across in your marketing. Are there elements of the culinary experience that reach the other senses as well, such as lovely scenery or the opportunity to make something from scratch with bare hands? Be sure to highlight those.