For lovers of exotic foods seeking the perfect plate of ceviche.. we understand why someone would travel to Lima just for that reason. Food is big business and from a tourism point of view, it represents a multi-faceted niche with lucrative micro niches to translate into opportunities.
What’s food got to do with your business?
Niche takes a deeper bite out of food tourism, never more relevant than this year of brand differentiation, when travel brands seek ways to do that one thing better than the rest.
Consider the market: Baby Boomers, experienced and luxury travellers, millennials craving anything new and unique, grandparents travelling with kids to show them other ways to experience foreign culture, solo travellers with special tastes in food and drink.
Their existing relationships with diverse foodie niches will be strong enough for them to base an entire trip on related tour products.
Some have knowledge of international cuisines from reading cookery books or magazines, some have seen it on social media, TV or in movies, and some relate it to their favourite celebrity chef. Others follow lifestyles around established special interests in certain food types. Whoever they are and however they came by their unique foodie interest, they represent a vast market – you have the opportunity to design personalised, bespoke food experiences for them in the destinations you sell.
..there has been a growing demand around culinary travel & this trend is expected to continue through 2019 as more travelers plan their trips around food.”
It exemplifies how the experiential trend finds new inspiration in niche tourism. The good news is no destination is exempt: all nations have a food culture, communities have sub-cultures, and you will find a niche market curious to experience it.
To describe my first taste of this typical Peruvian dish of lemon-poached fish, I’m compelled to use the lingo: fresco y delicioso. It can be prepared in different sauces but my ceviche de pescado blanco was flavoured with cilantro. Served simply with some salad and corn, I enjoyed the piquant spiciness of this light, delicate dish. It went down a treat with a tart, frothy vaso of Peruvian pisco sour.
While the world goes mad for sushi, this unique style of ‘cooking’ fish intrigued me far more. I wanted to learn the technique and the story behind, the language around it, how to pronounce the ingredients (because it’s fun); I wanted to know what types of fish and other seafood get the ceviche treatment; and what typically accompanies these dishes.
A more in-depth approach would explore fusion versions of the recipe, special events and festivals that celebrate the dish; oh, so much to know.. And I’m not even a hardcore foodie! I wanted to learn if ceviche is cooked the same way all over Peru or if there are variations de la cuidad and del campo.. Que??
What I’m talking about is exactly what our niche foodies want from their travel experience: authentic, first-hand experience of fun but edifying tourism products managed and guided by experts in-destination. And they’re prepared to pay for it, handsomely.
Prepping for your foodie niche
Start by exploring the typical food and dishes of your region, city or countryside, annual celebrations or customs associated with food, seasonal local produce and typical dishes. Local communities in-destination have rich stories to tell and are usually keen to let their culture speak to the taste buds of visitors from around the world.
Create your experience around local food events and iconic festivals.
That way you can draw attention to less-publicised events and piggy-back on the buzz around better-known ones. Some upcoming 2019 events:
- Penang International Food Festival in Malaysia
- South African Cheese Festival in the Cape Winelands
- Ubud Food Festival in Bali
- Noosa International Food and Wine Festival on the Australian Sunshine Coast
- SeaWorld Orlando’s Seven Seas Food Festival celebrates a range of international cuisines
Do an inventory of the local vendors or producers in-destination and include stops to their locations on your tour: bakeries; gelateria; chocolatiers; street food vendors; food markets; cookery schools, farms or homes where lessons in rustic cuisine are offered; emporia dedicated to locally produced treats and delicacies; establishments that cater to special diets. Then dig around for local experts to partner who can lead activities or guide excursions.
Activities should lend themselves to hands-on participation as well as the simple indulgence of observing. Either way, your clients will enjoy a sense of belonging to the host culture via whatever opportunities you plan for them to engage in their speciality food interest.
Vegan and Halal foodies aren’t left off the menu. Check out these halal events and vegan festivals around the world. Sustainable practices with food seem to be permanent fixtures on the foodie niche scene. Foodies will increasingly choose tour products/destinations based on conscience, with issues like plastic straws and paper cups weighing heavily against their ideals. The slow food movement has a healthy following, with people wanting to replicate or compare the experience they’ve had back home with what’s on offer abroad. The demand for healthy food constitutes a movement on its own.
The likes of Instagram and photography are fueling these trends. Some events even incorporate food photography contests. There are niches that celebrate the obscure, off-beaten track, local living experiences and others that explore destinations not frequented by mainstream foodies.
..we’re seeing destinations like Sri Lanka rise in popularity thanks to the plethora of street food, spice markets & cooking classes run by locals in their own homes..
It’s not all about sitting down at a table and cleaning plates – there’s ambience, context and just a pinch of the extraordinary, whether that’s location, setting or the level of ‘unusual’.
Plan a romantic experience for foodie couples, with oysters prepared 6 different ways in Florianópolis, Brazil, accompanied by some zesty caipirinha. Guide gelato lovers along the path of the Gelato Festival where it stops in Europe, the USA or Japan. Take adventurous foodies for a walk on the wild side in New Zealand’s Whakatāne’s Local Wild Food Challenge where they can hunt, forage, barter or fish for local wild food, cook or watch.
Showcase your niche product
With the right ingredients in place, all that’s left is to cook up a special interest tour and dish it up in a beautiful presentation. Imagery will be super important as foodies want to feast with their eyes before choosing what, where and how they want to eat. Present your offering onto their mobile devices, shareable on social media, and for extra brownie points, in a language they can understand. If your proposal appeals, your tour will benefit from recommendations within the communities that share a special food interest.
If you present it, you can sell it! Sourcing ingredients, learning how it’s made, the history, social significance and rituals surrounding it, the tasting, photographing, social sharing and souvenir shopping, all add to the powerful appeal of niche food tourism products.