After attending TouRRoir, the global event for food tourism, we were left with a lot of unique insights into this growing trend. The most important insight? That gastronomy now plays a leading role in the travel experience. This is, for sure, a big opportunity for companies related to tourism, culture, and gastronomy.
Here are our key takeaways from the inspiring event.
1. Food is the #1 motivation for travel
Did you know that gastronomy is the #1 motivation for travellers in the American market? According to Hillary Smith, Insights Director at Condé Nast’s Food Innovation Group, food is the biggest reason for tourism in the region, followed by other factors like "family and friends", "stress relief", "getting to know new places", "bucket lists", and "adventure".
What does this mean? It highlights that food experiences must be included in a destination's marketing strategy. The Catalan Tourist Board, one of the winners of the Hall of Fame awards, is a great example of this strategy. If you visit their website, you will find that food is presented as another path to discovering the local culture.
It is also worth noting that when we talk about "food experiences", we're not exclusively referring to "dining out". There are many, many other things included here, for example food markets, tasting sessions, cooking lessons, visits to farms or vineyards and the list goes on. According to Patrick Whyte, Skift's UK Editor, these experiences make up 95% of all food experiences.
Tip: Do you run a tour company? Why not think about including some food tourism in your experience? Perhaps a short stop at a local food market or bring along some local pastries for guests to try. Do you have a gastronomy business and want to expand? Think about the kind of experiences you can offer your customers and travellers, apart from selling your product.
And, whatever you do, don't forget about your story! Stories connect products with people and the traditions of a destination. Also, remember to have a good social media distribution strategy so your customers know what you offer!
2. Culinary tourism promotes local identity
Would you travel to Italy to eat fries? Would you fly to Mexico to eat spaghetti?
I really liked the words of the Spanish chef (and Michelin star winner) María José San Román, who said that the main challenge for every destination is to offer gastronomy based on their own roots, in their most deep identity. We don't need to try being someone else.
But why is this authenticity so important for brands and regions?
Travellers want to create a true connection with the culture they visit. They want to establish a bond stronger than the one a travel guide book offers. They want to understand, feel, and taste the essence that makes this region unique.
3. Technology: connecting food and travel like never before
Access to technology has opened up new opportunities to connect gastronomy to the travel experience in three distinct ways:
3.1 Incresed visibility: Thanks to technology, a restaurant in a far-away Irish town can attract people from all around the world. It only needs a website and an effective social media strategy. DMOs and DMCs like Good Food Ireland can play their part by marketing these unique activities and products as part of a wider, more holistic experience of the region. It's the perfect win-win situation for everyone: small companies have a wider reach and destinations have a stronger experience to offer.
During the event, the role of small businesses was emphasised greatly. Speakers stressed that these companies are the ones who really improve the general experience in the region and therefore should be given more credit within the local tourism industry.
Tip: Whether you offer a tours or a cheese and wine tasting, it is recommended that you have online booking system to efficiently and effectively convert site visitors into booked customers any time and anywhere. If you'd like to learn more about TrekkSoft's solution for an online booking system, feel free to set up a call with our team.
3.2 More and better storytelling: Thanks to social media and the massive use of mobile devices, telling a story about your brand or destination is easier than ever! Although consumers do a lot of the work sharing videos, pictures, and comments about their experiences, you need to know how to capitalize this. A good example of capitalising on user generated content would be to integrate TripAdvisor reviews onto your website. Believe me when I say nothing sells more than a happy customer review!
3.3 More empowered consumers: Thanks to new technologies, consumers have more power than ever. You'll notice this in sites like TripAdvisor, where a bad or good review can push a company to success or failure. This empowerment is even more visible with the emergence of "collaborative tourism" platforms like BlablaCar or AirBnb, where the user can be both a consumer and also a service producer. Now, you are probably thinking "how is this trend affecting culinary tourism?"
This topic was touched on during TouRRoir, with a very interesting talk by the CEO and co-founder of VizEat, Jean-Michel Petit. In case you don't know it, VizEat is a culinary tourism platform with the promise "Taste the city with locals".
What does this mean? It means that, thanks to technology, travellers and locals are now united with one goal: to have the most authentic experiences in every destination. This is the key for the success of VizEat and many similar platforms.
Tip: Find out how you can use this new trend in your favour. If you are a farmer, you could use a platform like VizEat where you could bring visitors to your farm to harvest food and cook a nice meal together. If you run a famous restaurant, you could offer a "behind-the-scenes" cooking class with your head chef.
As you can imagine, there is still much to say, discuss, create and experiment within culinary tourism. Whether you run a tour company, a farm, a restaurant, or a chocolate factory, one thing is clear: success is based on truly undertanding modern consumers and their strong desire for meaningful and authentic experiences when travelling.
Do you want to share more insights about how gastronomy is changing the travel experience in your region? Tell me about it in the comments section below!