What is culinary tourism?
It's no secret that many of us are foodies, but an increasing number of travellers are taking their love of food one step further, and incorporating it into their travel plans. What exactly is culinary tourism, and how can your business benefit from it?
Culinary tourism refers to trips which prioritise the exploration of local gastronomy. This may include learning more about the local cuisine, its heritage and its position in a region's culture, but can also be as simple as appreciating and consuming food and drink which a certain place is known for.
Some people travel for the local gastronomy itself, whilst many others can be considered opportunistic culinary tourists, choosing to make the most of local delicacies while passing through a town or region.
The term culinary can be misleading: the concept is not restricted to upscale restaurants, and in fact the best and most authentic gastro-experiences are often found in a neighbourhood's street vendors.
Why it's popular
Globalisation has meant more cuisines than ever are on offer in cities all around the world: we don't need to visit Peru for ceviche or Thailand for Pad Thai, for instance. This exposes tourists to foods which they would otherwise not have been aware of, giving many of us an appetite (literally) to try something new.
There is nothing quite like the real deal, of course: roaming the street markets of a place and tasting its local delicacies can't be beaten. Nobody cooks specialty food like a local: they know the exact ingredients needed, the cooking process, any rituals around the meal, and even how best to eat it!
It is no wonder, then, that a growing class of travellers are choosing to prioritise these special experiences, and embracing the insight into the history, culture and ways of living they provide.
Where it's booming
Although European countries have historically benefited the most from gastro-tourism, travellers are now venturing beyond the likes of France and Italy. Peru, for instance, has seen a massive spike in the number of tourists seeking culinary experiences: The Economist notes that 75,000 people now visit Lima every year solely for the food!
Elsewhere in the world, the Chatuchak weekend market in Thailand brings in hundreds of thousands of tourists every year, allowing culinary tourists to get an authentic street food experience. Vietnam, too, is particularly well regarded for its local food, such as Pho and Banh Mi, with a growing culinary tourism industry.
How businesses can respond to the trend
Food is the key to many a person's heart, and so embracing culinary experiences makes a lot of sense for tourist businesses. We have three quick suggestions to help you make the most of the culinary boom:
1. Food walking tours
These tours can vary in length and approach: most will likely be a few hours long, but there is often demand for tours that span a few days. They can also vary from tasting walking tours to factory and farm excursions.
2. Cooking lessons
If you own a hostel, hotel or homestay, why not invite guests into the kitchen to get the chance to cook like a local? This not only allows your guests to get a real feel of local cooking, but also allows them to take the recipe home and share it with their (surely impressed) friends. It also provides a more intimate opportunity to share the dish's history and cultural influences during preparation.
3. Home cooked meals
Providing home cooked meals ties into experience-focused tourism, which is on the rise more generally. It not only provides hostel or hotel owners with another revenue stream, but allows guests a more intimate experience, which tourist-focused restaurants may not focus on. You can make the experience even more special by partnering with local farmers and producers. Even better, why not use Tab Accept to take instant, hassle-free payments?