There are travelers who consider tasting the food and wine of any
particular destination as simply one component of their entire
But there are a growing number of travelers who consider the
food and wine to be the primary goal of their vacations.
These are people who love to eat, cook and learn about wine
production. They may be looking for hard-core cooking classes, or
simply a gourmet insider’s insight. But mostly they want a literal
taste of the place they are visiting.
“Foodie” travelers are not always in the same camp as those
interested in wine, but often they overlap. And tour operators are
offering more to appeal specifically to both types of traveler.
“We see it as a growth industry,” said agent Richard Turen, a
former restaurant critic and food writer who has developed a
specialty in culinary tours. “There’s a tremendous market for
Turen’s agency, Churchill and Turen Ltd. in Chicago, only
handles high-end travel. His clients may not want to spend a week
at a cooking school, but they want real “cooking experiences.”
The agency offers culinary tours in Italy that include stays in
luxuriously restored farmhouses, visits to local salami makers and,
of course, restaurants. But travelers also get to spend a day in
the kitchen of a mother-and-daughter team learning about true
Italian home cooking.
Turen also arranges culinary tours in Asia and France, but in
general he can weave food experiences into any vacation. For cruise
clients, for example, he can arrange restaurant visits in every
port, or recommend dishes to try in specific destinations.
Tour operator A Cook’s Tour (www.acookstour.com), based in
Seattle, aims to offer “recreational” cooking experiences.
“We make it so everybody can learn something at the level they
are at, and can have fun doing it,” said David Iverson, the “big
cheese” of A Cook’s Tour.
The company offers food-and-wine itineraries in Italy, France,
and South Africa, as well as customized tours. In groups of eight
to 20, the tours include cooking lessons from local chefs, visits
to restaurants, wineries and boutique food producers, and guided
A Cook’s Tour was launched three years ago, and the company
handles a lot of affinity groups as well as working with travel
agents. A 10 percent commission is offered.
Food and Wine Trails (www.foodandwinetrails.com), based in Santa
Rosa, Calif., is another tour operator catering to food-and-wine
travelers that offers commissions.
“Napoleon said an army travels on its stomach. We think so do
travelers,” said Larry Martin, president of Food and Wine
The company has about 35 escorted tours offered per year in the
Sonoma and Napa regions, Spain, France and Italy, and new this year
is a culinary tour of New Zealand’s wine country.
Interest in culinary and wine-oriented tours is growing, said
Barbara Crawford, executive vice president of Visit Italy Tours,
based in Los Angeles.
Visit Italy offers general tours of Italy, but the company has
expanded its offerings of culinary tours because “they’re becoming
more popular,” said Crawford.
Visit Italy offers group and FIT itineraries, though about 90
percent of business is custom-designed trips.
“It’s a growing market,” said Crawford, “but it’s not going to
make you a millionaire.”