It has been said that food defines a big part of a country’s culture. The next time you travel to another country, or even another city or town, ask a local to take you to a restaurant, cafe, diner, or any food-and-beverage establishment that serves the region’s specialty dish. You will surely have an interesting gastronomic experience. As you savour each morsel of the delectable dish, you are actually helping the region’s culinary tourism.
Culinary tourism is defined as the search for unique and unforgettable eating and drinking experiences. Since culinary tourism is a subset of cultural tourism, considering that cuisine is a natural manifestation of culture, it should not be confused with agritourism, which is a subset of rural tourism. However, both are definitely linked since the ingredients in a local dish start its roots in agriculture. Together with the experience of tasting unique foods to the region, a culinary tourist can also visit the region’s attractions, witness the scenery, and take part in the local culture.
It is a mistake to think that all culinary tourists only eat gourmet food. This is definitely not the case for several reasons: one, culinary tourists are an adventurous lot. They yearn to try something that is not usually served in a fancy restaurant’s menu. Two, many of them are limited to their travel budgets. Regularly eating in a fine-dining restaurant can be an expensive endeavour which could blow a hole in the pocket. Three, real local cuisine is “home-cooked,” meaning, they are prepared in very traditional ways without the use of condiments, flavourings, and other artificial ingredients, providing the tourist an authentic, no-nonsense experience. True culinary tourism is all about experiencing something unique and memorable, not necessarily pompous and exclusive.
Considering that food is the best way to a person’s heart, culinary tourism definitely has the power to attract tourists just like how museums, attractions, shopping, and recreation lure them to a certain region. In fact, this type of tourism is now one of the newest and hottest niche to emerge within the travel and tourism industry in the last few years. That’s because dining and drinking is one of the most effective ways that visitors can do to learn about a new and exotic locale. In a recent survey, almost 100 percent of tourist respondents consider dining as one of their top three favourite activities when they travel to another region.
In addition, unlike some other travel activities and attractions where experiencing them is dependent on weather conditions, peak seasons, and other factors, cuisine is available all-year round, any time of the day and in any condition.
It is not just the tourist who will benefit from culinary tourism. It also boosts the region’s economy. Let’s assume, for instance, that you tried king crab stew during your visit in Alaska. After paying for a fantastic dining experience, part of the money goes to the restaurant owner who gains a profit. Part of that money goes to the local government, which helps the region. If the experience is pleasant, you would probably break the news to your friends and colleagues who would want to taste a king crab dish. As they travel to the region and dine on the dish, they bring in more money to the economy. So as you can see, food tourism is a win-win situation for both the tourist and the place hosting the food.
Next time you visit a new place, do not just limit yourself to visiting sites, attractions, and other places found in guidebooks. To make your experience worthwhile, eat some of the local meals. Food, after all, is part of a place’s culture.