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Culinary tourism: The growth of food tourism around the world

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Culinary tourism is a popular type of tourism throughout the world, but what exactly is culinary tourism? Is it different from food tourism? Why is culinary tourism important? And where are the best places to travel for culinary tourism? Read on to find out…

What is culinary tourism?

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Culinary tourism, also often referred to as food tourism, is all about exploring food as a form of tourism. Whether that be eating, cooking, baking, attending a drinks festival or visiting a farmers market – all of these come under the concept of culinary tourism. It’s something you don’t even really need to travel to do. Heading to your nearest big city or even the next town over, specifically to eat at a certain restaurant, classes as food tourism! And food tourism has taken a new twist since the COVID pandemic too, when many people would cook or eat a variety of different foods from around the world in attempt to bring an element of travel to their own home! Who said you need to travel far to be a culinary tourist, huh?

Food tourism is a vitally important component of the travel and tourism industry as a whole. When booking a trip, people tend to consider a variety of factors – and food is high on the list of priorities. The World Food Travel Association says that money spent on food and drink while travelling accounts for 15-35% of all tourism spending. Culinary tourism is important in that it generates so much money for local economies.

culinary tourism food tourism

Culinary tourism is also an important branch of tourism in that it can promote local businesses, as well as help to shine a light on different cuisines. For so many cultures, their cuisine is a huge part of who they are. Culinary tourism helps to celebrate this, by attracting interested tourists who are keen to try something new and share it with the world. In this way, it definitely helps to boost community pride and is a great example of cultural tourism .

This type of tourism is also important to tourists. It provides a chance to try new foods and flavours, and discover new cultures through their taste buds. Visitors who engage in food tourism come away with new recipes to try, new foods to introduce their friends to, and memories that they will always associate with their sense of taste.

There are many activities which come under the remit of culinary tourism, or food tourism. I mentioned some above, but let’s take a closer look.

  • Eating and drinking out: going to restaurants, cafes, bars, pubs, tea shops and so on. These are all examples of culinary tourism. 
  • Food/beverage tours: you can book onto organised food and drink tours when visiting a new city. These are run by guides who will take you to various foodie spots throughout the city – usually small businesses – to try local delicacies.
  • Farmers markets: visiting a farmers market at the weekend to buy fresh produce is seen as a form of food tourism.
  • Cooking classes: another activity you can get involved with on your travels is a cooking or baking class. You’ll often make, again, a local delicacy whether that be pierogi in Poland or pasta in Italy . Tasting sessions: brewery tours and vineyard visits (and other similar excursions) where you get to take a look at how something is made and then try it for yourself are another form of culinary tourism.

Best cities for food tourism

Most cities, major or otherwise, have excellent examples of food tourism. In fact – this goes right down to tiny towns and villages, some of which have incredible restaurants or bars that are real hidden gems. Below you’ll find some of the world’s best cities for culinary tourism, however, with examples of the sort of thing you can do there!

culinary tourism food tourism

Thai food is some of the best food around, and Bangkok has a lot of restaurants suited to all budgets. Eating out in Bangkok is a brilliant example of culinary tourism. One of the best things you can do here is try the local street food! Wang Lang Market is one of the most popular places for street food, with fresh food filling the lanes from snacks to full-on meals. Silom Soi 20 is another great spot in central Bangkok, perfect for the morning.

Looking for somewhere really unique to eat in Bangkok? Head to Cabbages and Condoms , a themed cafe decorated with (you guessed it) condoms. The restaurant say they were ‘conceptualized in part to promote better understanding and acceptance of family planning and to generate income to support various development activities of the Population and Community Development Association (PDA)’.

culinary tourism food tourism

Tokyo is a very popular city, and one of the best ways to experience food tourism here is to book onto a food tour. Tokyo Retro Bites is a fantastic one, giving you a feel of old-style Tokyo at the quaint Yanaka Market. This is a walking tour which includes drinks and 5 snacks, lasting 2 hours. It starts at 11.30am meaning it’s a great chance to have lunch somewhere a bit different!

food tourism potential

This beautiful Hawaiian city has so many fun places to eat (and drink!) while visiting. One of the best things to do in terms of culinary tourism is to eat somewhere you wouldn’t be able to eat at home – and try new flavours or dishes. Honolulu is the perfect place to do this. Some interesting eateries include:

  • Lava Tube – based in Waikiki, this 60s-kitsch style bar offers pina coladas served in giant pineapples, $5 Mai Tais, delicious food and plenty of fun decor.
  • Suzy Wong’s Hideaway – this is described as a ‘dive bar with class’ and is a great bar to visit to watch sports games.
  • MW Restaurant – this is a really famous and creative place to eat in Honolulu – the mochi-crusted Kona Kanpachi comes highly recommended and helped shoot the chef, Wade Ueoka, to fame.

culinary tourism food tourism

Hailed as the world’s best food city, a list of places for food tourists to visit has to include Durban in South Africa . Bunny Chow is a local delicacy that you cannot miss while visiting Durban. It is now available elsewhere, but the original is usually the best so be sure to try some while in the city. The dish is half a loaf of bread hollowed out and filled with curry – delicious. This article shares 5 fantastic spots to get Bunny Chow in Durban !

food tourism potential

As one of the culinary capitals of the US, New Orleans is incredibly popular with foodies. The city is a hotspot for food tourism, thanks to the various cultural roots here: Cajun, Creole and French. There is a whole range of tastes to try. You could spend your time here *just* eating and still not scratch the surface when it comes to the amazing restaurants, cafes and eateries in NOLA. Some foods you have to try include:

  • Po’boys: fried shrimp, generally, but sometimes beef or other seafood – served on a fresh crusty roll.
  • Gumbo : this is a stew, again usually containing seafood, alongside bell peppers, onion and celery.
  • Crawfish etouffee: a French crawfish stew served over rice.
  • Muffuletta: a Silician-American sandwich served on a specific type of bread.
  • Side note, you can do a haunted pub crawl in NOLA . Would you?!

culinary tourism food tourism

Being split across two continents, it is no surprise that Istanbul as a city has a huge range of delicious food-related activities. From kebabs sold on the street to 5 star restaurants serving the finest hummus, Istanbul is a fantastic destination for food tourism. Book onto the ‘Two Markets, Two Continents’ tour – you’ll visit two markets, as the name suggests, on the two continents. The tour includes a Bosphorus ferry crossing between the two districts of Karaköy (Europe) and Kadiköy (Asia). You’ll enjoy breakfast, tea and coffee, meze, dessert and so much more during this 6.5 hour tour .

food tourism potential

The city of love – and the city of bakeries! Fresh baguettes, simple croissants, delicious eclairs… the list goes on. There are so many of them dotted around, whether you want something to grab and snack on while you head to the Eiffel Tower or if you want a sit down brunch, you’ll find one that suits you perfectly.

And that’s not all. Paris, also famous for its snails, soups and frogs legs, has so many fine dining opportunities. You’ll be spoilt for choice in terms of Michelin star restaurants: Boutary, ASPIC, 114 Fauborg and so many more. There are also some fantastic food tours in Paris . If you have the cash to splash out, fine dining in Paris is a brilliant culinary tourism activity…

culinary tourism food tourism

Moroccan food is delicious. And you can try making it yourself during a cooking class in Marrakech ! Visit a traditional souk and try your hand at some tasty recipes – you never know, you might have a hidden talent. Some tours even include shopping for ingredients, so you can visit a traditional market too; these are a sensory dream with so many smells, colours, sounds and sights.

food tourism potential

India is another country where street food is king. Mumbai has plenty to offer, and one culinary tourism activity you can do is to spend an afternoon trying as many dishes as possible while simply wandering through the city. If you’ve never tried a vada pav before, this is the place to do so: it’s essentially deep fried mashed potato in a bun with various chutneys, and it is exquisite. Many people are surprised to learn that one of the most popular British foods – chicken tikka masala is not commonly found in India, but fear not, there are many other dishes that are just as goods or if not better!

culinary tourism food tourism

Miami is known for its food – and Cuban food is a big deal here. Take a traditional Cuban cooking class , or head to one of the many, many Cuban restaurants here . There is something for every budget, and your tastebuds will certainly thank you. It is also close to Key West, a wonderful place to visit for a day or two. They’re big on sea food here, and walking tours which incorporate seafood are high on the list of recommended things to do in beautiful Key West.

culinary tourism food tourism

You cannot go to Rio and not try cahaça. This is Brazilian brandy made from sugar canes, and it is a big deal over here. Culinary tourism isn’t limited to food – it includes drink too, so head to one of Rio’s many bars and try a caipirinha. You can even book an organised pub crawl , which includes free shots and drinks, around the city. This is perfect if you want to explore at night knowing you’ll be safe and always have transport on hand.

culinary tourism food tourism

Peking duck is the highlight of Beijing food. Quanjuede is world-famous for its Peking duck, and it’s not too expensive. There are branches worldwide now, though, and much of culinary tourism is about experiencing something you won’t be able to elsewhere. Speak to the locals when you’re there and ask where their favourite place is for Peking duck. That way you’ll know you are supporting a great local business; as mentioned, food tourism is great for boosting the economy this way!

If you have enjoyed this article about culinary tourism, or food tourism, then I am sure that you will love these too!

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The New Era of Food Tourism: Trends and Best Practices for Stakeholders

The New Era of Food Tourism: Trends and Best Practices for Stakeholders

Related reports.

  • State of Travel 2023: Travel in 250 Charts July 2023
  • Destination Marketing Outlook 2022 January 2022
  • Sustainability in Travel 2021: Quantifying Tourism Emissions for Destinations June 2021
  • EU Traveler Profile and Key Statistics: The Impact of COVID-19 January 2021

Report Overview

Over the past few years, food tourism has been a buzzy trend in the travel industry. Not only is it appealing to a large population of travelers, but it also has the potential to boost in-destination spending, and therefore, positively benefit local economies and small businesses. Despite the buzz, the conversation around food tourism has hardly changed since it first started to spread years ago. Not to mention, there is still some confusion about what food tourism really is and how destinations and other stakeholders can get involved.

In this report, we focus on addressing four questions under the food tourism umbrella: How big and important is the food tourism market? What are the new trends related to food tourism? Who should be be involved in and benefit from food tourism? What are the best practices for various stakeholders? We attempt to answer these questions drawing from the second, expanded iteration of our proprietary food tourism consumer survey. Then, we turn toward breaking down the new definition of food tourism into five components, drawing mostly from a number of in-depth interviews with industry stakeholders and experts. These perspectives then contribute to the final section of the report, in which we have identified 10 best practices for food tourism stakeholders.

Survey Methodology:

Skift Research’s Food Tourism Survey 2019 collected responses from 2,000 respondents who live in the U.S. The survey was fielded to internet users age 18 and over. Respondents were asked whether they’ve taken a leisure trip in the past 12 months that included at least one-night’s paid stay and was 50 miles or more from home. We refer to this group as “recent travelers” (N=1,373) to compare to the total population (“all respondents”, N=2,000). The survey was fielded by a trusted third-party consumer panel provider.

What You'll Learn From This Report

  • What food tourism means and how it has evolved over time
  • Who the stakeholders are in food tourism
  • A comprehensive look at who food tourists are today, how they behave, and what they prefer
  • Skift Research estimates for food and beverage expenditure by U.S. travelers
  • Size of U.S. food tourist population
  • The kinds of food and beverage based activities food tourists are most likely to participate in
  • The percentage of food tourists who have taken a vacation with a food and beverage experience as the main purpose for the trip
  • A five-part breakdown of the new definition of food tourism
  • 10 best practices for food tourism stakeholders today

Executives Interviewed

  • Benjamin Ozsanay - CEO & Co-Founder, Cookly
  • Camille Rumani - COO & Co-Founder, Eatwith
  • Didier Souillat - CEO, Time Out Market
  • Erik Wolf - Executive Director, World Food Travel Association
  • Helena Williams, Ph.D. - Researcher, Tourism & Hospitality, Texas Tech University and CEO, Gastro Gatherings
  • James Imbriani - Founder, Sapore Travel
  • Javier Perez-Palencia - CEO and Chair of the Board, FIBEGA Miami 2019 International Gastronomy Tourism Fair
  • Joanne Wolnik - Tourism Development Manager, Ontario’s Southwest
  • Michael Ellis - Chief Culinary Officer, Jumeirah Group
  • Robert Williams, Jr. PhD. - Susquehanna University and Senior Partner, Mar-Kadam Associates
  • Trevor Jonas Benson - Director of Food Tourism Innovation and lead consultant, Grow Food Tourism at the Culinary Tourism Alliance

Executive Summary

In 2016, Skift Research published a report called Food Tourism Strategies to Drive Destination Spending . This was at a time when “food tourism” was taking off as a buzzy trend in the travel industry. Now, almost three years later, we’re taking a look at where food tourism is today, how it’s changed, and best practices for stakeholders.

Food tourism is often approached with the destination in mind, as Skift Research did in 2016, and developing and promoting it is often cast off as the sole responsibility of destination marketing organizations (DMOs) or regional tourism offices (RTOs). Clearly, these organizations have important roles to play, but they don’t exist alone when it comes to food tourism. In the new era of food tourism, many stakeholders have the opportunity to help develop, promote, and eventually benefit from this type of tourism.

In this report, we lay out what food tourism is today and how it has changed from years past. We build this definition from an in-depth understanding of who food tourists are today, drawing from the second, expanded iteration of our proprietary food tourism consumer survey. After providing a comprehensive look at the consumer side of the equation, we turn toward breaking down the new definition of food tourism into five components, drawing mostly from a number of in-depth interviews with industry stakeholders and experts. These perspectives then contribute to the final section of the report, in which we have identified 10 best practices for food tourism stakeholders.

Food Tourism Demystified and Defined


These are a few commonly used terms that encompass food and beverage tourism experiences:

  • Culinary tourism: Some sources prefer using this term because it more clearly encompasses beverage-based experiences in addition to food-based.
  • Gastronomy tourism: Similarly to “culinary tourism,” some sources prefer this term because of its all-encompassing connotation. This term is most commonly used in Europe.
  • Food tourism: As of 2012, the World Food Travel Association (WFTA) began using the term “food tourism” or “food travel” to describe “the act of traveling for a taste of place in order to get a sense of place,” or put differently, “the act of traveling to experience unique food and beverage products and experiences.” Rather than the type of experience being the differentiator, what matters is the uniqueness of the experience itself and how it is particular to the destination.

For this report, we will follow the lead of the WFTA, which stopped using “culinary tourism” in 2012 when its research indicated that English speakers tend to associate this term with exclusivity and elitism, neither of which should be inherent to food tourism. “Gastronomy tourism” can also be interpreted this way, especially to English speakers outside of Europe. For these reasons, we chose to stick with food tourism, as we believe it better reflects the variety of food- and beverage-based travel experiences we will discuss in this report.

So then what counts as food tourism? This is where the lines can get blurry. Almost all tourists need to eat at an eating place while traveling, so almost all contribute to the local food economy in some way. Broadly speaking, these can all be counted as food tourism.

A bit narrower than that, some sources define food tourism as food and drinking activities that are unique to a region/destination and include aspects beyond simply eating or drinking. With this in mind, food tourism experiences most commonly include cooking classes with locals, food and drink tastings, having meals in locals’ homes, eating at local restaurants or street food vendors, food and drink tours and trails, collecting ingredients or participating in harvesting local produce, visiting farms or other types of food producers, visiting food markets or fairs, and visiting food manufacturers such as distilleries, factories, and wineries.

An even narrower scope through which to look at food tourism is whether it is deliberate food tourism or incidental food tourism. Deliberate food tourism only includes food and drinking activities that are the main motivator for a traveler to go to a destination, while incidental are those that travelers participate in, but were not the main purpose of the trip. We will discuss these terms in more detail from the consumer perspective later in the report.

Each of the above ways of describing food and beverage related tourism is correct. Variations in data on food tourism can often be due to different definitions and scopes used for the research. Later in this report, we will provide data on these three ways of counting food tourism.


Another important part of food tourism to mention here is the variety of stakeholders that are involved. Developing and promoting food tourism is often discussed as responsibilities of destination marketing organizations (DMOs) or regional tourism offices (RTOs). However, this report will emphasize that there are multiple stakeholders that can, and should, have a part in building and participating in a region’s food tourism space. Of course, DMOs and RTOs can and should play important organizational and planning roles, but tour providers and operators, traditional travel agencies, online travel agencies and booking platforms, peer-to-peer platforms, hotels, local restaurateurs, and more have the opportunity for involvement in food tourism.

While this lays out the basic elements of food tourism that we’ve built this report around, it’s very likely that we will need to revisit what we’ve summarized in the near future. The term, scope, and even stakeholders will constantly evolve as destinations, cultures, and trends change over time. Later in this report, we will examine the nuances of what defines the new era of food tourism that exists today compared with a few years ago. But first, we will take a look at the current state of the food tourism space for context.

The State of Food Tourism Today

Food tourism is a lucrative market.

Just how big is the food tourism market? As we laid out above, there are three ways to size up the food tourism market. In the broadest sense, it includes all food and drink based activities that travelers partake in, whether it’s eating at a chain restaurant, taking a food tour, or visiting a local brewery.

To get a sense of food tourism’s contribution to local food economies in this broad sense, Skift Research looked at all food and beverage expenditure by U.S. travelers for domestic and international travel. We analyzed data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey to determine how much money American travelers actually spend on food and drink while traveling. While this data includes spending on all food and drink while traveling (i.e. not just the local, unique experiences that many consider “food tourism”), it nonetheless gives us an idea of the potential economic impact food tourists can have and how it has changed over time.

Our estimates show that U.S. travelers spent $58 billion on food and drink while traveling in 2017 (the last year for which data was available at the time of writing). This represents a 5.8% compound annual growth rate from 2012.

food tourism potential

To look at this another way, we calculated the share of total travel expenditures spent on food and beverage by U.S. travelers. Here, we see an overall upward trend from 2012 to about 25%, where it has more or less hovered since 2015. This falls in line with the WFTA’s estimate from its 2016 Food Travel Monitor that global travelers spent about 25% of their travel budget on food and beverages, and this can be as high as 35% in certain destinations or for especially food-centric travelers

food tourism potential

We then turn our attention to a narrower, more local scope of food tourism. While researching for this report, we found that despite the rising popularity and interest in food tourism across many related sectors, there is very little data on a clearly defined food tourism segment. We conducted our own survey for the purpose of providing some necessary context to the trends.

According to our food tourism survey, 96% of respondents have participated in some kind of experience that would fall under this slightly narrower food tourism umbrella (i.e., dining out at restaurants that serve local cuisine is included). This increases slightly to 98% for those respondents who have traveled for leisure in the past 12 months, who we call “recent travelers.” This falls in line with the WFTA’s 2016 Food Travel Monitor finding that 93% of travelers could be considered “food travelers” at some time, based on their participation in food or beverage experiences. This estimation, however, does not include travelers who only dine out in-destination.

food tourism potential

For more nuance, the chart below shows the type of food and/or drink related experiences that our respondents have participated in while traveling, divided again by recent travelers and the average for all respondents. Unsurprisingly, most respondents have dined out at a restaurant that serves local food while traveling, with about 80% of recent travelers reporting this.

food tourism potential

Next, we focus in on the narrowest scope of food tourism. We asked our respondents whether they’ve ever gone on vacation with a food and/or drink related travel experience as the main purpose of the trip. Among all respondents, one-third responded that they have. For respondents who have traveled in the last 12 months, 42% said so. This is a very significant number for relevant stakeholders who work to use food experiences to attract tourists.

food tourism potential

When looking at the specific types of experiences that these travelers planned their trips around, wine tasting claims the first spot, with 52% of respondents saying they’ve gone on trips with that activity as the main purpose. We will discuss more details later in the report.

food tourism potential

Food Tourism Experiences Grow in Popularity

Food and drink experiences have long been an important part of travel. However, food tourism is reaching new levels of popularity and is manifesting in more exciting ways than ever. Data from TripAdvisor , for example, showed that food tours and cooking classes were among the top-five fastest growing tour categories in 2017, each with 57% bookings’ growth on the platform. Food tours also saw the most growth by gross booking value that year.

Food and drink-related activities also show high levels of popularity on Airbnb’s Experiences platform. According to an Airbnb spokesperson Skift Research spoke with in February 2018 for our report The State of Tours and Activities 2018 , bookings of these types of Experiences accounted for around 29% of the platform’s total bookings at the time.

Not only are bookings of food tourism experiences growing, but there are also signs that traveler satisfaction with them is high. TripAdvisor recently released the winners of its 2018 Travelers’ Choice Awards, which includes awards for experiences listed on its platform. The winners are determined using an algorithm that takes into account a business’s reviews, opinions, and popularity with travelers over the last year. On the list of the Top 25 Experiences in the World , seven of those selected are either entirely food based, or include a unique, local food portion within the experience. The number one spot, in fact, was taken by an entirely food-based experience: a cooking class and lunch at a Tuscan farmhouse which includes a tour of a local market in Florence.

The Rise of Niche, Food- and Beverage-Related Businesses

Outside of food tourism experiences designed purely for travelers, we see growth in other food- and beverage-related businesses. In Skift Research’s 2016 report Food Tourism Strategies to Drive Destination Spending , we called out the “rise of beer, spirits, and coffee tourism.” This trend was largely being driven by the explosive growth of craft breweries at the time. Since then, this growth has slowed, but still remains steady, with small and independent craft brewers maintaining 5% growth in the first half of 2018 in the U.S. according to the Brewers Association , showing that the demand is still there.

Food halls are another niche, local food- and beverage-related business type that is undergoing huge growth currently. Cushman & Wakefield, one of the largest U.S. commercial real estate brokers, has been tracking food hall development in the U.S. since 2015. In that year, it noted 70 projects. By the year’s end in 2017, this number went up to 118 and was expected to reach 180 by the end of 2018. The firm estimates that there will be 300 food halls in the U.S. by the end of 2020.

The growth of craft breweries and food halls may not be entirely due to the rise of food tourism, as many locals also enjoy these venues. However, it is safe to say that the same interests that are driving food tourism are contributing to the growth of these types of businesses. Craft breweries, food halls, and the like also become attractions in and of themselves, thereby also contributing back to the rise in food tourism.

Industry Sentiment About Food Tourism Today

Clearly, food tourism deserves our attention. Stakeholders in the space agree. According to a survey of DMOs, educational institutions, marketing and consultancy firms, accommodation providers, the meetings industry, food and beverage providers, and wineries in the UNWTO’s Second Report on Gastronomy Tourism , the majority of respondents agree that gastronomy is a driving force for tourism development (with an average of 8.19 on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is “strongly agree”).

Even so, many respondents to this survey didn’t feel that their marketing efforts in this area were adequate. For example, while 70% of respondents said they have targeted food tourists as a specific market segment, only 10% think that this segment receives enough promotion in the destination. Further, just 46.5% report that they have a food tourism strategy in place, while just under 25% say they allocate budget specifically for attracting food tourists. These survey results emphasize the need for all stakeholders to contribute toward developing and promoting the food tourism in a region. We will discuss this more later in the report.

Who Are Food Tourists Today?

Because food tourism activities vary so much, it’s difficult to say exactly who food tourists are from a demographic perspective, as it varies so much depending on the activity. From our own survey, we found that Millennials and young Gen Xers make up the majority of our U.S.-based respondents who have ever participated in a food tourism experience other than dining out at chain restaurants. The age distribution is the same for food tourists who have traveled in the past 12 months.

food tourism potential

Today’s Food Tourists Are Curious and Crave Unique Experiences

Throughout our interviews with food tourism stakeholders, we heard the theme that food tourists are curious people who desire unique experiences that revolve around food. Camille Rumani is the COO and co-founder of Eatwith, a peer-to-peer app that connects travelers and locals around food experiences in 130 countries. She describes the guests who use Eatwith as “People who, for example … want to get off the beaten path, I would say, do something that is a bit different, but also have the feeling, they don’t want to be a tourist. … they will also value the fact that it’s not the same thing that they’re doing as anyone else.”

Joanne Wolnik, tour development manager for the regional tourism office, Ontario’s Southwest, echoed these sentiments when describing the typical food tourists in her region: “It’s people that are curious, people that have an appetite to learn new things. This is the same whether they’re coming for a tasting experience or their coming to make chocolate truffles, it’s people that want to learn.”

Today’s Food Tourists Aren’t All “Foodies” or “Gourmets”

It is easy to make the mistake of conflating food tourists with foodies, but today, these two groups don’t fully overlap. A study by Fogelson & Co. , a food brand strategy and marketing agency, articulated the larger trend of moving away from using “foodie” to describe people who have a deep connection to food. The study explains that “foodie” used to depict a niche minority, but a deep interest in food is now mainstream. Further, it argues that a “foodie” is often thought of as being a person who is in “some sort of exclusive gourmand group of hyper-passionate food people,” when in fact, this is not the case for many consumers who feel connected to food.

To compensate for this disconnect, Fogelson & Co. recommends a new consumer category: the “food connected consumer.” This group views cooking and eating as fun experiences and as opportunities to explore. In fact, 63% of these surveyed consumers reported that they love to travel.

This distinction between the traditional “foodie” group and the new “food-connected consumer” is important when thinking about building and promoting food tourism. Trevor Jonas Benson, director of food tourism innovation and lead consultant for Grow Food Tourism at the Culinary Tourism Alliance, explained that he has observed the success of destinations that look beyond foodies. “No longer are destinations concentrating on a very small percentage, hyper-niche market of foodies and gastronomic interested people … but they’re starting to understand that any and all experiences can often be enhanced through food and drink.”

Our survey results further illustrate this point. We asked respondents which category of food and/or drink related activity is most appealing to them when traveling. The results show that the often more casual categories of “Markets, festivals, and speciality grocers” was selected the most, followed by the also casual category of “Gastropubs, burgers, and beer,” while “Gourmet, upscale, classic” falls to the fifth position among all respondents.

food tourism potential

We asked a variation of this question for our 2016 report, Food Tourism Strategies to Drive Destination Spending , and similar trends were observed. However, “Gastropubs, burgers, beer” took the top spot then, and “Gourmet, upscale, classic” ranked one spot higher (please note, however, that respondents were not given “Other” or “None” options in 2016).

food tourism potential

Still, the point remains, that while food tourism can be upscale and gourmet, it doesn’t have to be. In fact, more people prefer more casual types of experiences.

Today’s Food Tourists Can Be Divided into Two Main Groups: Deliberate and Incidental

A common way to segment food tourists is based on whether food and/or drink related experiences are their main motivation for travel or not. These groups are often referred to as “deliberate food tourists” and “incidental food tourists.” Skift Research spoke with Helena and Robert Williams, Ph.D.’s, researchers and academics with expertise in food tourism. They have researched the differences between deliberate and incidental food tourists extensively. Helena explained that deliberate food tourists will plan out their trips for weeks to include as many food experiences as possible, or a few of the most interesting ones: “They’re thinking about the food related experiences, not what restaurant they’ll eat in but can they go to a cooking class, can they go to a plantation, can they go to a winery, will there be some other cultural experiential thing they’ll learn about.”

Incidental food tourists, on the other hand, would still likely fall into the “food connected consumer” group we discussed above, but they are traveling for another reason, such as to visit friends or family, go to a conference, etc. Because they still appreciate food though, they will look for any free time they have to fit in food and/or drink related experiences.

Distinguishing between deliberate and incidental groups is important for food tourism stakeholders looking to develop and promote themselves to “food tourists” because they are likely to be interested in slightly different kinds of experiences and also need to be targeted in different ways and at different times in their journey.

The data below (which we discussed as Exhibit 4 above), for example, shows that the most common food and/or drink related travel experiences are those that have the option to be planned well in advance, but are also commonly done spontaneously (dining out at a restaurant that serves local food and visiting a local food retailer). In other words, these are experiences that are appealing to both deliberate and incidental food tourists. Those that require more pre-planning tend to fall toward the bottom of the list (cooking class, food tour).

food tourism potential

The popularity of these experience types changes when we look at those that were the main purpose of a vacation. Wine tasting moves to the top spot and food tours is the fourth-most common experience type that travelers have planned trips for specifically.

food tourism potential

Joanne Wolnik of Ontario’s Southwest described how her organization uses this type of distinction when developing food tourism in the region. She explained that her team not only works to make sure that there are local, exciting options for tourists who are looking to dine out, but also that there are plenty of reasons for deliberate food tourists to make a trip to the region as well. “This is the side that we are really trying to grow. We’ve got awesome people that are here already doing really cool things … so we are building reasons for people to travel for food specifically.”

Today’s Food Tourists Often Plan Their Trips Around Food

Whether they’re incidental or deliberate, food tourists today are more commonly choosing destinations at least in part because of their food offerings, even if this is not the main purpose of a trip. They are also often planning other parts of their trips around food and drink experiences. As Camille Rumani of Eatwith explained, unique food offerings used to be a “nice to have. Now they [destinations] need to have that. People are really looking for it, and they also choose destinations more and more based on the food offerings.” Javier Perez-Palencia, CEO and chair of the board for the international food tourism festival FIBEGA Miami, summed this up by saying “Gastronomy is an attraction.”

Skift Research also spoke with Michael Ellis, Jumeirah Group’s chief culinary officer and former global director at Michelin Restaurant and Hotel Guides. From his experience in both roles, he has observed the emerging trend of travelers basically going on “gastronomic pilgrimages,” where they choose a destination like Copenhagen specifically to eat at Noma, or Madrid to eat at DiverXO. Even for incidental food tourists, it’s common for them to use the food experiences they do incorporate as starting points to plan their other activities. “Everything else will come from there,” he explained, “whether it’s shopping, or cultural, or sporting events, whatever they want to do. That will be organized around where they have their lunch or dinner reservations.”

An area’s food offerings are also an essential component food tourists consider when choosing accommodations. Robert Williams explained that it’s important for hotels to realize that this is becoming more common. “What hotels are beginning to do is instead of trying to be all inclusive, they realize that … some of their customers look for the food experience first … versus the other way where you pick the hotel in the location and then see what you can do while you’re there.”

Interestingly, the total trip expenditure of incidental food tourists might not vary that much from that of deliberate food tourists, despite their varying levels of motivation by food. This was something that Helena and Robert Williams found through their extensive research on the subject, a finding that Helena refers to as “one of the most profound things to come out of my research.” She explained that the spending by these two groups is pretty comparable, and that the spending of incidental food tourists, “if not equal, it’s more than the deliberate traveler because they’re already there for some other reason and their time is more compressed, but they still want these wonderful experiences.” In a 2018 paper they published in the Journal of Gastronomy and Tourism with Jingxue (Jessica) Yuan, two surveys of self-identified food tourists revealed that 60% spent the most money on a deliberate food tourism trip, while 40% reported that it was an incidental trip. This research further emphasizes why both groups of food tourists are important to target and attract.

Defining the New Era of Food Tourism

Now that we have a better picture of who food tourists are today, we will focus on what food tourism is today beyond the general definition we discussed at the beginning of the report. It’s impossible for food tourism to remain static, as cultures, the environment, and consumer demands are in constant flux. Drawing mainly from our interviews with expert stakeholders, we’ve identified five key components that define the new era of food tourism. For each component, we’ve included relevant perspectives from stakeholders and case studies.

Food Tourism Is About More Than the Food Itself

The types of experiences that define the new era of food tourism are about more than just food or beverages. Our interviewees brought this up repeatedly in multiple ways. This is the biggest part of the new definition of food tourism and is multifaceted. Today, the food tourism experiences that best exemplify what food tourists want meet at least one of the following criteria: they overlap with other types of tourism (such as cultural tourism, historical tourism, agritourism, etc.), they have a hands-on learning aspect, and they are social.

  • DMO/RTO: Joanne Wolnik, of Ontario’s Southwest explained how her team divides experiences into three categories: culinary, waterfront, and significant events. She explained that “the main two are waterfront and culinary … but we’ve created a lens where [an experience] usually has to overlap with one of the other two. So culinary is quite a high priority.”
  • Travel Agency: James Imbriani, founder of the luxury food-themed tour company Sapore Travel, told Skift Research, “Destinations have a lot of things to offer other than just food and wine. Even if we plan something more historical, if we can tie in food, we like to try.”
  • Tour Platform/Operator: Camille Rumani of Eatwith explained that she has been seeing more experiences on the platform that are hosted in unique spaces, like art galleries, rooftops, and even an old London underground station. Looking forward, she foresees that people will become even interested in experiences with interest beyond food: “for example, dinner with a concert, or seeing a play at the same time, or integrating food and music. We see that becoming very, very popular.”
  • Case Study: Time Out Market Time Out Market was conceived by Time Out Group, best known for its city-specific online and print magazines that cover entertainment, events, and culture in global cities. The first market opened in Lisbon in 2014 and includes a selection of the best food and drink the city has to offer curated by Time Out editors and presented in a food hall type style. A repeated marketing message of the Time Out Market, however, is “this is more than just a food hall.” In addition to food vendors, the space also includes an academy where cooking classes are taught and a large studio space where concerts and other shows, fairs, conferences, and more are specially curated to represent the city as best as possible. “The magazine is all about food, beverage, chefs, art, culture, music, exhibitions, what’s hot in town now. So we’re bringing the magazine to life physically” said Didier Souillat, CEO of Time Out Market. With this strategy, Time Out Market Lisbon has become the number one tourist destination in the Portugal, and attracts locals as well. Beginning this year, new Time Out Markets will begin opening in other cities around the world and will mimic the mix of offerings in Lisbon, but with localized twists.The mix of offerings within a Time Out Market differentiates it, attracts people initially, and keeps them coming back. As a Time Out Market representative explained, “It’s not just dinner on a Thursday night. It’s dinner and a show, dinner and a reading, dinner and a cultural moment.”
  • DMO/RTO: Joanne Wolnik of Ontario’s Southwest told us, “The main thing about food tourism that I’m seeing is that people want something new to them, unique, they want to learn, and they want to go home with new skills. I’m hesitant to say the word transformational again, because I know that’s a little bit trendy right now so I’m being careful, but it’s a new way from them to engage in food and with food.”
  • Case Study: Ontario’s Southwest Joanne Wolnik shared some examples of food tourism experiences in Ontario’s Southwest region that illustrate this part of our definition perfectly. One experience is called The Sweetest Smell on Earth, which is run by a maple syrup harvester. The experience, which is offered a limited number of times, begins with a trip on a tractor to maple trees, where participants learn how to tap the tree, collect sap, and are taught historical information about the process. They then are taught how to make their own maple candies and they get to keep a bottle of their own syrup. Next, they’re served a meal by a local chef who incorporates maple into each dish.Wolnik explains that the hands-on, educational parts of this experience make it really resonate with participants: “ … they have bragging rights because they have their own bottle of maple syrup that they bottled themselves, they know how to use the product beyond just putting it on pancakes and waffles, and it really empowers them to use the product. So not only are they learning something new, but now when they go home, it’s changing their behaviors and their habits. So there is a transformational piece to it.”
  • Tour Platform/Operator: Social interaction is a key component of the peer-to-peer experiences available on Eatwith. Camille Rumani told us that this was one of the main motivators for starting the company. “We saw that because usually you’re a tourist when you’re traveling, it’s such a paradox to travel so easily nowadays in cities where millions of people are living, but you don’t actually meet anyone when you’re traveling to Barcelona and to New York. You’re usually wondering what’s behind the closed doors, and we wanted to facilitate this experience.”
  • Benjamin Ozsanay, CEO and co-founder of the cooking class platform Cookly, expressed similar sentiments: “Over time, we realized that our users and partners were looking for a connection. … This human connection was something we think is missing in ‘food tourism’ as it commonly perceived. We think it is much more than just trying the local street food or visiting the hottest new restaurant. It is about making a human connection across cultures … the essence of travel”
  • Case Study: TripAdvisor’s 2018 Travelers’ Choice Awards Top Experience in the World As we mentioned earlier in the report, the top experience in the world according TripAdvisor’s 2018 Travelers Choice Awards was a food-based experience called “Cooking Class and Lunch at a Tuscan Farmhouse with Local Market Tour from Florence.” The description of this experience on TripAdvisor gets right to the core of this part of our food tourism definition. It is described as a “hands-on experience,” where travelers can “explore cuisine in more depth than you would by simply eating in restaurants.” Traveler reviews praise the experience as “interactive,” “educational,” and “social.” They lauded that they “met some lovely people” and enjoyed “hearing about the history in addition to tasting the food.”

Food Tourism Emphasizes the Story Behind the Food

This part of the definition is very closely related to the previous point, in that food tourism experiences today shouldn’t be about just tasting food or beverages, but should go deeper. This aspect of food tourism is about cultures and communities authentically telling their stories through food as a way to attract and interact with tourists. As Trevor Jonas Benson of the Culinary Tourism Alliance described, “we’re seeing a return to the use of language such as ‘authenticity,’ which is really indicative of destinations and communities starting to reclaim what it is that makes them special.”

Food is perhaps one of the easiest ways for people to share something that reflects themselves, their city or region, or their culture. In the words of Camille Rumani of Eatwith “food really reflects the DNA and the soul, I would say of a culture, and basically of people.”

The importance of this aspect of food tourism today is obvious just by looking at the ways food tourism companies describe themselves. Among our interviewees, for example, Benjamin Ozsanay of Cookly described the company this way: “We cultivate a community of users with a love of food, who want to learn about different cultures through local recipes and cooking traditions.” James Imbriani of Sapore Travel also emphasized that his company creates “meaningful, cultural exchanges through food and gastronomy,” and that this is what food tourism should be at its essence.

  • Case Study: Cookly In addition to incorporating more of the story behind the food into food and drink related experiences, this part of our definition can also be translated through marketing and branding. Cookly, a platform that connects food loving travelers with food professionals for cooking classes serves as a case study of this. The platform recently changed its logo from a chef’s hat to a mortar and pestle. While the company’s founders originally envisioned connecting travelers with cooking schools, CEO & Co-Founder Bejamin Ozsanay explained, “over time, we realized that our users were looking for more of a connection with the food, culture, and local traditions of a place. The mission was not just about taking a cooking class on your trip, but immersing yourself in the local community and sharing knowledge about the world. Our new mortar and pestle logo reflects our brand’s evolution.”

Food Tourism Is Conscious and Thoughtful

Conscious consumption is permeating throughout many industries, and travel and food tourism aren’t immune. In fact, the new era of food tourism is defined by its conscious and thoughtful nature. The best food and drink experiences for travelers today consider environmental sustainability as well as community and economic impact. This is especially important in developing destinations with fragile ecosystems. Sharing culture and interacting with travelers is beneficial to locals, but without care for the environment and a direct economic impact, these things are meaningless.

  • Travel Agency: James Imbriani of Sapore Travel explained how conscious consumption has impacted food tourism: “Also we’ve seen the shift in mindset, even when it comes to the food you’re cooking and eating at home, where people care a little bit more about where their food came from, the processes behind them, how they’re made, the care and love producers put into their products, as opposed to just blindly consuming things. We’ve seen that people are more willing to travel to find these things out, and for me that’s exciting.”
  • DMO/RTO: Joanne Wolnik and her team at Ontario’s Southwest aim for economic, social, and environmental benefit as a result of food tourism experiences in the region: “We don’t want to devalue what our operators and artisans and all of our partners are bringing to the table, because ultimately, the whole point of tourism should be the benefit that the travelers bring to the local community both economically and socially, and we strive for environmentally as well.”
  • Hotel: Michael Ellis of Jumeirah Group is highly aware of the desire food connected travelers have for local products: “People want to, wherever they are, they want to eat like locals, they want to have a local experience. They want to have locally grown products. They want to have ingredients that, if possible, come from not too far away from where they’re being consumed.” The challenge here is that most of Jumeirah’s hotels are in desert environments, like Dubai. “… there’s not a whole lot that’s produced here. Most things are imported,” he explained. Even so, Ellis sees this as a challenge worth overcoming. “But, having said that, we are in the process now of identifying local producers for a wide variety of products including organically grown vegetables and poultry and eggs. … we are really excited about our ability to bring locally, organically produced, sustainably developed products into our restaurants.”
  • Ensuring that food and drink travel experiences — whether it’s a food tour, a meal at a hotel, etc. — are conscious and thoughtful about the local environment and communities might present some initial challenges. But, in the end, they can be the deciding factor for food connected travelers, especially those who are millennials and younger. Research by tour operator Intrepid Traveler found that 90% of millennials consider a travel company’s ethical commitments when booking, and Gen Z is already showing signs of being conscious consumers. A study by McKinsey found that 65% of Gen Zers try to learn the origins of anything they buy and 80% won’t buy products from companies that have been involved in scandals. As these groups continue to become a larger share of the travel market, we can anticipate that this part of food tourism will grow in importance.
  • Case Study: Feast On by Culinary Tourism Alliance The Feast On certification program was launched by the Culinary Tourism Alliance in 2015. Skift Research discussed the program in our 2016 report . Its growth and success since then warrant us to revisit it as a case study now. The program works mostly with restaurants, and also commodity groups and local producers, to verify that they are buying and celebrating food local to the Ontario area.
  • Participants who meet the stated criteria pay a small fee and in return “we celebrate them through many different ways: through communication, through events, etc.” explained Trevor Jonas Benson who helped create the program. This program is one example of how food and beverage businesses can convey to locals and tourists alike that they approach food with their communities in mind. As the program’s website expresses: “Supporting our local economy and Ontario’s farmers is important; especially for the food service industry. It builds our local food identity, it puts dollars back into our communities and it limits our environmental impact.”
  • As of September 30, 2018 the program has certified 137 restaurants, up from the 120 cited in our 2016 report. Perhaps the best way to measure the success of the program is by the expenditure of its participants on local Ontario food purchases, which all are required to report. In 2018, this number totaled $25,140,000 up from the approximately $15,000,000 cited in 2016. This is all money that is staying in the local region and going directly into the communities these businesses are a part of.

Food Tourism Can Promote Exploration Outside of Main Areas and Attractions

One way for food tourism experiences to be conscious and thoughtful to the environment and local communities is to encourage exploration outside of main areas and attractions in a destination. This is something that food tourism is already doing and we expect it will become an even more important part of these experiences in the future.

The size of the current and potential food tourism market is a bit of a double-edged sword. Erik Wolf, CEO of the World Food Travel Association explained, “This can be great news to destinations that are willing to plan carefully for success, but it also can add fuel to the overtourism fire in popular food-centric cities like Portland, Oregon and Barcelona, Spain.”

Encouraging tourists to get outside of the main areas of a destination doesn’t only benefit the local community, it’s also something that more and more food tourists are desiring. Benjamin Ozsanay of Cookly attributes this to the “exploding popularity of travel-culture-food shows like No Reservations, Parts Unknown, and Salt Fat Acid Heat [that] has thrust culinary tourism into the mainstream and we have seen increasing numbers of travelers across all markets searching for similar experiences.”

  • Travel Agency: Getting tourists outside of main areas and attractions has benefits beyond easing overtourism. These are the types of experiences food travelers want and they can also be a benefit businesswise. At Sapore Travel, James Imbriani and his team like “to focus on destinations that are a little less typical when it comes what you generally think about in culinary tourism. … even focusing on different regions, like Sicily instead of mainland Italy. These are the kind of places we like to feature, and from a business perspective, these are the kind of places where expertise is a bit more valuable as well.”
  • Tour Platform/Operator: For Benjamin Ozsanay’s team at Cookly, local partnerships are key to forming relationships in more remote regions so they can get their guests off the beaten path. “Local partnerships are very helpful for us to connect with the smaller local communities that are often left off the tourist map.” One such partnership is with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT). He explained, “By working together with TAT we can discover more small communities and in exchange we are able to help them grow their local economy as well. Anyone can join Cookly, as long as they are able to provide a well planned out class with equipment and a passion to share their food knowledge and culture.”
  • Case Study: Benvingutas a Pagés (Welcome to the Farm) Welcome to the Farm is an annual event in the Catalonia region of Spain. During one weekend of the summer, hundreds of farms and other food producers (olive oil producers, wineries, cava makers, honey producers, etc.) throughout the region open to visitors to offer the opportunity to taste and learn about the local food. Restaurants and accommodation providers throughout the region also participate and promote the use of local products.
  • An interactive website for the event provides multiple ways for participants to plan their farm visits. A map shows all of the participating producers within districts of Catalonia, producers are divided by category for those looking to explore just one or a couple in depth, and a number of pre-planned routes have been created by the event’s organizers. Each mapped out route is targeted toward different groups (like foodies, cultural tourists, photography/nature lovers, families, etc.) and they take about three days for visitors to get through. This event and the resources available to participants encourage them — and make it easy — to explore beyond Barcelona, where they will then have the opportunity to connect with local communities and learn the stories behind the region’s famous cuisine.

Food Tourism Doesn’t Mean Just One Thing

After everything we’ve discussed already, this part of our food tourism definition is probably not surprising: Food tourism isn’t just one thing. It’s not all about gourmet experiences, just like it doesn’t have to be about eating street food, or going on a designated food tour. Experiences of all kinds can encompass the new definition of food tourism that we’ve laid out, giving the food tourists of today more options than ever before. Even within one destination, an authentic, meaningful experience can take many forms, be it a trip to a local farm or a meal at a restaurant that celebrates local produce. Our interviewees expressed this in their own ways.

  • Travel Agency: Just because Sapore Travel focuses on luxury food travel experiences for a higher-end clientele, it doesn’t mean that they limit the activities throughout a trip to the high-end of things. “I think people are more willing to get outside of their comfort zone these days. Even in the luxury market, people are more willing to,” Imbriani explained. Later, he added “In a place like Mexico City, for example, you can have a Michelin-Starred, fine-dining meal at a place like Pujol, or similar, but you can also eat in a market and have just as memorable of an experience.”
  • Hotel: Michael Ellis of Jumeirah Group brought up the point that “authentic” and “local” don’t necessarily mean eating at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in the middle of nowhere. It all depends on the destination, and most have many facets of what makes them unique. “The gourmet, high-end, if you’re in Paris, that’s very much of a local experience. … People go to Paris for that experience. But you know, people don’t necessarily go to Bangkok, or Dubai, or Kuala Lumpur, or Miami for that experience.”He continued to explain how a luxury hotel group like Jumeirah can take advantage of the many kinds of “authenticity” that exist in the destinations where its properties are located: “I think that’s the most important thing is that you can be a luxury hotel group and offer something for everybody, but the important thing is to make sure whatever you’re offering is of the highest quality, whether it’s a street food experience or a gastronomic experience, it’s got to be authentic and it’s got to be at the best quality level.”

Best Practices in Food Tourism

We identified 10 best practices for stakeholders looking to develop, promote, and/or participate in their region’s food tourism scene. In this section, we will briefly discuss each one (in no particular order), providing perspective from stakeholder interviews, case studies, and additional research throughout.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach

Build the infrastructure that’s needed to support food tourism.

Before a region, or any stakeholders within it, can expect food tourists, they can all play a part in ensuring that the area has the infrastructure necessary to support them. In a 2019 article by Helena and Robert Williams and Jingxue (Jessica) Yuan published in the Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Research, a pyramid is used to illustrate the infrastructure that is needed in order for memorable food tourism experiences to be developed and marketed successfully. The foundation of the pyramid is health and safety, which includes things like clean water and proper sanitation practices and systems. Above that is transportation and lodging, meaning safe accommodations near and transport to and from food tourism experiences. Once those two elements are in place, communication should be the focus. This can mean ensuring internet access in order to reach travelers, and also from a strategic standpoint, how they are communicating their offerings.

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Everyone has a role to play

Developing and promoting food tourism is often regarded as responsibilities of tourism boards. As we have seen throughout this report, however, many kinds of businesses are stakeholders in this space, and therefore should have an active role in it. We will discuss partnerships and collaboration more a bit later, but here we want to focus on one type of stakeholder that is often omitted from the food tourism conversation: hotels.

Through our research and interviews, we have identified two different ways that hotels can get involved in the new era of food tourism: They can bring the community and its cuisine into their properties, or they can facilitate opportunities for their guests to have food tourism experiences in the communities they’re part of.

One way hotels approach the first method is to focus on creating the type of experiences that food tourists desire in the food and beverage offerings at their properties. Michael Ellis of Jumeirah Group thinks that hotels are increasingly becoming food tourism destinations in their own right: “The line between independently owned and run restaurants and restaurants in hotels is more and more blurred. … people want to be able to not just stay in a hotel, but they also want to have great F&B [food and beverage] offerings … You now have restaurants in hotels that are attracting locals and you see this all over the world.”

In addition to focusing their food and beverage offerings in this manner, hotels can also bring unique and local food experiences into their properties in other ways, like offering cooking classes for guests or retail opportunities for local food manufacturers.

Local partnerships are key

For all types of food tourism stakeholders, local partnerships and collaboration are key. Partnerships are key from two different perspectives. Organizations like DMOs, RTOs, and consultancies or associations that focus on developing food tourism have the ability to foster collaboration among local stakeholders that might not otherwise do so themselves. Joanne Wolnik of Ontario’s Southwest explained how her team does this: “Our region is big, geographically, so people three hours away generally don’t know each other, but if they’re doing the same thing or they’re doing similar things, or we know that they could partner to accomplish things together, we always love putting them together and making that introduction.”

Trevor Jonas Benson and his team at the Culinary Tourism Alliance also emphasize the importance of collaborating with the local stakeholders in their client destinations: “The development of the work itself, of the projects, is a collaborative process,” he stressed, “It’s got to be the people who are going to be ultimately benefiting from it and producing those outcomes that have got to be involved in the process from start to finish.”

From another perspective, we have tour operators, booking platforms, and travel agencies that essentially take tourists into many different locations for food tourism experiences. Local partnerships are also essential for these types of companies, even though they may take more work to establish. We already mentioned how Cookly, the cooking class platform, has partnered with the Tourism Authority of Thailand in order to gain access and form further relationships within the country’s more remote regions.

Focus on what makes you and your destination unique

For food tourism operators and businesses, it’s important to focus on what makes the experience unique, as well as what makes the cuisine of the destination unique. When developing food tourism products, Joanne Wolnik recommends considering “how are you making sure that your itinerary is truly an experience and not just a tour, how are you taking it one step further?” She explained, “The idea behind that is that we know that in tourism, your competition is whoever is doing the same thing as you but closer to the traveler’s home. So by being completely different, we open ourselves up to a totally different market.”

Imbriani echoed this when we talked to him about how a food tourism company like Sapore Travel can continue to stand out in the market as it becomes more crowded over time. “I think the biggest thing is offering experiences that are a little bit differentiated from the rest of the market. Less focus on these just kind of generic cooking classes and restaurant reservations, and more focus on meeting with producers, and things like that. The biggest thing is being able to offer a unique product.”

Erik Wolf, CEO of the World Food Travel Association emphasized the importance of focusing on what makes an area’s cuisine unique in order to attract food tourists: “We also see entrepreneurs, and their destination marketing offices implicitly endorsing, giving tourists everything they could possibly want rather than focus on an area’s specialty.” He gave the example of tourists in Barcelona who look for an opportunity to eat paella “which is actually a dish originating in the province of Valencia, three hours south. They leave seemingly satisfied after having found paella, but it may only be a shadow of what an authentic paella experience would be.” When food businesses focus on their destination’s true, unique specialities, it encourages exploration into less commonly visited places, like Valencia rather than Barcelona.

  • Case Study: Communicating Unique Cuisine Through Marketing Focusing on what makes a region’s cuisine unique is crucial. Making sure that potential food tourists are aware of this is just as important. One way to do this is through marketing and branding messages. Time Out Market, for example, is opening a location in Brooklyn this spring. Didier Souillat, CEO, explained how one of the main marketing messages that will be used to attract tourists and locals to the location is “New York on a plate.” The idea that this message gets across — that a visitor can literally get a taste of a whole city with one experience — is powerful and attractive.
  • Visit Sweden has recently launched a food tourism experience that follows this same idea (plus many others that we have discussed in the report). The experience is called The Edible Country . Created and hosted by four Michelin Star Swedish chefs, the experience takes participants into the wilderness in seven distinct regions of the country where they prepare a nine course meal made from things they catch and forage from nature around them. In addition to incorporating the hands-on, educational, and local aspects that we’ve discussed throughout this report, the way it is marketed and branded communicate Sweden as a destination that can be meaningfully experienced through this food-based activity.

Figure out what “authentic” means for you

As we discussed earlier in the report, food tourism isn’t just one thing, and a big part of this has to do with the many meanings of “authentic” across and within destinations. Because of this, it’s important for food tourism stakeholders to figure out what “authentic” means to them. What part of the region’s cuisine should you focus on? How can you take advantage of locally produced food and drinks? This is something that Time Out Market is approaching smartly in its upcoming Brooklyn location. This location will be the only Time Out Market location of those slated to open in the coming years to feature a Kosher vendor. According to Didier Souillat, “We’re about being local, so you can’t be more local than that.”

Nurture existing food resources to become parts of food tourism

This is one things that stakeholders can do to help develop the food tourism space in their destinations to positively benefit the community. Stakeholders of all kinds can examine what already exists in a region: local restaurants, producers, manufacturers, and even food-passionate individuals who aren’t currently making money this way. They can then come up with ways to nurture these resources to help them have a more active role in the space.

Helena Williams explained how restaurants can do this. By adding a chef’s table, a periodic cooking class, or more specifically, something like “a fish restaurant that will let you go to the dock early in the morning and show you how they select their fish, and then you select the fish and come back later for dinner, and that chef has prepared that fish that you selected.” The restaurant itself may already be a culinary attraction, but “Those are the kinds of things that could easily be added to an existing wonderful experience,” making it more memorable and encouraging travel specifically for the experience itself.

Stakeholders can also help food-passionate individuals enter food tourism, which will benefit them and also their communities. Williams also provided an example of how this could transpire: Maybe there’s a woman in a community who makes the best dumplings, from her kitchen or another unofficial space, but her food wouldn’t necessarily be available to tourists. In a case like this, other stakeholders can help connect her with a network that can help provide support to expand her passion into a business within the food tourism space in her community. Whether it’s the tourism board helping to promote her as a food business or a hotel bringing her to teach cooking classes or sell her dumplings, she can become a part of food tourism with the support of other stakeholders for the benefit of everyone.

Peer-to-peer platforms like Eatwith can also help everyday people who are passionate about their food and cultures play a role in food tourism. Rumani of Eatwith explained that when it comes to the platform’s hosts, “Most of them, I would say 98% of them are amateurs, like me. I do host sometimes as well, and it’s like people who love to cook, are super proud of their culture and story, family story.”

  • Case Study: Ontario’s Southwest The maple syrup experience case study from Ontario’s Southwest that we shared earlier in the report is not the only one from the region worthy of discussing. Another example shared with us by Joanne Wolnik is an experience called Tree to Table: A Canadian Conversation. This experience is a great illustration of this best practice category because it shows how even a region’s non-food-specific resources can be nurtured to play a role in food tourism.
  • This experience is hosted by a charcuterie board maker in Oxford County in Ontario, which is considered the dairy capital of Canada. Four at a time, participants come to his property, where he shows them how he sustainably sources wood from the indigenous forest for his craft. Participants then design their own board with his artist wife, and then he teaches them how to make their own board in his workshop. Throughout the experience, participants get to try locally foraged teas and some other local recipes made from regional products. Following the boardmaking portion, the group enjoys an outdoor feast that Wolnik describes as being “filled with local jams … local cheeses from different artisan cheesemakers, meat from sustainable meat producers. So everything you’re eating is local. Even the chives and pansies that are in the butter, local breads made from locally milled grains.”
  • By hosting this experience, this artisan is able to expand his business and customer base while also sharing his region’s culture and history. Participants get to learn a new skill, understand the region through its food specialities, and bring home a souvenir they made themselves.

Food tourism should be collaborative, not competitive

We have already talked about how important local partnerships are for stakeholders interested playing a role in food tourism. That best practice especially focused on how organizations of different kinds can come together toward the common goal. Now, we turn our attention to how collaboration between stakeholders more generally can make a region a real destination for food tourism. If our focus on every stakeholder having a role to play hasn’t made it clear, food tourism should be collaborative, not competitive, even for similar types of businesses in a region.

Helena and Robert Williams have supported this statement through their research. In an article published in the 2018 Journal of Gastronomy and Tourism authored with Jingxue (Jessica) Yuan, they present results from surveys of food tourists. From the results of the surveys, they present what they call the 6+ Gastro-Cluster Destination Development Model. This model proposes that if at least six food tourism attractions in a two hour radius co-market themselves under a single brand image, it increases the likelihood that food tourists will consider the area worthy of a trip: The study concludes that “to attract serious, overnight, self-identified gastro-tourists, which results in sustainable economic development, 6+ clusters are needed.”

  • Case Study: Food tourism trails Food tourism trails (or culinary trails, or beverage trails) are an example of how this “cluster” idea can play out in real life. We talked specifically about beverage trails in our 2016 report, where we mentioned the examples of the Denver Beer Trail, the Austrian Schnapps Trail, the Columbus Coffee Trail, and the Santa Fe Margarita Trail. Trails like this are made up of food or beverage businesses that fall within a specific culinary category all within fairly close proximity to one another.Joanne Wolnik explained that the culinary trails in Ontario’s Southwest show “the critical mass of operators, experiences, and offers that are there for people to do. It’s just a more cohesive message than to go out and say ‘We’ve got 35 wineries’ or ‘We’ve got two distilleries, 20 breweries, and 18 wineries.’ We just try to package it up so it’s more exciting.” She explained how trails in the region, like the Oxford County Cheese Trail , act as attractants for tourists to visit the area and support it in other ways: “They have to be doing more than that [just eating cheese] the entire time they’re there. We know that the Cheese Trail is the reason they came, but while they’re there, they’re also doing A, B, and C, and benefiting the local community in those ways as well.”

Think beyond tourists

Hopefully, the importance of thinking beyond tourists is obvious at this point. Food tourism requires input and collaboration from all kinds of stakeholders, who can all play a part and benefit from it. Even when developing food tourism experiences, the focus shouldn’t only be on tourists. In most destinations, tourism ebbs and flows, so tourists are not always going to be a steady stream of customers for food and drink businesses and experiences. Locals and domestic travelers need to be considered as well.

When Skift Research asked Didier Souillat of Time Out Market whether he and his team focus more on tourists or locals as its target audience, he responded, “It can’t be only one. Tourists won’t go to places where locals are not because they think it’s too touristy for me. The locals won’t go if there’s too many tourists.” Even with the Lisbon Market, where 70% of visitors are tourists, he says most of the advertising is directed at the local community.

Cater to specific niches

Once the infrastructure is in place to support food tourism and food tourism experiences have been developed that follow the guidelines we’ve presented in this report, stakeholders can start thinking about catering to specific niches of food tourists. This could include niches of dietary restrictions/preferences, like vegetarians or vegans, or special interest groups. In November 2018, Skift reported on vegetarian and vegan tours being the “next wave of food tourism,” as the major tour operator Intrepid Travel plans to launch fully vegan tours in Italy, India, and Thailand this year. In destinations like these, vegan cuisine is already common, so creating products with this segment in mind can still maintain regional authenticity while also being a key selling point for these specific groups.

Endnotes and Further Reading

  •, “Brewers Association: Microbreweries and taprooms are ‘clearly the growth engine of craft,” May 2018.
  • Bisnow, “U.S. Food Hall Market Expected To Triple By 2020,” April 2018.
  •, “Going Local is the essential ingredient for an unforgettable foodie adventure,” June 2018.
  • Business Wire, “Move Over Foodies … Make Room for the Food Connected,” October 2018.
  •, “Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: ‘Food connected consumers’ could have broader reach than ‘foodies,’” October 2018.
  • New York Times, Eating and Drinking Your Way Through A Trip, and Learning Something in the Process, May 2018.
  • Scottish Tourism Alliance, “New plan to increase food and drink tourism,” 2018.
  • Skift, “Chefs as Destination Ambassadors Appeal to Travelers’ Foodie Obsessions,” January 2018.
  • Skift, “Vegans Find New Options as Part of Next Wave of Food Tourism,” November 2018.
  • Skift Table, “The Next Generation of Food Hall Design,” December 2018.
  • TripAdvisor, “2018 Travel Trends Report: Experiences, Tours & Activities,” 2018.
  • TripAdvisor, “Top 25 Experiences — World,” 2018.
  • UNWTO, Second Global Report on Gastronomy Tourism, 2017.
  • World Food Travel Association
  • Frontiers in Nutrition
  • Nutrition and Sustainable Diets
  • Research Topics

Food Tourism: Culture, Technology, and Sustainability

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Food and eco-tourism: Culture, Technology, and Sustainability Food is important in people’s daily lives and touristic experiences while traveling to different destinations, and tourism is a key sector for generating revenue and employment. With the development of new technologies and advances in food ...

Keywords : Food technology, Food tourism, Heritage, local food, Sustainability food, Plant-based food, alternative Food, Food waste, Algorithmic management, circular economy

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Learning to face global food challenges through tourism experiences

Journal of Tourism Futures

ISSN : 2055-5911

Article publication date: 27 June 2019

Issue publication date: 18 September 2019

The purpose of this paper is to provoke reflections on the potential contribution of food tourism experiences to achieving the sustainable development goals for eradicating hunger and malnutrition.


In line with the creative analytic practice in scientific inquiry, this study develops and discusses a futuristic scenario inspired by a factual company. The case is based on ideas derived from studies on educational and food tourism and entrepreneurship, more precisely ecopreneurship.

Food tourism can offer an opportunity for discussing food challenges in the context of ideas and projects to alleviate hunger and malnutrition. This study shows that imagining such possibilities and projects is challenging because of the complexity of the issue.

Practical implications

This study suggests that despite some limitations, educational food tourism experiences might go well beyond the issues of regional development, localism and authenticity. Practitioners, including tourism entrepreneurs and private and public food and tourism organisations, might be essential to exploring alternative food tourism futures in ways that truly contribute to urgent global challenges.


The value of this paper lies in the use of a scenario to imagine and to reflect on the future of food tourism in relation to the global challenges of hunger and malnutrition. The paper suggests that the ideas from tourism studies and ecopreneurship can offer interesting perspectives on future developments in the sector.

  • Sustainability
  • Food tourism
  • Sustainable development goals
  • Ecopreneurship
  • Educational tourism
  • Transformative experiences

Bertella, G. and Vidmar, B. (2019), "Learning to face global food challenges through tourism experiences", Journal of Tourism Futures , Vol. 5 No. 2, pp. 168-178.

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Giovanna Bertella and Benjamin Vidmar

Published in Journal of Tourism Futures . Published by Emerald Publishing Limited. This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of this article (for both commercial and non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full terms of this licence may be seen at

1. Introduction

This study presents and discusses a futuristic scenario about food, tourism and sustainability. As was highlighted by Luks (2014) , attempts to promote sustainability might need not only measurements and models but also engaging narratives. The goal of this study is to provide such a narrative. This is in line with the suggestions of Bina et al. (2017) in their review of fiction in relation to the global goals identified in the European policy since the development of the “2007 Green Paper” on research areas. Imagining the future through fiction can be useful for reflecting on and framing global challenges; consequently, it can be determinative in the search for feasible solutions and the consideration of their effects.

This study builds on two reflections. The first is the key role of food in the United Nations (UN) “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” ( United Nations, 2015 ). Food is relevant to Sustainable Development Goal 1, which is about ending poverty, and Goal 3, which deals with health. Moreover, it is the focus of Goal 2: “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture” ( United Nations, 2015 , p. 14). Other aspects of this goal include ensuring food access, developing sustainable food production systems and resilient agricultural practices, strengthening the capacity for adaptation to climate change and extreme weather, maintaining the genetic diversity of food sources and increasing investment and international cooperation.

The second reflection on which this study builds relates to two trends identified by Yeoman and McMahon-Beatte (2016) . They concern the future of food tourism: food tourism as political capital and a visionary state. Food production and tourism have been important elements of many recent public policies and strategies because of their potential to create economic prosperity, to generate jobs opportunities and to develop specific geographical areas that are typically rural. The interrelation of food production and tourism activities has important political implications and can be viewed as a type of utopian vision. The latter was described by Yeoman and McMahon-Beatte (2016) as a shared project through which communities, producers, tourists and political groups shape a future on the basis of ideologies such as localism, authenticity and activism against globalisation.

On the basis of these reflections, this study poses the question: How will the food tourism experiences of the future contribute to the alleviation and subsequent eradication of hunger and malnutrition? It develops a futuristic scenario about the role of food tourism experiences in the management of the food-related challenges identified by the UN. This scenario can be viewed as a normative scenario developed on the basis of the authors’ hopes about a preferred future. The study elaborates on the transformative potential of tourism experiences, specifically one type of educational tourism experience: the Grand Tour. This educational tourism experience is presented in the next section, together with the challenges identified in the scholarly literature related to food and food tourism. The main source of inspiration for the development of the futuristic scenario, a factual company located in the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, Norway, is described. Its adoption of elements of entrepreneurship, more specifically ecopreneurship is analysed. The paper then presents the futuristic scenario with a discussion on potential problems. The conclusion reflects on food tourism experiences and their transformative potential for overcoming the challenges of imagining and, even more, implementing the changes needed for a better future.

2. Educational potential and food tourism challenges

2.1 educational potential of tourism experiences.

Several scholars have argued that tourism experiences might not only increase knowledge but also influence attitudes and values. In other words, tourism experiences can be transformative, i.e. contributing to the realisation of the ideal person who a tourist truly wants to be ( Morgan, 2010 ; Coghlan and Gooch, 2011 ; Falk et al. , 2012 ; Pine and Gilmore, 2013 ; Stone and Petrick, 2013 ). The Grand Tour is an example of such forms of educational tourism. The Grand Tour is the travel undertaken by upper class European youths in the seventieth and eighteenth centuries as part of their education ( Towner, 1985 ). Such travel had the aim of exposing the European elite to various aspects of European culture. It was characterised by a romantic view of urban and rural landscapes, including attractions such as classical antiquities, renaissance treasures, picturesque scenery and wild nature. The major destinations were France, Switzerland and Italy. Towner (1985) has argued that many features of the Grand Tour can be useful for understanding today’s tourism. It can be added that the Grand Tour can also be useful for imagining future tourism.

Inspired by the core idea of this form of tourism, this study reflects on the role of food tourism in the development of solutions for the urgent food-related challenges.

2.2 Food tourism challenges in theory and practice

Ellis et al. (2018) review the literature contributions about food tourism from 1994 to 2017 commenting on the various understandings and perspectives. In the literature, food tourism is understood as a sensory and cultural experience for tourists who are motivated by an interest in food, as well as an element of a destination’s offer, often in relation to the authenticity of a place. Ellis et al. (2018) conclude that the management of food tourism needs to adopt an approach that combines the experiential aspect of such form of tourism as well as issues relevant to sustainable food production and consumption.

De Jong et al. (2018) review the literature about food tourism across disciplines and, in line with Ellis et al. (2018) , note that food tourism tends to be investigated and discussed in relation to the issues surrounding regional development, localism and authentic experiences. Moreover, De Jong et al. (2018) highlight a lack of engagement in critical approaches, including sustainability. Based on both reviews and as observed by Higgins-Desbiolles (2010) , the reflection about the role of food tourism in an increasingly vulnerable and stressed environment and its possible re-orientation towards alternative systems of production and consumption are very limited.

A similar situation has been noted regarding the traditional profile of the television shows, films and documentaries dealing with food. This phenomenon has become relevant for food tourism through the destination branding and cooking classes for tourists ( Stewart et al. , 2008 ; Lindenfeld, 2010 ). It has been noted that celebrity chefs can be strong influencers. Food shows often fail to represent the problematic aspects of the food system; instead, they support the commodification and fetishization of food ( Caraher et al. , 2000 ; Lindenfeld, 2010 ). Only recently has a shift occurred in food documentaries. Several films, e.g. Food Inc., have encouraged consumers to act as political agents and to make more sustainable choices ( Lindenfeld, 2010 ). Such a shift is also desirable in the food tourism scholarly literature; however, this has not yet occurred.

Moskwa et al. (2015) have noted that few practitioners engage in activities that support food justice and sustainability. They referred to “pioneers”, often lifestyle entrepreneurs, who are engaged in and develop offerings based on sustainable practices that respect the environment and contribute to the wellbeing of their communities. They suggest that food can be an important medium for change and that food tourism should be reconsidered in these terms.

Based on these considerations about the limitations of food tourism theory and practice and in accord with potentials presented in Section 2.1, this study understands food tourism as an educational experience potentially relevant to sustainability. Thus, the intended contribution is both in relation to the scholarly literature and the practice of food tourism.

Thinking about the future of tourism, Wright (2018) explores animal cloning in luxury food tourism. He views such technology as a possible path to meet the needs and desires of future societies. He imagines how a luxury restaurant might be in 2070. In this futuristic scenario, tourists can pre-order dishes that will be prepared using cloned animals that have been extinct in the wild for decades, with the result of exclusive unforgettably tasty experiences.

While Wright’s study concerns wealthy tourists and their desires for food experiences, this study concerns how tourism experiences might contribute to food-related sustainable goals. The focus is on plant-based food because vegetarianism and meat reduction are the diets that can contribute the most to sustainability in terms of the reduction of CO 2 -emissions, acidification, land use and biodiversity damage ( Martin and Brandão, 2017 ).

The following section presents the case of a factual company. It provides an example of an increased engagement in food tourism based on sustainability, especially the production of safe, fresh and nutritional food. Such a company constitutes the main source of inspiration for developing a scenario about the food tourism experience of the future.

3. Re-thinking food tourism: Arctic veggies and food ecopreneurship

3.1 polar permaculture solutions.

nourish our community: the company provides fresh food to local stores, hotels, restaurants and private residences;

create local resources: the company reduces imports to a minimum and strives to reclaim the island’s self-sufficient power;

sustain a circular economy: the company uses composting red worms to break down and repurpose waste into a natural fertilizer, avoiding other methods such as the waste dumping directly into the sea or flown to Sweden for incineration; and

build global solutions: the company is a living example that innovative agriculture technology and systems can be successfully applied everywhere in the world.

With 20 years of international experience as a chef, the Polar Permaculture Solutions founder first visited Svalbard in 2007. After some years as the head chef at the local pub, he considered growing fresh greens. He intended to create a circular economy in which biological waste from food production could be captured and converted into heat, electricity and fertilizer that could be used to grow more food.

Through his tenacity and enthusiasm, his innovative ideas took shape, and in 2015, Polar Permaculture Solutions was established. Financial support was provided by state-owned Innovation Norway and the Svalbard Environmental Protection Fund for the initial phases of the project. Additional support will be provided for future development, including the scaling up of the reuse of waste to include all of Longyearbyen.

In the meanwhile, two important projects have begun. In 2015, the company added two tourism products: volunteer tourism and guided tours. In both cases, the experiences have so far been very positive. Many people have shown interest in working for or visiting and learning more about permaculture in general and the company in particular. This is evident from the TripAdvisor reviews: 30 out of 33 reviews were excellent. The comments have included: “the tour offers a fascinating insight into a project with exceptionally far reaching [ sic. ] implications if it becomes a viable and sustainable production site”; “if you are interested in permaculture, individual independent agriculture, organic and healthy food, you should certainly visit the place”; and “[the project] seems to be particularly important in this town, and I feel it is also important also [ sic. ] globally”.

Since 2016, Polar Permaculture Solutions has led a local school project in which the children learn to grow vegetables and to compost waste. The Polar Permaculture Solutions founder is one of the stewards of the Permaculture Collaborative Laboratory, an international network for the promotion of sustainable and healthy food practices around the world.

3.2 Polar Permaculture Solutions thorough an entrepreneurship lens

The Polar Permaculture Solutions case can be analysed by applying the idea of islands as innovation laboratories. It must be noted that in the human imagination, islands are often sites of fascination, as well as territories and metaphors ( Baldacchino, 2013 ). Interestingly, among the descriptions of islands in the literature are “utopian and dystopian”, “tourist meccas” and “ecological refugia” ( Stratford, 2003 , p. 495).

In his article “Islands as novelty sites”, Godfrey Baldacchino made a compelling case for islands as “the quintessential sites for experimentation” to facilitate the exploration of new ideas. According to this view, islands can deliver “treasures”, such as “powerful messages, bearing the fullness of new and vital noises” ( Baldacchino, 2007 , pp. 170–71). Moreover, islands can be laboratories for developing solutions to global challenges, and these solutions can be transferred to other locations for large-scale implementation ( Greenhough, 2006 ; Baldacchino, 2005 ; Kelman et al. , 2015 ).

The latter consideration can be considered in relation to the potential removal of various constraints that limit or prevent possible societal change ( Steyaert and Hjorth, 2006 ; Calás et al. , 2009 ; Rindova et al. , 2009 ; Haugh and Talwar, 2016 ). Dey and Mason (2018) have argued that some of the more difficult problems in entrepreneurship are the mental constructions based on limited shared narratives and images of how things are and how they could be. Overcoming such mental limitations can be empowering by enabling the envisioning of alternative realities, including sustainable solutions to urgent problems ( Shepherd and Patzelt, 2011 ).

Narratives can be liberating. The story of this Svalbard company can inspire approaches to food production to facilitate the achievement of the UN sustainability goals. Specifically, the Polar Permaculture Solutions founder can be considered an ecopreneur, i.e. an entrepreneur who develops a new business based on sustainability principles ( Schaltegger, 2002 ; Kirkwood and Walton, 2010 ). He exhibits several of the ecopreneurial characteristics identified in the literature. They are a strong commitment to specific idealistic values, an inner tension between making profits and acting in a “green” way and relatively strong relationships with the external environment ( Walley and Taylor, 2002 ; Santini, 2017 ). Linnanen (2005) has described ecopreneurs as having an innate openness to social and ecological responsibilities and, ultimately, being relevant social change actors. These qualities apply to the Polar Permaculture Solutions founder and can be the inspiration for imagining a futuristic scenario.

4. Imagining the future: food tourism in the coming decades

4.1 the construction of the fictional scenario.

This study relies on the use of creativity as a potentially fruitful way to think and to reflect ( Richardson and St Pierre, 2005 ). As was briefly mentioned in the introduction, fiction as a mode of inquiry can be useful for deep explorations of phenomena. It is an engaging way to stimulate the imagination and critical thinking ( Eisner, 1997 ; Banks and Banks, 1998 ; Phillimore and Goodson, 2004 ; Wilson and Hollinshead, 2015 ; Bina et al. , 2017 ).

Moreover, fiction can facilitate the engagement of non-academicians in academic projects. This is an important aspect of the collaboration of the two authors of this paper (an academician and a practitioner, the Polar Permaculture Solutions founder). Such collaboration, characterised by a reciprocal respect for each other’s expertise and a genuine concern for food-related issues, has been essential to developing and discussing the future scenario.

The process of developing a scenario about the future of food tourism followed some central ideas about scenario thinking and in particular normative scenario development, and is illustrated in Table I ( Van Notten et al. , 2003 ; Andreescu et al. , 2013 ; Robertson and Yeoman, 2014 ; Yeoman and Postma, 2014 ).

the pathways to sustainability outlined by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (2018) ;

the healthy diet report by the World Health Organization (2018) ; and

the food grassroots movements ( Holt Giménez and Shattuck, 2011 ).

These sources were used to identify future challenges about food production and consumption and trends concerning social movements and business creation. In addition, the WHO source was used in relation to the importance to focus on plant-based food as particularly relevant to human health.

This study focusses on a scenario about a preferred future based on the authors’ values and beliefs concerning the possible role of tourism and ecopreneurship in fighting global hunger and malnutrition and, therefore, it can be qualified as normative or visionary ( Pritchard et al. , 2011 ; Van Notten et al. , 2003 ; Hurley, 2015 ). The scenario was developed in a narrative way and identifying three phases, with the intent to engage the reader in imagining a series of possible changes and outcomes ( Eisner, 1997 ). Some reflections about the possible critical aspects of this utopian future emerged at the end of the developmental process. Considerations about these aspects are presented in Section 5 .

4.2 The evolution of food and food tourism

4.2.1 from bad to worse.

The future of food is jeopardized by several trends that require a radical change of course: business-as-usual is no longer an option. All countries and social groups must commit to responsibility-sharing in implementing fundamental changes. In particular, those who can reasonably shoulder the costs involved in the necessary transformations have to provide support to those who need it and invest in new food production and distribution systems. (Adapted from FAO, 2018 )

Despite the gravity of the situation and the urgency of this message, no government took any significant action that could lead to the necessary change. The situation has worsened, and in the 2020s, a worrying trend has emerged in those societies recognised by the FAO as being particularly responsible for guiding and supporting the change. In the rich societies, food consumption has moved in diametrically opposite directions from those recommended by the WHO ( World Health Organization, 2018 ). Diets characterised by an increase in saturated fats, trans fats, sugar and animal products and a reduction in vegetables, fruits and legumes are popular.

In 2030, the commodification and fetishization of food is very evident. Food is no longer viewed as nutrition but as one of the many commodities through which consumers can gain status and affirm their egos with no concern for the health and ethical implications of their behaviour. A symbol of this trend is the emergence of chefs as role models and worldwide celebrities with enterprises that are admired and followed by the general public.

Food tourism mirrors these trends. Popular destinations have been developing into gastronomic theatres in which chefs play with food to entertain tourists. The foodie is a self-centred globetrotter seeking food experiences, such as food festivals involving competitive eating, food fights and sitophilia-oriented encounters.

4.2.2 Seeds of change

Despite the above-mentioned trends, some signs of change were identified as early as the 2010s ( Holt Giménez and Shattuck, 2011 ). The global grassroots movement, which focuses on nutritional problems around the world, consolidated and assumed a technology-oriented profile. Ecopreneurs have been the engine of this shift. Strongly committed to change and very competent in new technology-based food production methods, ecopreneurs have identified islands at various latitudes as ideal locations for the laboratories for developing sustainable solutions for hunger and malnutrition.

By 2050, ecopreneurs are assuming the roles once filled by celebrity chefs. People around the world are enthusiastically following their enterprises, such as the production of greens in Svalbard and the cultivation of legumes and high-quality grains on the North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal.

4.2.3 2100: food tourism as a transformative experience for social change

Ecopreneurs are the new role models, and food tourism achieves its potential for social change. In 2100, the foodie trend assumes a new profile. In particular, young tourists travel to islandic food laboratories. At these destinations, food ecopreneurs, motivated by the ideals of justice and sustainability and a strong commitment to translating these ideals into their business practices, inspire tourists to think and to act differently to overcome the food-related challenges.

Such travel has become widespread, especially among the new international potential policy makers. Like the wealth seventieth- and eighteenth-century youths who travelled around Europe, new generations of travellers are visiting distant islands; however, their goal is to learn about food laboratories, food challenges and feasible solutions. While the heart of the old Grand Tour was the classical antiquities and Renaissance treasures in Europe, the new Grand Tours are centred around the innovation laboratories and charismatic lifestyle ecopreneurs around the world. Food tourism has truly become a force for change, and it is based on the value of global justice and the inspiring force of ecopreneurship.

5. Reflections

The scenario depicted in this paper offers hope for the future of food tourism. The potential for tourism as an educational and transformative experience and the possibilities offered by ecopreneurship are the bases for such hope. The scenario suggests that the food tourism could contribute substantially to overcoming the global food challenges. This might depend on the ideals and abilities of food and tourism ecopreneurs, and the support that they might receive from national and international organisations. Food tourism as described in this futuristic scenario provokes critical reflections on several aspects of the possible events and actions for realising some of the sustainable goals identified by the UN.

The first aspect concerns the location of the imagined food laboratories. In this scenario, these laboratories are located in isolated areas, specifically islands, around the world. It is reasonable to question the identification of these islands and the extent to which the interests of the local inhabitants would be considered before and after the establishment of such laboratories. The local inhabitants include humans and wildlife. For example, in the case of Svalbard, questions could be asked about the possible negative effects of an expansion of Polar Permaculture Solutions and the resulting increased attractiveness to tourists. For example, the polar bear population, already threatened by climate change and, occasionally, the presence of tourists, could experience further changes to their habitat ( Descamps et al. , 2017 ). The effects of such changes are unknown. If not well-managed, an extensive food laboratory that might attract additional tourists and employees could result in a higher number of close encounters and accidents. Another issue could be the survival of the animals, given the reduction of available place because of the growing number of residents and tourists.

A concern in the areas identified for the establishment of food laboratories would be the aboriginal populations. One of the islands mentioned as a site for future food laboratories in the scenario is the North Sentinel Island. It is one of the few remaining areas where an aboriginal population still lives, virtually untouched by modern civilisation. Sentinelese have no contact with the outside world. Of concern would be the fate of the Sentinelese if their island is identified as a possible location for a food laboratory. A risk is that the future Grand Tour could assume the profile of colonisation.

In sum, the establishment of the food laboratories described in the scenario might be at the expense of some humans and non-humans who might not benefit from the laboratories or the products. Thus, the islands used in the scenario and mentioned in the entrepreneurship literature could be considered metaphors. An alternative scenario could be based on food laboratories located in established urban areas, such as tunnels and rooftops. This might limit the design of tourism experiences in the style of the Grand Tour because the exotic component of travel would decrease. However, it could facilitate the development of a more environmentally friendly Grand Tour that reduces the distance travelled to the food laboratories and does not increase the human presence on relatively wild areas.

Another aspect is elitism. In the traditional Grand Tour, only the members of wealthy families could have afforded to travel around Europe. In the future Grand Tour, the travellers might also be limited to the upper class, given the expense of getting to laboratories located on remote islands. This might lead to the reproduction of a class system in which only wealthy youths can have access to these educational experiences that could facilitate their becoming influential policy makers. Governments and international organisations should therefore provide support, e.g. grants, to make such educational tourism experiences available to talented youths regardless of their financial circumstances.

Similarly, governments and international organisations could play an important role by supporting the emergence of the technology-based food companies described as the tourist attractions of the future. The ecopreneurs in the scenario are role models for the tourists. Although the ecopreneurs’ charisma might play an important role in how they are perceived, publicly financed promotional activities could be influential. The food-related activities of the sustainable enterprises presented in the scenario might require considerable funding. As in the Svalbard case, the accessibility to grants can be determinative.

Finally, elitism can be considered an assumption of this study and, specifically, the presented scenario, i.e. sustainability as a fundamentally anthropocentric approach to understanding and managing the future. In this sense, humans are considered the elites of the planet’s life forms, which are viewed as resources for the present and future generations of humans. It is not the purpose of this paper to discuss the ethical assumptions and implications of this position. Nevertheless, it might be appropriate to reflect on the predominant role of sustainability in the discourse on the future of the planet. This has not received very much attention in tourism ( Fennell, 2014 ; Bertella, 2019 ).

Thus, the final reflection concerns the potential of food tourism as an educational and transformative experience in the promotion of care and respect for all other forms of life. This might require imagination greater than that applied to the development of this scenario. The main point would be the shift from the widespread use of the sustainability approach to an alternative and less anthropocentric one. Although very challenging, this is possible with the application of the core components of ecopreneurship, i.e. competence, responsibility and creativity.

6. Conclusion

This study has posed the question of the contribution of food tourism experiences to the alleviation and eradication of hunger and malnutrition in the future. It was answered by the presentation of ideas from various streams of scholarly literature, in particular educational tourism, food tourism and entrepreneurship. Methodologically, this study adopted a creative approach, developing a fictional futuristic scenario inspired by a factual company. Such scenario and its discussion contribute to deepen the scholarly debate about food tourism experiences, going beyond the broadly investigated issues of authenticity, localism and regional development, and highlighting its potentials in relation to possible responses to global challenges.

The intention was to develop a utopian scenario based on the potential of food tourism as providing transformative experiences that are relevant to a desirable future without hunger and malnutrition. It is worth noting that the developed scenario has several limitations. Specifically, colonisation, elitism and anthropocentrism were present in the imagined future. Such limitations were noted by the authors at the end of the process of imagining and presenting the scenario for the readers. This can suggest that the use of creativity in futures thinking and the best intentions by the scenario developers do not necessarily lead to the conceptualization of more or less feasible solutions with no flaws. Undoubtedly useful in uncovering little debated issues and provoking new ideas, a futures perspective about global challenges might benefit from cross-sectorial and more holistic approaches. There is no doubt that food-related challenges are extremely complex. Solutions might be dependent on technological advancements, the idealism and competence of individuals and organisations and, to a greater extent, a radical re-consideration of food production, distribution and consumption systems.

Despite the tourism sector’s contribution to the alleviation of food-related issues, it is likely that the eradication of these problems will depend on broader changes that are not limited to the transformative potential of tourism experiences. These changes might be based on a radical re-consideration of our economy. Nevertheless, tourism practitioners, including tourism entrepreneurs and private and public food-related organisations, should strive to develop and to support educational food tourism experiences that truly contribute to the many urgent global challenges.

It can be concluded that food tourism can be a valuable context for the discussion and the development of ideas and projects to face the global food-related challenges. With the adoption of an experiential perspective, this can be achieved through the potential of tourism experiences to be a force for change. Transformative tourism experiences can be viewed as the first steps toward the future. As, at the individual level, transformative tourism experiences can contribute to the realisation of the ideal person who a tourist truly wants to be, at the level of our global community, such experiences can bring us closer to SDG 2 (Zero Hunger), as well as SDG 1 (No Poverty) and SDG 2 (Good Health).

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Corresponding author

About the authors.

Giovanna Bertella is based at University of Tromsø, Tromsø, Norway.

Benjamin Vidmar is based at Polar Permaculture Solutions, Longyearbyen, Norway

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Food Tourism: The Impact of Food TV Shows on Local Industries

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The widespread popularity of food television programs and related social media have impacted local industries, and have become a catalyst for the increase in food tourism. Consequently, the demand for professionals with experience in hospitality is on the rise. This increasing demand comes from various sources, including companies in the food and beverage industry as well as local and national governments that are looking to promote food tourism.

What Is Food Tourism?

Food tourism, also referred to as culinary tourism and gastronomy tourism, is engaged in by individuals who seek out culinary experiences to broaden their understanding of a culture or lifestyle while traveling. Food tourists embark on tours that not only expand their palate, but afford them the education to identify the link between food and local customs. They search for authentic culinary experiences that expose them to new tastes, textures and traditions.

From 2012 to 2018, food tourism entered the mainstream with the help of social media platforms and food television programs featuring world-renowned chefs, restaurants and events. Food tourism evolved into an experiential industry that included festivals, wine tastings and other personalized offerings, as well as the advent of food-tourism companies.

According to Robin Back of the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management, food tourists “pursue activities where authentic culinary and other food and beverage-related activities are the primary motivator for travel. Such activities may include visits to local producers, restaurants, food festivals, markets, wineries, distilleries, and breweries” to embrace an authentic cultural experience. According to the WFTA, 63% of millennials search for restaurants that are socially responsible. The association also recognizes that a majority of food tourists want an “eclectic and authentic experience.” Moreover, 40% of tourists spend their money on food tourism according to the 2019 president, Roi Correa, of FIBEGA, an internationally recognized gastronomy tourism fair.

Social media is incredibly popular among millennials and Generation Z, and they utilize social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube to document their experiences. In turn, marketing departments of food and beverage companies can leverage social influencers to promote their restaurants, products or food festivals. This exposure provides a mass audience for organizations that translates into profit.

According to the WFTA, the top four food-travel activities are: eating at gourmet restaurants, dining at a famous bar/restaurant, enjoying street food, and enjoying an overall remarkable dining experience. The Journal of Gastronomy Studies reports that food tourists obtain information about gastronomic destinations mostly through television programs that feature chefs and gastronomists.

TV programs are a powerful tool that have the ability to promote destinations and can influence tourists to flock to featured restaurants. As an example, the late Anthony Bourdain’s television show Parts Unknown exposed American audiences to unfamiliar places and unique culinary experiences. His program was able to connect American audiences to a country’s culture through the lens of food tourism. Another example is the Netflix cable show Chef’s Table that exposed a global audience to food as an art form.

Top Chef on Bravo is a reality competition show that pits chefs against each other. Its season 15 premiere attracted over 2 million viewers. The show has such an influence on food tourism that the media has created the term: “Top Chef Effect.” Various cooking shows on the Food Network by world-renowned chefs such as Bobby Flay, Rachael Ray and Sandra Lee continue to contribute to food tourism.

The Impact of Food Tourism on Local Communities

The impact of food tourism can be beneficial to the growth of a local economy. However, there are downsides to food tourism that can challenge a community and destroy its cultural heritage in the search for profits.

According to Back, “A growing number of destinations are promoting their cuisine as a core tourism product. This is particularly relevant to destinations with well-known cuisines as well as wine-producing regions, where fine wine and fine food frequently go hand-in-hand.” Yet, it is important that food tourism is sustainable and retains a destination’s cultural identity. Those pursuing a career in hospitality must develop the skills and knowledge to balance the benefits of food tourism while limiting its potential negative drawbacks.

  • Benefits of food tourism: According to the WFTA, food tourists spend about 25% of their travel budget on food and beverages. This can mean an increase in profits for a local community as well as the local government’s budget due to the taxes imposed on the goods purchased by tourists. This rise in revenue can afford local governments the ability to invest in marketing to tourists, which in turn can boost profits for local shops, restaurants, hotels and transportation services. An increase in culinary tourism can also instill in locals cultural pride and help ensure unemployment rates remain low, especially in rural areas with low economic activity.
  • Drawbacks of food tourism: Though food tourism can have many desirable effects on a local community, in some cases the negatives may outweigh the positives. For communities that are suffering from a lack of natural resources — food, water, electricity — tourism can negatively affect the lives of those in the community. Fresh water may be re-routed to crops to sustain tourists’ demand for food, while the locals’ ability to have fresh water and food can be diminished.

Some communities can face loss of cultural identity, because the local economy has transitioned to supporting the needs of tourists. Restaurants may begin to refrain from serving local cuisine and change menus to suit the culinary needs of tourists. In some cases, the influx of tourists can drive up the prices of goods and services, which forces many locals out of their communities, thus destroying a community’s unique character.

Hospitality and Food Tourism Management

To mitigate and help avoid the negative effects of food tourism, it is crucial that local governments and businesses hire knowledgeable professionals in hospitality and management positions. Food tourists want to participate in culinary experiences that embody and celebrate the heritage of local communities. Those pursuing managerial positions in hospitality and tourism have the opportunity to educate food tourists and help them enjoy a culinary-centric vacation, while also minimizing the negative impact on local communities.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the food-tourism industry to discover new ways of offering innovative food-tourism experiences. Now more than ever, hospitality professionals need to ensure a safe environment for tourists to experience culinary adventures. Moreover, professionals with knowledge of technology and social media can provide food tourists with the convenience of virtually exploring wineries, distilleries and culinary destinations. As food tourism continues to change, hospitality and tourism management professionals have the unique opportunity to be a critical part of an evolving industry.

Prepare for a Career in Hospitality and Tourism

Those looking for a career in food tourism would do well to pursue a college degree. The bachelor’s online restaurant management and hospitality degree programs at the University of Central Florida are designed to help students pursue careers in restaurant and foodservice management and hospitality management. UCF offers a variety of online degree options — bachelor’s, master’s and graduate certificates — as well as multiple food-centered electives.

At the graduate level, a certificate in Event Management offers students the knowledge and skill set to effectively organize private and public events. A certificate in Destination Marketing and Management prepares students to understand the economic and socio-cultural impact that tourism has on a local community. This certificate also equips students with the skills to efficiently execute marketing campaigns.

UCF’s MS in Hospitality and Tourism Management program prepares students to pursue leadership positions throughout the industry. It also teaches the skills to analyze and implement strategic marketing and financial planning to help an organization reach its financial goals.

To highlight, UCF offers a Bachelor of Science in Restaurant and Foodservice Management that prepares students with the unique opportunity to work with professors who are skilled experts in the industry. The program teaches students the managerial and business skills essential for leadership roles in the restaurant and food-service industry. The program also offers a unique opportunity for students to get hands on experience by participating in paid internships. UCF Rosen College has entered into an exclusive partnership with LongHorn Steakhouse of Darden Restaurants to offer Restaurant and Foodservice Management students a three-semester progressive internship that encompasses kitchen-operations training, dining room operations training and manager training.

Learn more about how UCF’s online hospitality degree programs can help students pursue careers in hospitality and tourism — and become the future leaders of their industry.

Online Hospitality Degrees at UCF

  • Destination Marketing and Management
  • Event Leadership, MS
  • Event Management
  • Financial Management for the Hospitality and Tourism Industry
  • Hospitality and Tourism Management, MS
  • Hospitality and Tourism Technologies
  • Hospitality Management, BS
  • Leadership and Strategy in Hospitality and Tourism
  • Lifestyle Community Management, BS
  • Lodging and Restaurant Management, BS
  • Travel Technology and Analytics, MS

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Re-thinking sustainability and food in tourism

  • • The sustainability of food tourism is limited and new ways of thinking are needed.
  • • Considerations about food tourism in relation to animal ethics and sustainability are interconnected.
  • • An extensive use of animal-derived food in tourism is in conflict with SDG3 and SDG13.

Now is a good time to reflect on the way food tourism could contribute to a better future. A number of scholars comment on the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity to re-think tourism in terms of sustainability, social and ecological justice (e.g. Gössling, Scott, & Hall, 2020 ; Higgins-Desbiolles, 2020 ). Most considerations tend to focus on recovery strategies, challenges of over-tourism and high-carbon travels and the necessity of a global shift. Reflections on the origin of the COVID-19 crisis seem to be lacking. As in other recent epidemic outbreaks, e.g. the swine flu in 2009, the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic stems from animal sources, more precisely from the use of animals for food ( Wu, Chen, & Chan, 2020 ). This research note argues that reflections on animal-derived food are relevant to a re-consideration of food tourism.

This note starts by describing the link between animal-derived food and the sustainable development goals (SDGs) concerning health (SDG3) and climate action (SDG13), and reflecting on the ethical dimension of sustainability. It continues by commenting on the possibility to study food in tourism adopting an ecofeminist perspective. It concludes with the identification of three research areas for future studies.

Animal-derived food and sustainability

The use of animals for food has important implications for the health and climate action SDGs. The case of the COVID-19 pandemic offers a good example of the challenges relative to potential diseases. Zoonoses, like the one derived by COVID-19, can have severe effects on the sector, for example in terms of travel restrictions, and jeopardise tourists' health ( Jamal & Budke, 2020 ). Although not always foodborne, zoonoses as well as other diseases from animal ingredients, for example Escherichia coli infections, can emerge due to low hygienic standards and raw/undercooked meals, and be transmitted to tourists ( Shahidi, 2020 ; Sofos & Geornaras, 2010 ).

Still with regard to health, the consumption of some animal-derived food can be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and cancer ( Abid, Cross, & Sinha, 2014 ). Obviously, all tourists eat, and some foods can have a central role in the tourism experience. For example, broadly used in the tourism marketing of the region of origin, the Parma ham belongs to the World Health Organisation Group 1 of carcinogenicity (i.e. extensive and reliable epidemiological studies have concluded that there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in humans from eating processed meat) ( WHO, 2020 ). Thus, consuming some animal-derived foods while travelling can be qualified as an unhealthy tourism practice.

More challenges relative to the use of animal-derived food concerns the extensive use of resources that this food usually requires, and the destructive effects of modern animal farming on the environment ( Westhoek et al., 2014 ). Considering various elements, such as raw materials and transport, Gössling, Garrod, Aall, Hille, and Peeters (2011) indicate some management practices to reduce the environmental impact of the food service in hospitality. Such practices include sometimes limiting (‘Buy less beef’) and sometimes encouraging (‘Buy more pork’) the use of animal-derived food. These recommendations are partly in line with two recent studies according to which some animal-derived foods, first of all beef, are among the major sources of greenhouse gas emissions ( Ritchie & Roser, 2020 ), and the environmental sustainable diet is constituted mainly by whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes ( Willett et al., 2019 ).

One might argue that some of these challenges concern mainly the use by the tourism sector of food from industrial systems. With regard to this, it might be important to note that the tourism sector is growing at a considerable speed ( UNWTO, 2020 ). Thus, it is reasonable to assume that most destinations rely on the industrial food system to feed tourists, and some also on imports. If the growth of the tourism sector will continue, the idea of tourism destinations depending only on local nonindustrial food systems is unrealistic.

Another objection to the considerations about the environmental unsustainability of diets relying considerably on animal-derived food might concern the possible compensation in terms of socio-cultural benefits and regional development (e.g. Higgins-Desbiolles & Wijesinghe, 2019 ; Sims, 2009 ). This objection can be related to the dominant way of framing food in tourism derived from an understanding of sustainability heavily influenced by the Our Common Future report ( WCED, 1987 ). Some scholars argue that this work presents a limitation: the lack of recognition about the difference between natural resources and other assets ( Morandín-Ahuerma, Contreras-Hernández, Ayala-Ortiz, & Pérez-Maqueo, 2019 ). What this criticism highlights is the necessity to view the economy, the tourism sector included, as a social subsystem of the biosphere on which all communities depend. In other words, environmental sustainability is the foundation of any type of sustainability.

The latter consideration leads to some reflections about the underlying anthropocentric worldview of sustainability and its ethical dimension. According to the dominant understanding of sustainability, everything that is not human, including nature and animals, is a resource that can be managed, strategically and responsibly, in order to guarantee a good standard of living for future (human) generations. It is only recently that some tourism scholars have critically discussed the use of animals in food tourism from an ethical perspective (e.g. Bertella, 2018 ; Kline, 2018 ; Yudina & Fennell, 2013 ). This can be viewed as a starting point to broaden the meaning of sustainability, and in particular to include considerations about the moral obligations and duties between human and nonhuman sentient beings.

So, where do we go from here?

This research note proposes a way to frame the study of food in tourism inspired by ecofeminism, a philosophical perspective that critically analyses our position in the world in relation to other humans, animals, and nature ( Adams & Gruen, 2014 ). According to ecofeminist Greta Gaard, food and climate change challenges can't be solved adopting the masculinist worldview of dominance of (some) humans on the nature ( Gaard, 2015 ). This implies the necessity of radical changes in the way we think about ourselves, as individuals and world citizens and in relation to nonhuman entities, and in the way we act. This research note challenges scholars to explore food in tourism in such terms, more specifically focusing on the transformative potential of food experiences and investigating sustainable food systems that acknowledge the relevance of human and non-human stakeholders.

Tourism experiences can be transformative and encourage tourists to change their habits and, eventually, promote societal changes ( Lean, 2009 ; Smith & Reisinger, 2013 ). Thus, it can be advanced that tourists choosing to eat healthily and sustainably during their holidays might find the inspiration to do so also when returned home. This inspiration can come from a conscious choice by the tourism practitioners who design and promote ‘green’ food offerings and engage in other sustainable actions (e.g. Miller, Merrilees, & Coghlan, 2015 ). More studies are needed to explore the design of this type of food tourism experiences and their possible contribution to societal changes.

Food production has received scant attention by tourism scholars and the existent studies tend to adopt an anthropocentric view. Bertella and Vidmar (2019) describe a futuristic scenario where tourism entrepreneurs producing vegetables in innovative labs become the new role models for travellers. The authors discuss the implications of such scenario for indigenous communities and wildlife, suggesting that the foodservice of future tourism should develop not only innovatively but also responsibly in relation to the environment, the involved human communities and the animals. A similar responsible innovation perspective is desirable for future studies about food tourism.

It seems that few tourism scholars recognise that the access to a nutritious sustainable diet is one of the greatest challenges for a better future, and even fewer relate such reflections to a renewed understanding of sustainability and to the link between food consumption and production ( Ellis, Park, Kim, & Yeoman, 2018 ). Yeoman and McMahon-Beatte (2016) propose a utopian vision about food tourism as a project shared among communities, producers, tourists and politicians. In the same line, this research note concludes by advancing a view about a scholarship that re-thinks the use of animal-derived food in tourism in the name of values related to global human health, environmental protection and animal wellbeing. Important research areas that have emerged in the discussion presented in this note and could contribute to explore strategies towards the SDG3 and SDG13 are:

  • • less/non-anthropocentric and more inclusive understandings of sustainability;
  • • transformative food experiences that can enhance healthy and ethical eating practices;
  • • approaches to food tourism that include innovative, ‘green’ and safe food production both at the macro and micro level.

Associate editor: Caroline Winter

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Encyclopedia of Food and Agricultural Ethics pp 1–8 Cite as

Culinary Tourism

  • Lucy M. Long 3  
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  • First Online: 01 January 2014

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Cultural tourism ; Food tourism ; Gastronomic tourism ; Sustainable tourism


Culinary tourism is the focus on food as an attraction for exploration and a destination for tourism. Although food has always been a part of hospitality services for tourists, it was not emphasized by the tourism industry until the late 1990s. It now includes a variety of formats and products – culinary trails, cooking classes, restaurants, farm weekends, cookbooks, food guides, and new or adapted recipes, dishes, and even ingredients. While most culinary tourism focuses on the experience of dining and tasting of new foods as a commercial enterprise, it is also an educational initiative channeling curiosity about food into learning through it about the culture of a particular cuisine, the people involved in producing and preparing it, the food system enabling access to those foods, and the potential contribution of tourists to sustainability.

Culinary tourism involves numerous issues; many...

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Long, L.M. (2013). Culinary Tourism. In: Thompson, P., Kaplan, D. (eds) Encyclopedia of Food and Agricultural Ethics. Springer, Dordrecht.

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Received : 13 May 2013

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The European market potential for food tourism

Food tourism is diverse and includes many specialist niches such as food festivals, food museums, cooking classes, wine trails and producer visits. European food travellers value locally produced and authentic food and are eager for new culinary experiences. Italy, Germany and Austria offer great opportunities if you provide sustainable food tourism and know how to combine the food, its history and its entwinement with your culture in a story and sell it via social media.

Contents of this page

  • Product description
  • What makes Europe an interesting market for food tourism?
  • Which European countries offer most opportunities for food tourism?
  • Which trends offer opportunities or pose threats on the European food tourism market?

1. Product description

Food tourism is defined as the act of travelling for a taste of place in order to get a sense of place. It is sometimes referred to as culinary tourism or gastronomy tourism, and wine and other beverages are included within the definition. Food tourism is a segment of the wider section cultural tourism and 60% of the food tourists are interested in participating in other cultural activities as well. Within food tourism, several niche market can be distinguished, which are mentioned in Table 1.

Table 1: Specialist niches within the niche market of food tourism

If culinary tourism is marketed well, it can become a huge boost to tourism in your region, for several reasons. First, culinary tourists contribute highly to the local economy, because many will spend a lot of money in local restaurants, festivals, tastings, and so on. Second, many regular tourists will enjoy a culinary experience as well. The large scale of this form of tourism cannot be understated and can even be seen as one of the pillars of healthy and sustainable local tourism. Third, food tourism stimulates year-round visitors as these travellers are not bound by season. And last, it creates cross-cultural connections, preserves heritage and traditions and educates travellers about the local culture.

This study will further answer the questions why Europe is an interesting market, which European countries offer the most potential and which trends offer opportunities.

  • Combine a culinary activity with complementary cultural activities . Examples are visiting farms to see where the food is grown, visiting local food producers and organising a food workshop.
  • Get a certificate or take a course in the industry in order to educate yourself. For example, the world food travel association (WFTA) offers several ways to educate yourself by means of certificates, events and seminars.
  • Combine existing places where you can buy food, from restaurants to street food vendors, and merge them into one product by means of a story. An example of this is Yangon Food Tours in Myanmar. Their aim was to show real food from Myanmar to visiting tourists. Read the article by Food’n Road on further explanation and tips for setting up a food tour .
  • Collaborate with other entrepreneurs and tourism bodies to promote food tourism in your region. Although pure food tourists, who solely travel with the aim of tasting, only provide a small market, a destination will become more appealing if it has an appealing culinary offering. This can be done by tipping restaurants which offer good quality and locally produced food, setting up food tours, or writing blogs to market appealing dishes or restaurants. An example of the latter is a blog by Culture trip , recommending the ten best restaurants in Accra.

2. What makes Europe an interesting market for food tourism?

Europe is the largest source market worldwide for outbound tourism and counts for half of the total outbound tourism. According to experts, 3–5% of all European tourists are purely culinary tourists. But food and beverages make up a significant part in the budget of every tourist, as everyone needs to eat and drink. According to the WFTA, tourists spend around 25% of their budget on food and beverages, this number can be as high as 35% for expensive destinations, and as low as 15% for less costly destinations.

Over 80% of all leisure travellers state that food and drink experiences have a big influence on the overall satisfaction with a trip and make them more likely to return to the destination. Furthermore, 81% of tourists agree that food and drinks help them understand the local culture.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of Europeans travelling outside of Europe has decreased. The main cause for these low numbers were the travel restrictions put up by national governments. However, governments in Europe are gradually easing their restrictions because of vaccinations. The rates of vaccination, and therefore restrictions, differ per country.

The European Union is implementing a vaccination passport, which can prove that someone is vaccinated, is tested negatively or has antibodies. This passport is not universal throughout the EU, every country has its own form within this model. When attracting European tourists, it is important to stay updated about local travel restrictions.

After the travel restrictions are lifted and everyone can travel again, safety will be a big concern. Europeans are used to a very high standard of hygiene and strict rules regarding corona. European tourists prefer to see in some measure similar rules as where they come from regarding COVID-19, especially if the virus is particularly active in the destination.

Political circumstances and current affairs in destination countries

Europeans are very aware of current affairs in destination countries. Tourists are less likely to visit a country with unstable political circumstances or recent disastrous events. See the source country’s advice on their citizens travelling to your country. For example on the Dutch , United Kingdom , Swedish , or German Ministry of Foreign Affairs page.

  • Learn about managing the effects of COVID-19 on the tourism industry to find current sources about the COVID-19 situation in different European countries. Read about how to respond to COVID-19 to learn about a step-by-step plan that can help you respond and recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Attracting European food tourists

European food travellers are interested in learning about the culinary cultures and customs of the places they visit. They are fascinated by history, storytelling and go to great lengths to find authentic food and beverage products and experiences. All these elements are combined in the foodway: the who, the what, the where, the why, and the how of food. In order to reach the tourists, make use of all these elements and package these together. Pick the unique dishes of the destination and elevate it with a story to a foodway.

The best way of doing so is by following a step-by-step procedure.

1. The first step is to find out which food is unique to your region. Most European tourists, and culinary tourists even more so, are curious about your local dishes. These local dishes can be very simple, but the more unique, the more exclusive, and therefore the better. Dishes can be either unique due to their ingredients (such as a locally harvested fish), special ingredients, or due to the mixture. An example of this is hoentay, a local dish from the Haa Valley in Bhutan. Hoentay are dumplings filled with cheese, a local spinach and turnip leaves.  

Figure 1: Hoentay, a local dish from the Haa Valley in Bhutan

Hoentay, a local dish from the Haa Valley in Bhutan

Source: Yee Wong Magazine

Finding out which dishes are special is easy, it just means that you have to think which food is common in your culture. If this is not different from European countries, find out about the local food of your parents or grandparents.

2. The second step is to combine the dish with a story, which you tell your tourists. Tell your tourists for how long it has been important to your country, when it came into existence, where the food comes from, how ingredients are locally and sustainably produced and what the importance was to your community. Your story will be enhanced if it can be combined with visual elements, such as a picture (or real) fishing boat or local tools. Also, personal elements can contribute to the story, such as the fact that your parents grew up with this dish, but that it is eaten less nowadays.

Figure 2: Visualise your story: making fufu

Visualise your story: making fufu

Source: Wikimedia Commons , no changes made

An example of a story is that of the Basque cider houses , connecting the drink to the region, its economy, landscape, history and culture. In short, the story tells how 16th-century sailors suffered from vitamin C deficiency and spoiled water, and how cider provided a solution for both problems, keeping the sailors healthy and alive and able to explore the world.

3. The third step is to elevate the dish itself. Although Europeans are eager to taste new dishes, some of your dishes might need some alteration to become appealing to Europeans. This can be done by a slightly different way of cooking or by adding different ingredients. But also the way it is served does a lot to your dish. Experiment with your dish by serving your clients different versions and let them decide which is best or hire a professional cook to elevate your dish.

Waakye is a local dish in Northern Ghana, consisting of ingredients such as meat, rice and beans. It is eaten any time of the day, but mostly for breakfast and lunch. An example of an elevation is offered by Best body Africa in Figure 2, who took out the meat from Waakye to make it suitable for vegans and vegetarians and served it on a trendy poke bowl.

Figure 3: Vegan waakye, served on a poke bowl

Vegan waakye, served on a poke bowl

Source: Best body Africa

The European food lover is looking for unique experiences. The more authentic and real a destination is, the better. They like to experience the raw side of their destination, because it is very different from their own background. However, there is a limit to the extent to which these tourists actually want to experience this. Even though many tourists claim that they want to experience everything, this varies greatly between tourists. Therefore, it is important that the activity is tailored for the tourist and that they have the ability to skip certain parts which are considered too extreme.

Market segmentation

There are several sorts of tourists that can be distinguished within the food tourism segment but there are two main categories: broadly oriented food tourists and culinary/gastronomical tourists.

Broadly oriented food tourists

These tourists tend to search for many diverse and authentic food experiences but are rather price conscious. They are often adventure and cultural tourists as well and consist for a large part of gen Ys and Gen Zs. Their interest lies in cooking with locals, visiting food markets, trying street food, and discovering the various restaurants of a destination — from historical to new, and from family-owned to large chains — so that they can get an authentic glimpse into the destination and its cuisine. Broadly oriented food tourists offer the largest market.

Figure 4: a trip to the local rice paddies combines food with cultural emersion and some physical exercise

a trip to the local rice paddies


The broadly oriented food tourist often has a high exposure to social media and other information sources. These tourists are encouraged more than ever to experience food travel. Orientation is especially done on social media and programs on both TV and the internet. One post on social media or promotion on other media can seriously raise the popularity of the destination and attract these travellers. Gen Ys and Gen Zs consider the fame or popularity of a food and drinks destination to be an important factor in choosing their destination. Furthermore, they enjoy experimenting with products from different cultures the most.

These tourists often choose to travel with their family and friends. Therefore, it should be made easy for casual groups of friends to participate in the experiences together. This means that one person of the party books the experience, but it should be made possible to split the bill among the travellers. One bill per table is an outdated policy according to these tourists. These travellers have an interest in social dining or meal sharing with other tourists. Breaking bread with strangers gives them the greatest opportunities to learn about other cultures and cuisines.

Sustainability is important to these tourists and they prefer tourism businesses who are environmentally and socially aware. This is expressed in tourists feeling ashamed of flying, eating less meat and they like to see their values and beliefs mirrored in the companies they visit.

  • Ensure sustainability is incorporated in your business and communicate this to the visitors. It should be impactful and honest, as guests can be critical of companies who say they find sustainability important but don’t act accordingly. This can be done in many ways, such as offering local and vegetarian or vegan food, not using plastics or other disposables, or by making sure there is no waste and that any leftovers serve other purposes.
  • Make sure you have a strong and wide digital portfolio, with photos, videos, stories and reviews. This will familiarise the tourist with the destination and creates trust. Read our article on how to be successful online for more tips.
  • Do not offer your client a list of activities or restaurants but highlight special things for them as this creates the experience. For example, ask for their preferences and wishes and offer personalised recommendations for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Culinary/gastronomical tourists

The culinary tourist is considered the more luxury-oriented and exclusive food tourist, who is willing to spend a lot on their food-loving activities. In general, these are people who are older than the broadly oriented food tourist and they have a higher education. These tourists are interested in doing other cultural activities besides their food activities, but mainly as a side activity, as people are not eating all day long. These tourists plan these other cultural activities around their food activities, as this is the main goal of their trip.

This group does not want to eat at a street food place but only settles for the more exclusive experiences. An example of this could be to eat at home with a chef and meet his parents. They prefer having a highly curated and inside experience that comes close to a VIP experience. However, just like the other group of food tourists, they find the story and the authenticity of the experience very important.

  • Offer something truly unique and only focus on smaller groups when you target the culinary/gastronomical tourist, as this target group prefers exclusivity. Do not save too much on the costs incurred as everything has to be excellent in order to have a complete experience.

3. Which European countries offer most opportunities for food tourism?

The main source countries for food tourism in Europe are France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. These countries provide the highest numbers of travellers towards developing countries and they are relatively prosperous and well-educated, and therefore most interested in culinary tourism. When focussing on sustainable food tourism, Austria offers an interesting target market as well. Although Austria offers a relatively small market, Austria has the highest demand for sustainable food in Europe.

Food is rooted in the culture of many European countries. Because they are used to travelling, they are very used to experiencing food from different cultures. Europeans are often looking for parts of their own country in their destination country. Countries that have inherited food in their culture the most are France, Italy and Spain. Germany and the United Kingdom are huge source markets, and their tourists can be found all around the world. Tourists from the Netherlands are quite adventurous travellers, and therefore it is an excellent source country for novel projects.

As 34% of Germans plan their travel around where and what they eat and drink , food is a less important driver for travel compared to the French and British market. However, the relatively prosperous Germans are a great target group for offering sustainable food tourism activities. On average, they spend 16% of their travel expenditure on food . The local component is most important to German tourists when they think about sustainable food. Therefore, activities such as visiting farms, food festivals for locals and tourists combined, and visiting a local wine producer are appealing activities for German tourists.

63% pay attention to the impact of food choices on the environment , and 64% agree that sustainability concerns have at least some influence on their eating habits. Especially the more wealthy Germans will pay more attention to the sustainability of food production. While 22% is prepared to pay more for sustainable food, 33% of Germans is willing to spend more money on food for which they are sure that farmers get a fair price in return.

Looking at their tendency towards vegetarianism, 36% are willing to cut down on red meat. Germany is among the countries with the largest percentages of vegetarians (7%) in Europe. Together with Austria and the Netherlands, the Germans are most willing to replace meat with insect derivates.

Germany is one of the largest source markets for tourism globally; in 2019 55.2 million Germans took a trip of five days or more . Furthermore, 78.2% of the total population indicates they travel, and 74% of the trips taken go abroad. Germany accounts for the largest economy within the EU, with a GDP of over €3.1 trillion, and GDP per capita of around €42 thousand.

Germans have an ever-growing concern about the sustainability of holidays, as 73% feel at least a little guilty about climate consequences when they travel by air. Furthermore, 61% of German tourists feel positive towards sustainable trips, but only 6% are acting on it. This means there is still a large gap between the attitude and actual behaviour of these tourists.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a huge drop in outgoing travel in 2020, it also made German travellers even more eager to travel the world, as 62% of travellers have a heightened desire to see more of the world. 60% won’t take travel for granted in the future, which is about equal to the global average of 61%. The German vaccination rate is comparable to most other Western European countries, with 42% of the adult population being fully vaccinated by July 2021.

Hygiene safety measures are important for German travellers, but less important compared to other European countries. Only 51% of German travellers, compared to 70% globally, will book an accommodation if it is clear about health and hygiene policies. 47% of travellers accept health spot checks on arrival, which is much lower than the global average of 67%.

Table 2: German travellers’ long-haul destinations in 2019 compared to 2017

Source: Reiseanalyse , 2020 and 2018

With 39% of French tourists planning their travel around where and what they eat and drink , culinary activities are far more important for French tourists compared to German and British tourists. Their spending behaviour however is similar, as they spend 16% of their travel expenditure on food .

France has the second-largest population of the EU and it has a travel market that shows healthy growth. Total expenditure for outbound travel by French tourists in 2019 grew by 11.5% to over €45 billion, which was the largest growth of the mentioned source countries.

French tourists prefer to travel to countries where they can speak their own language, and that serve dishes that are from the French cuisine. These tourists are always looking for elements of their own country in other countries. A way to reach this target group is by incorporating French elements into the local dishes, especially if it is a French-speaking country. When they see ingredients or recipes they are familiar with, they tend to be more open to the food experience.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a huge drop in outgoing travel in 2020, it also made French travellers even more eager to travel the world. 45% of travellers have a heightened desire to see more of the world. 65% of travellers won’t take travel for granted in the future, which is about equal to the global average of 61%. 38% of the adult population was fully vaccinated by July 2021, which is less than most other Western European countries. Many French are sceptical about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Hygiene safety measures are relatively important for French travellers, compared to German and Dutch travellers. 64% of French travellers, compared to 70% globally, will book an accommodation if it is clear about health and hygiene policies. 66% of travellers accept health spot checks on arrival, which is comparable to the global average of 67%.

After the UK, France has the third-biggest GDP of Europe and the seventh-largest of the world, with about €2.3 trillion in 2019. Their population count is just over 65 million. Just like other European source countries, France saw a serious decline in their GDP in 2020. The average  holiday budget has decreased from €2,201 in 2019 to €1,522 in 2020. This is comparable to the holiday budget of Germans.

United Kingdom

Out of the three largest source countries, Germany, the United Kingdom and France, the British consider food to be the most important when planning their travel, as 40% of the British plan their travel around where and what they eat and drink . On average, they spend 16% of their travel expenditure on food .

The United Kingdom is the second-largest economy in Europe and the fifth-largest in the world, with a GDP of €2.2 billion. Just like the Germans, people from the United Kingdom can be found all around the world as tourists, which makes them a good target group. As their native language, English, is considered a standard globally, there is a lower barrier to reach these tourists.

The duration of stays for these tourists has shifted in 2020 ; an increasing percentage of Brits stay for more than seven days at their destination, up to 14% in 2020 from 6% in 2019. British people are travelling alone more and more, the percentage of British tourists travelling solo is up from 16% in 2019 to 26% in 2020. The main interests among these tourists are still sampling local cuisines and exploring neighbourhoods.

Compared to other European source countries, British travellers are more demanding and assertive if their requirements are not met. In general, they will ask for a lot of information on possible activities.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has made British travellers even more eager to travel the world, as 47% of the travellers have a heightened desire to see more of the world.

Hygiene safety measures are important for British travellers, compared to German and Dutch travellers. 68% of British travellers, compared to 70% globally, will book an accommodation if it is clear about health and hygiene policies. 63% of travellers accept health spot checks on arrival, which is comparable to the global average of 67%. The United Kingdom currently has the highest vaccination rate in Europe, with 50% of the adult population being fully vaccinated by July 2021.

Food and drinks are deeply integrated in the culture and tradition of this country; they are well known for their pizza, pasta and other classical Italian dishes. As food is well known to the Italians, they look for it in the destinations they visit as well. They are more likely to go to a local market or participate in a cooking class than other countries.

76% pays attention to the impact of food choices on the environment , and 75% agrees that sustainability concerns have at least some influence on their eating habits. While 28% is prepared to pay more for sustainable food, 35% of Italians are willing to spend more money on food for which they are sure that farmers get a fair price in return. Therefore, their willingness to choose sustainable food is among the highest in Europe.

Looking at their tendency towards vegetarianism, 45% is willing to cut down on red meat. This is the highest percentage in all European countries compared and is done primarily for environmental reasons. 6% of Italians are vegetarian , and 1% are vegan.

Italy counted 32.64 million people travelling outside of Italy , and is expected to grow in the coming years after the COVID-19 pandemic is slowed down. One of the main reasons for this growth is increased interest in travel and experiences, especially among Gen X and Gen Z who are exposed to a lot of information online. This is combined with a rising income among these travellers and a growing interest in exploration and the search for different cultural experiences. Important aspects for Italians when booking a trip are affordability and accessibility. 

Just like the Spanish, the Italians prefer to book their travels via a tour operator and especially value a tailor-made holiday. Many Italians also tend to travel in larger groups, often with large (multi-generational) families, with an Italian-speaking guide. It is often hard to meet the needs of different family members with different wishes. Also, margins are generally lower for larger groups. However, their large group sizes offer some economies of scale.

The Italian vaccination rate is slightly lower than in Western European countries, with 37% of the adult population being fully vaccinated by July 2021.

Just like for Italians, food and drinks are a significant part of Spanish culture; they look at consumption of food and drinks as a socialising moment and they often eat with their whole family. This makes them also want to enjoy food and drinks at their destination with others, and they often travel together in larger groups, including families and friends.

70% pay attention to the impact of food choices on the environment , and 73% agree that sustainability concerns have at least some influence on their eating habits. While 23% are prepared to pay more for sustainable food, 32% of the Spanish are willing to spend more money on food for which they are sure that farmers get a fair price in return.

Spain is one of the countries with the lowest number of vegetarians. However, 33% are willing to cut down on red meat, which is comparable to most European countries.

Expenditure on outbound Spanish travel has increased by 55% in the period 2014–2019 , and after travel restrictions are over, this is expected to grow further. However, Spain has been badly affected by COVID-19 and the Spanish are the weariest of their health, compared to other countries. The average travel budget of Spaniards was €1,583 in 2020.

The Spanish have a high preference for Spanish-speaking guides and have a higher preference for buying with a tour operator, in comparison to the other countries in this top six.

The Spanish vaccination rate is relatively high: 44% of the adult population was fully vaccinated by July 2021.


Dutch tourists are often very adventurous and exploratory which makes them unafraid of discovering new places. They are a great target group when you offer something that is quite unique and novel, as these tourists are prepared to try it out. Dutch tourists associate sustainable food with fair revenue for farmers, as their population has a high concentration of farmers. If you’re aiming to attract Dutch tourists, make sure to show the connection of your product to the local farmers.

Only 52% pay attention to the impact of food choices on the environment , and 54% agree that sustainability concerns have at least some influence on their eating habits. While 13% are prepared to pay more for sustainable food, which is lower than most other European countries. 23% of the Dutch are willing to spend more money on food for which they are sure that farmers get a fair price in return. Overall, in comparison to the other European source markets, the Dutch are among the least willing to pay for sustainable food in Europe.

Looking at their tendency towards vegetarianism, only 31% are willing to cut down on red meat. However, the country has one of the largest percentages of vegetarians (7%) in Europe. Together with Austria and Germany, the Dutch are most willing to replace meat with insect derivates, which is in line with their adventurous nature.

The fear of violence, price, political stability and the chance of (COVID-19) infections are the most important drivers when choosing a destination. Over 75% of tourists mainly book their trips online. Dutch travellers don’t value luxurious accommodations but want to make the most out of their trips by being physically active. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has made Dutch travellers even more eager to travel the world, as 26% of travellers have a heightened desire to see more of the world. 45% won’t take travel for granted in the future, which is below the global average of 61%. 44% of the adult population was fully vaccinated by July 2021, which is a bit higher than most Western European countries.

Hygiene safety measures are important for Dutch travellers, but less important compared to other European countries. Only 52% of Dutch travellers, compared to 70% globally, will book an accommodation if it is clear about health and hygiene policies. 50% of travellers accept health spot checks on arrival, which is much lower than the global average of 67%.

68% pay attention to the impact of food choices on the environment , and 64% agree that sustainability concerns have at least some influence on their eating habits. While 25% are prepared to pay more for sustainable food, 38% of Austrians are willing to spend more money on food for which they are sure that farmers get a fair price in return.

Looking at their tendency towards vegetarianism, 40% are willing to cut down on red meat. However, Austria has the largest percentage of vegetarians (7%) in Europe. Together with Germany and the Netherlands, Austrians are most willing to replace meat with insect derivates. Altogether, Austria is one of the countries with the highest emphasis on sustainable food choices, and therefore an excellent target market if your aim is to sell sustainable food travel.

With a population of almost 9 million, Austria offers the smallest source market. Austria’s GDP per capita is approximately €45 thousand, indicating that the Austrians also have disposable income to spend on holidays. German is the dominant language in Austria, but especially younger Austrians master English as well. 

The Austrian vaccination rate is slightly lower than most other Western European countries, with 38% of the adult population being fully vaccinated by July 2021.

  • Offer the information on your website in at least English, German and Italian, if your aim is to attract sustainable and culinary food tourists. With these countries, you cover the most important target countries regarding sustainable food tourism.
  • Learn about the European values and standards if you want to attract European tourists, because they care about their standards being met. They expect to leave on agreed times, have clean accommodation, and having the table set the way Europeans do it. Developing organisational skills to run your business is important to accommodate European tourists. These skills can be developed through a training programme, for example.
  • Read what the demand is for outbound tourism on the European market to learn about the travel behaviour of different European countries.

4. Which trends offer opportunities or pose threats on the European food tourism market?

Growing importance of sustainability.

Almost three quarters (72%) of travellers in 2019 agree that people must act now to save the world for future generations by making sustainable travel choices. This number is up from 62% in 2016, so the awareness that sustainability is needed has been growing over the past years and is expected to increase further in the coming years. This interest in sustainability trickles through in food tourism by means of sustainable food. Tourists prefer to eat organic food which is made by the local community and not by large food chains.

Sustainability is most popular among the younger generations. Younger generations stir up the discussions about climate change and social equality, but it won’t take too long before these generations are the largest source market and sustainability will be a prerequisite instead of a choice.

Most Europeans see sustainable food as food with a low environmental impact, avoidance of pesticide and local supply chains. Economic growth, animal welfare, fair revenue for farmers and health are less associated to sustainable food. The main barriers to eating more sustainably are the expense and a lack of information on how to do so. Therefore, many Europeans opt for sustainable choices, but only if prices are competitive and the information is clear.

Some tourists go beyond sustainability and prefer to participate in regenerative tourism. Whereas in sustainable tourism there is a focus on doing no harm, in regenerative tourism it is all about improving the destination.

Greater influence of social media on tourism

Social media posts are used to promote unique food and drink experiences. Travellers from generation Y and Z are growing to become the largest target group, and a very large percentage of these use social media. Another part of this new interest is fuelled by increased attention to food programs, both on TV as well as on online streaming services. When this target group is exposed to a destination, they can quickly gather more information on the internet and gain knowledge on local food and drinks before they travel.

With social media gaining influence on the food travellers’ destination choices, social media become increasingly important when attracting food tourists. Therefore, it is very important that your culinary products are promoted on Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and Twitter. It is best to provide a lot of information, using a combination of text, photos and video. Furthermore, it is important to connect to as many of your clients as possible, so your posts can be shared and liked by large numbers.  

Vegans, vegetarians and flexitarians

Vegans, vegetarians and flexitarians are an ever-growing segment within food tourism as people start to reconsider the consequences of their consumption. Vegetarianism is a serious commitment for most people, which means that they are dedicated to following their diet. These tourists are very strict on selecting their food as it has to comply with their diet. Vegetarian and vegan tourists are looking on the internet and other sources for offerings that are suited to vegetarians and vegans. They are open to new experiences and meeting new people who are likeminded.

Next to attracting vegans and vegetarians, you’re also attracting their partners or travel companions, as they often choose to support them in their life choices and comply with their restaurant choices. As women have a higher tendency towards reducing meat, in many cases women are vegetarians while their partners are not. Furthermore, vegan tourism is also considered kosher and halal, so this will attract many more tourists as well.

Besides vegans and vegetarians, there are many flexitarians, who try to reduce meat, but sometimes do eat meat. Flexitarianism can vary between eating meat five times per week or eating meat once a month. Flexitarians are, by definition, not strict at all, and many will be convinced to eat meat to experience something new, or when it offers the opportunity to immerse themselves deeper into your culture. However, many flexitarians will feel a sense of guilt when eating (too much) meat. In some cases, their feeling of guilt can be stilled by emphasising that meat is produced locally and that animal welfare is taken care off.   

Healthy or power food/diets

Health and a healthy lifestyle are becoming increasingly important in tourists’ decision making. Aging tourists, the lifestyle of Gen Y and Gen Z, a growing middle class, and the technological and digital revolution all contribute to the growing importance of the health trend. Concerns about obesity, food sensitivity, and people affected by diseases, have resulted in a shift in attitude towards health care, nutrition, beauty, physical activity, and overall self-improvement.

As a consequence, people begin to reconsider their past eating habits, also when travelling. Many people begin to reform their diet in a way that is much healthier. There is an increasing demand for food that is fresh, organic, nutritious and produced in a sustainable way.

Besides the information provided on a scientific basis on how to eat healthy, there is a growing number of Europeans that are inspired by other nutrition and lifestyle gurus as well. In addition, there is an increasing number of people who are restricted on their doctor’s advice due to allergies, intolerances or illness. This results in a growing number of travellers that have restrictive eating habits.  

Examples of these restrictions are no meat, meat-only, gluten-free, peanut-free, lactose-free, kosher, halal, vegan, pescatarian, keto, paleo, raw-food, clean-eating (no additives), dietary approaches to stop hypertension (DASH) containing low sodium and high calcium, Mediterranean, and many more. In this blog by Social Tables you can find much more information on these restrictions .

  • Consider getting international standards when providing sustainable tourism. These standards are well known to tourists around the world and can easily differentiate your business from the competition. An example of this is the ISO 21401 , which specifies environmental, social and economic requirements for sustainability practices.
  • Provide multiple options on the menu when you target vegans or vegetarians. Vegetarians and vegans, just like other tourists, want to have a choice in what they eat. They do not consider it fair when you market vegan or vegetarian cuisine, but only offer one dish.
  • Communicate what is in your meals by whatever means, this could be with a separate menu, listing the ingredients in dishes, or having specific signs that indicate it is vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free. As many tourists live on a strict diet, they have to be sure your meal meets their conditions. Communication is key in this matter.
  • Combine healthy cuisine and other contributors to a healthy lifestyle, and package these together. Examples of these are outdoor exercise, new fitness programmes that are highly focussed on results, meditation and yoga, life coaching that embraces health aspects such as nutrition, empowerment and physical exercise. For more information, read our study on opportunities for wellness tourism .

This study was carried out on behalf of CBI by   Molgo  and  ETFI .

Please review our market information disclaimer .

  • Entering the European market for food tourism products

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Food and drink – culinary culture – should be the foundation of every visitor experience, since all visitors eat and drink, but not all visitors go shopping, play sports or go to museums. Food-loving travellers seek unique and memorable products and experiences, not restaurant lists. And destination marketers and governments have a huge opportunity to turn both visitors and local residents into ambassadors of their areas by developing and promoting the special aspects of their area’s culinary culture. Erik Wolf, director of World Foodtravel Association
 No matter where you are in the world, your culinary tourism strategy needs to be rooted in your unique selling points: the local dishes, producers and culinary experiences unique to your region. The farmers, the fishers, the foragers and the artisans who are crafting your food – those are your rock stars. Talk to them, celebrate what they are doing and help them share their stories through workshops, tours, tastings, et cetera. Culinary travelers want a truly authentic experience. If you build a tourist-first strategy, you’ll never get full buy-in and adoption. Focus on the locals, and the tourists will come. Eric Pateman , Global Culinary Tourism Strategist, Chef & Consultant at ESP Culinary Consulting

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26 October 2021

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  • What trends offer opportunities or pose threats on the European outbound tourism market?
  • What are the requirements for tourism services in the European market?
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logo food and road - a food travel agency

Food Tourism, a tasty way to travel

Food tourism is a relatively new term, but there are already several definitions to describe it. In the same context, it is also common to find the terms Culinary Tourism and Gastronomy Tourism .

At Food’n Road, we define Food Tourism as activities that provide experiences of consumption and appreciation of food and beverages , presented in such a way that values the history, the culture, and the environment of a particular region.

Explore the cuisine beyond the plate

Exploring different cuisines has always been associated with moments of leisure and travel, but the concept of food tourism has recently evolved to encompass activities beyond the plate. These are tourist and entertainment activities that place culinary traditions as a pillar of regional identity and cultural heritage and value the relationship between food and society.

And this change is great, as it creates the possibility for people to approach food at different levels of the value chain and learn from those who produce it. In this way, it is possible to expand economic development to different layers of society and offer more personal and authentic experiences to the traveler .

a rural food tour in a black pepper plantation in Cambodia

Activities of Food Tourism

Food tourism is much more than a list of restaurants or only high-cost activities with refined gourmet perception. It is also not focused only on agritourism. Nor does it require distant travels. It is related to all activities that use food as a means of connection between people, places, and time .

Food tourism is composed of activities that provide experiences of consumption and appreciation of food and beverages, presented in such a way that values the history, the culture, and the environment of a particular region. Food’n Road

Examples of Food Tourism activities:

  • Take a street food tour;
  • Tasting of local dishes and beverages;
  • Follow regional product routes (e.g., travel on wine or coffee routes);
  • Eat at traditional restaurants;
  • Share meals with local people;
  • Participate in food events and festivals;
  • Visit local markets;
  • Learn about the production of food by visiting farms and artisan producers;
  • Participate in cooking classes;
  • Visit exhibitions that explain the history of local cuisine;
  • Culinary expeditions with chefs and specialists.

Food Tourism at rice fields in Bali during a trip in Indonesia

The list is huge, and there are several models of gastronomy-related activities. It is a creative market because it embraces different representatives of the food, beverage, and hospitality industry. We are talking about: restaurants, farms, markets, artisan producers, hotels and hostels, street food vendors, chefs, galleries, and everything related.

Read more: The main types of activities in food tourism

What are the benefits of Food Tourism and why we support it!

Food tourism with a focus on cultural immersion is a strong ally for economic and social development , in addition to being unique and memorable for the traveler .

When done in the right way, food tourism, built together with the local community and respecting its identity, is a tool for changing two scenarios: the negative impacts of tourism (we explain better below) and the detachment between people and real food.

Food Tourism is related to all activities that use food as a means of connection between people, places and time. Food’n Road

Tourism is not always associated with sustainable development. Many destinations are experiencing difficulties with regional and seasonal asymmetries. In other cases, local communities have been affected by massive tourism through gentrification, rising prices, and often attracting tourists with little awareness of their behavior and demands on the local community.

The scenario is quite different with a type of tourism that motivates people to know the countryside, diversified with food seasonality, and attracting people who seek to understand and relate in a more personal and  respectful way to the local culture .

Read more about the benefits of Food Tourism

To strengthen this type of tourism, is it necessary to connect people in a more integrated way with the destination, and food does it very well!

At Food’n Road, we want to be agents of change, engage people to reflect about food beyond the plate, and contribute to responsible tourism development. We believe that every reflection starts with reliable information and is intensified with good experiences. Thus, food tourism is an excellent tool to initiate this change.

Did you like the idea? So find out now how to make a Food Trip !

harvesting lettuce during a tour around the Spanish rural gardens in Valencia as part of food tourism

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  1. Food Tourism in 2015 [Infographic]

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  2. 60+ Food Tourism Statistics & Facts (2023): What is Food Tourism?

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  3. Food Tourism Infographic

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  4. The Growing Trend of Food Tourism

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  5. 6 Charts Showing State of Food Tourism With Tour Operators

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  6. Food tourism

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  1. WFTA Releases Groundbreaking 2024 Food & Beverage Tourism Report

    The World Food Travel Association (WFTA), the premier global body on gastronomy tourism, has launched its highly anticipated '2024 State of the Industry - Food & Beverage Tourism' report. This comprehensive document outlines twelve pivotal trends shaping the future of culinary tourism, providing valuable insights for industry stakeholders.

  2. Culinary tourism: The growth of food tourism around the world

    Food tourism is a vitally important component of the travel and tourism industry as a whole. When booking a trip, people tend to consider a variety of factors - and food is high on the list of priorities. The World Food Travel Association says that money spent on food and drink while travelling accounts for 15-35% of all tourism spending.

  3. The New Era of Food Tourism: Trends and Best Practices

    The size of the current and potential food tourism market is a bit of a double-edged sword. Erik Wolf, CEO of the World Food Travel Association explained, "This can be great news to destinations that are willing to plan carefully for success, but it also can add fuel to the overtourism fire in popular food-centric cities like Portland, Oregon ...


    LONDON, Feb. 27, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- The World Food Travel Association (WFTA), the world's leading authority on food and beverage tourism, announced today that its "2024 State of the Industry ...

  5. Full article: Food and tourism synergies: perspectives on consumption

    This leaves food and meal experiences with a substantial destination branding potential that reaches beyond a food tourism context. The ambition of the present special issue: Food and Tourism Synergies is to contribute to a critical knowledge base on food tourism by zooming in on the multitude of interests at stake among consumers, producers ...

  6. What Is Food Tourism?

    In the beginning, we defined food tourism as "The pursuit and enjoyment of unique and memorable food and drink experiences, both far and near." (Erik Wolf, Executive Director, Culinary Tourism: A Tasty Economic Proposition, 2001). This was our industry's first white paper that explained what food tourism is and how it can benefit industry ...

  7. The future of food tourism in a post-COVID-19 world: insights from New

    Policy makers and tourism industry stakeholders also recognise the potential of food tourism as an anchor of regional development (Fountain et al., 2020). Food offerings can add diversity to a local economy and a point of difference to regional identity and destination image (Everett and Aitchison, 2008; Sidali et al., 2015; Sims, 2009).

  8. Food Tourism: Culture, Technology, and Sustainability

    Besides technology, sustainability is also a central issue in food tourism. Today, alternative food products such as plant-based proteins can be found much more easily in the market. Insects, bugs & fungi are potential sources of protein in the future. The circular economy (CE) is an industrial and socially innovative approach with sustainable ...

  9. Learning through culinary tourism and developing a culinary tourism

    Erik Wolf is Founder and Executive Director of the World Food Travel Association. He is a highly sought speaker, thought leader, strategist and consultant on food and drink tourism issues. He is also the publisher of Have Fork Will Travel and author of Culinary Tourism: The Hidden Harvest.He is a highly sought speaker on food and beverage tourism and has been featured in numerous media outlets.

  10. Learning to face global food challenges through tourism experiences

    4.2.3 2100: food tourism as a transformative experience for social change. Ecopreneurs are the new role models, and food tourism achieves its potential for social change. In 2100, the foodie trend assumes a new profile. In particular, young tourists travel to islandic food laboratories.

  11. Food Tourism & How it Impacts Local Industries

    Those pursuing a career in hospitality must develop the skills and knowledge to balance the benefits of food tourism while limiting its potential negative drawbacks. Benefits of food tourism: According to the WFTA, food tourists spend about 25% of their travel budget on food and beverages. This can mean an increase in profits for a local ...

  12. Re-thinking sustainability and food in tourism

    Re-thinking sustainability and food in tourism. Now is a good time to reflect on the way food tourism could contribute to a better future. A number of scholars comment on the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity to re-think tourism in terms of sustainability, social and ecological justice (e.g. Gössling, Scott, & Hall, 2020; Higgins-Desbiolles, 2020). ...

  13. What is food tourism?

    Terms used in food tourism research are not consistent, but there is a preference for terms with a consumer focus. ... Bertella (2011) acknowledges the substantial potential of food for regional development arguing a strong relationship between food as a keeper of cultural knowledge and expression and rural destinations as common locations of ...

  14. Culinary Tourism

    Tourism scholar C. Michael Hall defined "food tourism" in 1997 as tourism in which the prime motivation for the tourist was a "…desire to experience a particular type of food or the produce of a specific region." ... They also recognize the potential impacts of tourism beyond the industry, encouraging a research-based model for ...

  15. An overview of food and tourism trends and policies

    The rise of the experience economy has ushered in a growing role for food experiences in tourism. This review of recent developments in the field of food and tourism experiences underlines the ways in which food experiences can be adapted to meet tourist needs, how culinary tourism can play a role in local development, create new tourism products, stimulate innovation and support marketing and ...

  16. Sustainability

    While food can function as a component product of tourism, there remains a need for food tourism to become more sustainable. This study sought to discover what risk dimensions tourists perceive in food tourism and to enhance understanding of what actions and coping behaviors tourists take to lower levels of perceived risk in a food tourism setting. Data were collected in March 2023 for two ...

  17. Food tourism value: Investigating the factors that influence tourists

    Food (culinary) tourism represents a topical concern for destination mangers, academics, and marketers, especially as food consumption is one of the indispensable aspects of the tourism industry (Henderson, 2009; Robinson and Getz, 2014).Historically speaking, because food has been a key attraction for travelers, many destinations have tried to offer special culinary experiences to tourists ...

  18. (PDF) Food tourism and regional development: A ...

    This paper aims to explore regional innovation strategies based on food and tourism and on how they can contribute to destination management. The study adopts a systematic literature review by ...

  19. Sustainable development of urban food tourism : A cultural

    The literature on food tourism and sustainability has largely concentrated on food festivals (Crespi-Vallbona et al., 2019; Tsai and Wang, 2017), with some emphasis on authenticity (Scarpato and Daniele, 2003; Sims, 2009) and slow food (Fusté-Forné and Jamal, 2020).However, little attention has been given to examining the cultural potential of food in unlocking an understanding of ...

  20. Food is fuel for tourism: Understanding the food travelling behaviour

    Food or culinary tourism has become a field of interest for scholars, and food tourism is considered a vital part of tourism research. The study aims to understand how value creation at ethnic cuisine influences the travelling behaviour of potential tourists.

  21. Full article: Local Food in Tourism Destination Development: The Supply

    However, while local food holds much potential not only in terms of effective destination marketing strategies, but it also has a number of positive characteristics related to sustainable tourism, which is increasingly valued in destination development (Andersson et al., Citation 2017), there has been a continual failure to empirically underpin ...

  22. The European market potential for food tourism

    Europe is the largest source market worldwide for outbound tourism and counts for half of the total outbound tourism. According to experts, 3-5% of all European tourists are purely culinary tourists. But food and beverages make up a significant part in the budget of every tourist, as everyone needs to eat and drink.

  23. Co-creation of food tourism experiences: Tourists' perspectives of a

    Gastronomy has become a distinctive tourism product with the potential of contributing to visitors' engaged immersion in destinations. Few studies have reflected on visitors' perceptions of participation in food tour experiences, and research on co-creation in food tours is even more scarce.

  24. What Is Food Tourism?

    Food tourism is a relatively new term, but there are already several definitions to describe it. In the same context, it is also common to find the terms Culinary Tourism and Gastronomy Tourism.. At Food'n Road, we define Food Tourism as activities that provide experiences of consumption and appreciation of food and beverages, presented in such a way that values the history, the culture, and ...

  25. Feeding a tourism boom: changing food practices and systems of

    Instead of adopting food tourism's focus on the consumption of the exotic, we emphasize the mundane workings of a local tourism-food nexus. ... These are foodways that local actors have had to make sense of when trying to feed tourists, and many saw the potential in focusing on the comfort food of foreigners, like one informant who ran a ...

  26. ScienceDirect

    ScienceDirect is a leading platform for peer-reviewed scientific research, covering a wide range of disciplines and topics. If you are looking for an article published in 2020 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, you can use the advanced search function to filter by journal, year, and keyword. You can also browse related webpages to find more articles of interest.