August 18, 2015
Food Tourism: Forks in the Road
In our overly connected world, travel serves more purposes than just a break from work and sightseeing. Vacations aren’t just for relaxing or sightseeing. Today, travel is more about experiences. Experiential travelers, like experiential diners, want to venture beyond the beaten paths and dive deeper into authentic local culture, connecting with people other cultures in ways that enrich their lives and create lasting memories.
‘Food Tourism’ is any travel experience in which one learns about, appreciates and/or consumes food and drink that reflects the local, regional or national cuisine, heritage and culture. Basically every trip a chef has been on!
Culinary-driven travel has taken off as the number of ‘foodies’ grow. The Skift Travel Trends Report found that in 2014 tourism expenditures on food topped $201 billion, or 25% of money spent on travel worldwide. It’s not too surprising that food and drink is the largest percentage of all travel expenditures. As a result, savvy regional business organizations are creating promotional campaigns and events revolving specifically around food and drink experiences.
The L.A. Times highlighted a trip to Spain’s Basque region that includes a tour of a city market, cooking classes, and visits to regional producers of cheese and wine. In this country, Napa Valley is most likely the cradle of culinary tourism. Now one can partake in a “beercycling” tour including a leisurely ride led by a pro cyclist and top chef with stops at the best breweries and pubs along the way. Chef Sideras—you missed your calling!
Ways to Get Started The first way to capitalize on this trend is to offer tourists something at your restaurant that they can’t get at home. Try identifying with a local or regional specialty or promoting the use of local ingredients.
Chef demonstrations or in-the-kitchen chef training are two other ways to create an unforgettable dining experience for guests by showcasing your talents or locally-grown / manufactured ingredients. Your chef’s table can provide a memorable experience for guests.
But don’t forget to show some love to the locals. Your local client base can be your restaurant’s greatest ambassadors— as can the staff at nearby hotels (a tried and true marketing tool). And don’t be afraid to band together with other restaurants in your area. Local restaurant associations and chambers of commerce can help organize tours, like the ‘Taste of Pensacola’.