Food Tourism With Experiential Focus Still on the Rise

Industry responds to demand by developing relationships with influencers of local gastronomy By: Valerie Chen
Tourism entities are responding to an increase in culinary-related travel. // © 2015 Thinkstock
Tourism entities are responding to an increase in culinary-related travel. // © 2015 Thinkstock

The Details

A report released by Skift, in collaboration with Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance (OCTA), examined how destinations and travel suppliers are capitalizing on the enthusiasm of foodies.

Why It Matters:
According to Skift and OCTA’s “The Rise of Food Tourism,” which pulled stats from multiple studies, about 77 percent of leisure travelers can be classified as culinary travelers. While gastronomy has always held a role in a destination’s charm, there’s a growing demand for fully integrated and authentic epicurean experiences. In response, the travel industry — including agents — can develop beneficial relationships with local influencers, from the farmers and brewers who invite guests to help harvest crops to the chefs who tout farm-to-table cuisine and offer cooking classes.

Fast Facts:
- “Food tourism is any tourism experience in which one learns about, appreciates and/or consumes food and drink that reflects the local, regional or national cuisine, heritage and culture,” according to OCTA.

- The percentage of U.S. leisure travelers who travel with the intention of learning and enjoying unique dining experiences increased from 40 percent to 51 percent between 2006 and 2013, according to the “American Culinary Traveler Report,” published by Mandala Research in 2013.

- In 2012, it’s estimated that tourism expenditures on food services in the U.S. topped $201 billion, nearly one-fourth of travel income, according to “A Flash of Culinary Tourism,” published by University of Florida.

- The growing interest in food and beverage-themed travel is driven by factors including food-focused media and social media, a farm-to-table movement among large travel brands and the introduction of high-profile events celebrating local cuisine, according to “The State of the Culinary Tourism Industry,” published by World Food Travel Association in 2010.

What They Are Saying:
“The average consumer is becoming more savvy in terms of their expectations from their travels and the ways that they can immerse themselves in a destination,” said Rebecca LeHeup, executive director of OCTA. “They really want to feel that they’re taking away a true authentic experience of a place. One of the key ways to do that is through the food culture of a destination, but it’s not only about eating. It’s also about the opportunity to learn about the local food culture and food history. It’s about being connected to local growers and producers and dining at restaurants that have chefs who support those local flavors and local food cultures.”