Food tourism has grown in recent years to become one of the most creative and dynamic elements of tourism. It has become an important subject of various marketing products and a common theme used by both tourism businesses and destinations (Henderson). The average traveler today is more experienced, has more disposable income and has a lot of leisure time that they dedicate to their travel habits. This allows them to escape their daily routines and immerse themselves in various tourism related activities. More tourists across the world are looking for new experiences. In this respect, food tourism has played an important part. Food, or gastronomic tourism is based on findings that up to a third of tourist spending is dedicated to food (Quan and Wang). This means the cuisine of any particular destination plays an important role in the determination of the quality of the holiday experience (UNWTO).
One of the most common definitions of food tourism describes it as an experiential trip to a gastronomic region for recreational or entertainment purposes. This might include visits to primary and secondary food producers, food festivals and fairs, events, farmers markets, shows and demonstrations (Hall and Sharples). Other food related activities include tastings of food quality and tourism activities related to food. The experience might also be related to certain lifestyle, meaning food tourism often include learning from cultures and the understanding of different attributes related to tourism products and the culinary products that are a specialty in a certain region (Hall and Sharples). Food tourism is when the described is the main or one of the main reasons for travel to a particular destination (UNWTO).
It is difficult to pinpoint when exactly the ides of food tourism can be said to have become an important phenomenon in the international food industry. In fact, there is reason to believe that in some ways, food has always been one of the essential elements of any tourism experiences. However, the growth that has culminated in it being an important, stand-alone idea can be related to the movements of ecological tourism, sustainable agriculture and sustainable tourism that have played an important role in the development of tourism products for about 2 decades now (Bertalanic). The development of the food tourism idea can also be linked to the increasing popularity tourist that travel s to learn about and enjoy experiences. According to a 2013 report on US leisure traveler habits, it was found that up to 39 million travelers from the US chose a destination based on the quality of the food there. A further 35 million sought out food related activities after having chosen the destination (Shankman).
In the past, eating and drinking were only considered auxiliary factors that contribute to tourism experiences. However, several changes in the past sparked a consideration of food as a main tourism activity. Boniface (2003) outlines the experiences as follows;
Urbanization: one of the main reasons why people have separated from agriculture and especially rural agriculture
The agricultural industry becoming or being posited as a tourism alternative
Responses to globalization and localization
Consumers becoming increasingly knowledgeable in the consumption of food and drinks
Curiosity in finding out the cultural differences and exchanges
Consumption of food and drinks as a part of cultural consumption (Boniface)The history of food tourism is also based on the fact that people nowadays are looking to re-establish the previously lost bond between humans and nature. Evidence of this lies in the fact that people today enjoy natural ambience, are eager to make food themselves and eat organic, fresh made food straight from their farms. Food, for most people at least, is more than just what they need to eat to survive. It has become an item of pleasure and indulgence, and this push towards enjoying it has become an important element in the development of food tourism (Boniface). The interplay between globalization and localization has also been a huge part of the history and development of food tourism. On one hand, there is the globalized food phenomenon, which can be seen in how the idea of the cheap, fast foods have spread. Because of this, fast food is available almost across the world, something which some food enthusiasts see as unacceptable. On the other hand, there is the process of localization, where in some countries like Italy, citizens are encouraged to continue the production of food locally. In a world that is saturated with certain food experiences because of the food globalization phenomenon, many people are seeking the localized experience of countries that encourage local production (Richards). The emergence of a more knowledgeable consumer is another factor that has contributed to the history and growth of the food tourism phenomenon. The consumer desires food novelty in terms of new recipes, new ingredients and innovative ways to cook. For most of the new age consumers, having a rich food and cultural knowledge is considered an asset and a rewarding way to develop ones cultural identity and diversity (Richards).
The profile of the food traveler
Different researchers have presented different profiles of the food traveler. Sohn and Yuan (2013), used a five factor analysis in categorizing the average food traveler. They divided them into the following categories; idealist, achiever, explorer, belonger and innovator. According to them, the explorer and innovators were motivated by the need for self-expression, the idealist and belonger groups were motivated by ideals while the achiever was mainly motivated by achievement (Sohn and Yuan). Another useful description and classification of the culinary traveler is that offered by Kavela (2017). Here, there are four categories of food tourists; recreational, existential, diversionary and experimental (Kavela).
Existential tourists: these seek food combinations and experiences that encourage culinary learning. For them, food tourism is not just a matter of the satisfaction of hunger and thirst. Instead, consumption for them means the opportunity to gain in depth knowledge about the local and regional cuisine and the culture of the destination (Kavela). The success of the holiday experience might be measured by how they ate at the special restaurant where only the locals frequent. Most of the time, the existential tourist will seek out farms and, participate in cooking classes, the harvesting of fruits, wines and vegetables. They might even go as far as going fishing with fish farmers and fishermen (Kavela).
The experimental food tourists are those that measure the value of their experience through food, usually by their indulgence in trendy foods. For them, the quality of the experience is judged by how they manage to visit the smartest designer cafes at their destination, as well as restaurants that offer innovative menus and chic services. They are normally the tourist section that keeps up to date about trendy and fashionable foods, recipes and ingredients. For them, quality and how fashionable the food is are important factors in the food tourism experience (Kavela).
The recreationist food tourist are the more conservative ones. These ae the ones that will seek and appreciate cuisines that are similar or as close as possible to their home cuisines while on holiday, and the familiarity that comes with it. Most of the time, they might engage in self-catering and prefer to stay in self-contained accommodation like holiday apartments. They might bring ingredients with them so that they do not have to live without their favorite foods from home. They do not value the dining style and ambience as much, and do not like the foreign food, especially in situations where some foreign foods might have become a part of their daily lives (Kavela).
The diversionary tourists are those that use the food to escape from daily life and the mundanity that includes daily routine activities like shopping and coking for the family. For them, while on holiday the food has to come easy, without too much effort, and in plenty. For the diversionary tourist, the preference is menu items that are familiar. Further, the quantity, and not the quality, of the food is essential (Kavela).
Global tourism trends
The number of people that plan their travels around food and cuisine and the opportunities to capture these opportunities is growing (Parmar). In such a growing industry, new trends are bound to emerge. One of the emerging trends in the industry today is that of leveraging the power of storytelling. It is no longer simply about the food itself and the ability to experience it, but also about the experience of the food and culture, and how it plays into the history of the tourist location. Culinary heritage offers people the opportunity to experience the diverse stories of a certain culture (Howe). Sands (2017) also identifies 7 trends that are bound to shape the industry going forward (Sands).
There are different types of travelers, and even though they prefer different things, one thing is for sure, quality will always be an important part of their food experience. This is why one of the emerging trends today is that of the chef driven culinary scene. Many travelers appreciate innovative menus and versatility in their cuisine, and based on the trends in the worlds biggest food tourism destinations, the presence of a celebrity chef is an important addition. One of the innovations that chefs and other culinary food destinations offer is that of liquor laden foods. Today, people can experience anything from pizza with toppings that are soaked in alcohol to harder, alcohol infused foods (Sands). In as much as innovation and creativity in the menu is important, a significant percentage still appreciate the incorporation of old indigenous cuisine. For instance, even at established hotels like the Four Seasons in Santa Fe, centuries old Native American cuisine still forms part of the culinary experience (Sands). Chefs that work in these locations divert from their traditional roots and training, and instead delve into local cuisines, especially those that have an old, rich heritage like the Native American cuisine. The experiential food tourist will also be happy to know that one of the biggest trends is the rise in cooking holidays. Cooking has moved from a mere hobby to a passion for many culinary travelers. This means they normally crave the fully immersive culinary experience; the cooking vacation offers this for them. There is a wide range of options, from relatively affordable cooking vacations that typically involve several people, to those that are on the higher scale; luxurious retreats where the people enjoy special cooking demonstrations by celebrity chefs and guests (Sands). At the end of the day, all the creativity and innovation, especially by the chefs, means sometimes it might be easy to lose the authentic local flavors. Chefs are getting bolder, and are experimenting with new flavors and bold techniques (Sands). This has resulted in the emergence of a demand trend for the much simpler dishes, those that are prepared with...
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