In this issue’s cover story, “Footsteps in Provence,” we feature what is a bucket-list destination to many travelers. With its combination of history, culture and natural beauty, Provence epitomizes rural France. Of course, a major part of the culture of Provence is based on its food and wine and, in this respect, the destination is especially important to travel agents.
Not long ago, it would have been ridiculous to suggest that vacationers spend their time at a fish market in Tokyo or at an olive oil mill in Tuscany, for instance. As we have become increasingly removed from the origins of our food, places such as farmers’ markets and vineyards have become more intriguing to travelers. Today, getting to know a destination through its cuisine is expected, and experiencing where a culture’s food and drink comes from — and meeting some of the producers — is becoming commonplace on travel itineraries.
Travel agents need to be aware of just how important food is to their clients. According to a recent study conducted by the travel market research firm Mandala Research and sponsored by the World Food Travel Association and other tourism organizations, almost a third (30%) of travelers deliberately choose destinations based on the availability of activities related to local food and drink. More than half (51%) of all respondents said they travel to learn about or enjoy unique and memorable eating and drinking experiences, and nearly two-thirds (61%) are interested in taking a trip to a destination within the U.S. to engage in culinary activities within the next year.
More important than these research numbers, however, is whether you are making an attempt to distinguish the foodie travelers in your own database and marketing specifically to these customers. Perhaps you have a client who has always wanted to eat at a particular restaurant in Paris, or wanted to learn how to make paella in Spain or would be interested in a food and wine itinerary with a tour operator. It will be much more difficult to market any of these experiences effectively without knowing your clients’ interests.
Like so much of the sales process, asking questions and getting to know your clients are keys to success.