The smells and sight of food, deliciously presented, the dining experience invites you to sample culinary treasures that are like a cultural excursion taken right on your palate, via the taste buds, until its rendez vous somewhere among those pheromones that leave you with a distinctly warm and fuzzy feeling of a tummy well spoiled, a memorable taste in the mouth.. I wax lyrical because I have such fond food memories, along with some interesting mealtime stories the likes of which helped me understand something deep and meaningful about the people and the place I was visiting, the likes of which make me want to return there for more. Here’s a trend that’s pleasantly frying up a storm in 2017, like sweet, cinnamon flavoured pumpkin fritters in hot oil. Tuck in!
Hors d’oeuvres Understand that food culture is a gateway experience to the customs and lifestyles of the people and its region of origin. We’ve moved on from the days when the food capitals of the world were feted but few. People are still interested in French fine dining, Italian countryside cuisine, real sushi made in Japan, testing the dangers of too much sangria with your paella, and such. But they’re now eager for a more immersive experience that takes them behind the scenes to learn about the origin of dishes, the source of ingredients, the preparation of food, the beverages that accompany it, the dining ritual, the entire story.
There’s history in it, drama, economics and even politics involved, and by learning about a destination’s food culture, travellers gain special insights into the customs and values of the community they’re visiting.
Food tourism is any tourism experience in which one learns about, appreciates and/or consumes food & drink that reflects the local, regional or national cuisine, heritage, & culture.
And according to a 2016 Global Report on Food Tourism by the World Tourism Organisation, the average tourist spends around a third of their holiday budget on food, which illustrates the extent of the sector’s involvement in the in-destination experience. Who are they anyway? For the role that food plays in their decision-making, let’s take a look at the diverse list of travel ‘foodie’ types to help you structure your add-ons:
Adventurer – the not-so-squeamish foodie that’ll pop a Mopani worm like it’s a toffee
Ambience – the foodie that loves a good setting and atmosphere
Authentic – the foodie that prizes traditional meals, customs
Budget – the street food loving foodie
Eclectic – the foodie who enjoys a bit of everything
Gourmet – the Michelin star foodie
Innovative – the progressive fusion-loving foodie
Localist – the local living foodie
Novice – the inexperienced but willing-to-learn foodie
Organic – the health-conscious, anti-additive foodie
Social – the festival going friendly foodie
Trendy – the fashionable foodie
Vegetarian/ Vegan – the no meat foodies
Thanks to psychoculinary profiling, we can identify our markets and structure suitable activities.
All of them…share the same passion for locally contextual dining experiences, & they’re willing to spend extra dollars on travel companies catering to their personal tastes.
Entrées The growing prominence of food in pop culture gets its momentum from celebrity chefs and their TV shows, food channels, televised cookery contests, festivals, and food writers or bloggers. From Master Chef to Come Dine With Me, shows like these invite viewers into their kitchens – food tourism takes them there in person to smell, taste and cook those dishes themselves.
Social media drives the content further with inspiring, mouthwatering food photography or UGC posted on Instagram and Pinterest. However you position your value-add food activity, you can easily capitalise on these trends towards joint destination marketing. Just remember to add the #foodporn hashtag to all your social sharing and add your voice to this almost 75,000 post strong food obsessive trend.
…an overwhelming 91% of people surveyed said they watch food shows…79% of people said they watch cooking shows to get new ideas & 63% watch simply for entertainment.
Supermarket Guru Survey
You could offer special culinary events of an evening or a few hours with a chef, celebrity or local, on-site or at their own kitchens for a demo, lesson or tasting. Imagine a food cultural duel between sausage giants: German bratwurst or Polish kiełbasa – who made it best?
You could host a sausage-making contest or demonstration, followed by a tasting and beverage pairing, or something like it that’s relevant to your region. Throw in some strawberry pierogi and apfelstrudel just to annihilate the senses with further mind-blowing flavours.
For the localist foodie, arrange a home-cooked meal in your community for a more immersive experience. Authentic culinary experiences provide glimpses of kitchen techniques and lifestyles among locals.
Enable the shift from observing food experiences on the travel channel to actually living them – recreate those images of communal dining with shared dishes, bonding with friends and family over a meal, seen on televised trips to Asian destinations, or images of pizza making in Italy, for instance.
Incorporate seasonal events like harvests and spring festivals in your region. According to www.foodreference.com there are 132 countries worldwide featuring food festivals during the 2017/18 period. That’s a lot of interest and quite a variety of food. Chances are good you have a couple lined up in your own area. Some festivals may focus on 1 or 2 food and beverage items that work well together, others celebrate ranges of different foods but focus on the season or a theme instead.
There’s a lot to develop activities around. You don’t even need existing festivals to piggyback onto – create your own mini festival. If it’s a good time for oysters, then an oyster festival it is! Educate guests on where your oysters are sourced and how, how they’re prepared and eaten, and what they could be paired with.
It’s a win-win situation: you could either draw more guests with these add-ons or your incorporation of food culture to your existing offerings could become the memorable motivator for repeat visits. These experiences have the potential to be life-changing, which speaks to the experiential travel that modern travellers hunger for. As for me, you’ll never ever see me scooping rice into my Thai Green Curry or using a knife to eat it now that I know the correct etiquette. I’ve even got my family eating Thai food with a spoon and fork now.
Simply issuing guests with dining guides is now old hat, and you don’t want to have to eat it. So forget about churning out the comfortably tried and tested list of eateries because they pay the local tourism office for advertising. Time to look deeper into your local community and environment, at smaller, independently-owned restaurants, innovative private individuals wanting to promote their neighbourhood, breweries or beverage trails, guided or unguided food walking tours that include some local sites. The prospects are rich.
Identify preferences among your travel markets and cater to them with holistic hospitality, which should include food and the comfort of your guests. Consider those with special dietary requirements from the gluten intolerant to the diabetic, and every religious dietary requirement in between.
Main course Culinary storytelling is about providing an experience for explorers of the local table. And there’s tremendous potential for your business to drive local economic development and community identity by joining forces. By supporting local ventures, your offerings will resonate with responsible travellers who care about empowering the local community and safeguarding the natural resources of a destination through sustainable tourism.
It also pays to grow your own food products or favour the use of locally-sourced produce.
Food experiences can contribute to regional attractiveness, sustain the local environment & cultural heritage & strengthen local identities & sense of community
It encompasses local seasonal produce, harvests, the manufacture of foods and beverages, markets, festivals, food tours, cookery classes, tastings/pairings, demonstrations, and the economy around it, and of course hospitality. As a supplier of travel, you have the choice of tapping into existing events and trails to enhance your own offering, collaborating with the partners in your area to create new events, or creating your own on-site food event as value-add.
Take a simple concept of traditional meals eaten by locals in your area and transform them into activities, like a Malawian meal of chambo and nsima.
Picture the scene: your guests lounging on the banks of Lake Malawi as some local fishermen haul in a fresh catch for lunch. The fish is found nowhere else, so it’s a special treat, grilled or barbequed on the fire right on the beach, served with collard greens, washed down by an ice cold local beer. That’s tasting your destination and living like a local – you don’t get more authentic than that.
Dessert Travellers want to learn about local food items in the way they are purchased too – the popularity of farmer’s markets address that: how to choose it, how to use it, where it comes from,what it’s made of, and what goes with it. This knowledge is retained, taken back home and eventually incorporated in the traveller’s own cooking style or diet.
The various incarnations of food purchasing are so diverse, you can choose among street markets, artisanal markets, food fairs, pubs, delicatessens, bakeries..
Then there are different dining formats from tapas to picnics, self-cooking to banqueting, finger foods and barbeques. My experience of a luau in Hawaii is etched in my memory forever as the most unusual outdoor cooking and feasting I’ve ever had: the succulent meat falling off the bone after being cooked for hours under the ground and layers of palm tree branches; fruity, pineapple-clad cocktails; rows of long ground-seated tables inviting social interaction with fellow diners, making friends out of strangers; the music, performance and being pulled on stage to dance the hula hula; the tropical setting. Magical mahalo.
Whether it’s served on fine china or a paper plate, food brings us together & stimulates conversation… Good eating is one of life’s great pleasures.
Call it gastronomic, culinary or food tourism, but celebrate the fact that it’s one of the most dynamic segments within the tourism market, and one of the fastest growing travel trends at the moment. Boarding the food bandwagon is as simple as discovering the specialities of your region or community.
What is typical is often what most interests visitors as they’re driven to sample local culture from the plate. Generic food experiences are not for them. The takeaway here has to be that they’ve learned something new about the destination they’ve visited in the way it tasted and smelled, and about the identity and lifestyle of the local people in how they bond and socialise over a hearty dish made with love and a tasty drink poured with pride. E ʻai kāua!