What is Culinary Tourism?

Written by stephanie plumb
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  • Introduction

    What is Culinary Tourism?

    "Travel is the best education, and by experiencing each other's foods we learn something new about each other's cultures." This statement is included in the mission and goals of the International Culinary Tourism Association, the global leader in the marketing and promotion of dining abroad. Whether it's the southern cuisine of Texas or the vineyards of Spain, people have spent centuries travelling far and wide to seek out new and exotic culinary experiences. In the last decade culinary tourism has become a sustainable industry of its own.

    Sampling local foods while travelling has become an industry called culinary tourism. (Food image by Yvonne Bogdanski from Fotolia.com)

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    Culinary tourism, or "gastronomic tourism" as it is formally called, is vacation for the purpose of experiencing local culinary offerings. It can refer to any tourist venture that focuses on food and drink, including self-guided vacations through specific regions of culinary renown, or programs and conferences that give food enthusiasts the opportunity to improve their technique in the culinary arts.

    Culinary tourism is both a type of travel and an industry. (OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA image by hibiscus_mel from Fotolia.com)

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    Though the tradition of dining out while travelling is well-established, culinary tourism was first defined as a market in 2002 when Erik Wolf, president of the International Culinary Tourism Association, released a report on the heavy economic influence that "food travel" carried and how often it was overlooked. It did not take long for tourism and hospitality professionals to recognise the revenue potential. Since then, culinary tourism has exploded as a marketing tool to advertise, promote and sell vacations that have food and drink at their core.

    Tourism professionals have seized the opportunity to profit from culinary tourism. (chocolate image by AGITA LEIMANE from Fotolia.com)

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    The Facts

    According to Craig Schmantowsky, a chef-in-residence instructor at Lynn University: "Dining is consistently one of the top three favourite tourist activities. The higher the total bill, the more likely the patrons are tourists." U.S. citizens spend more than £7 billion every year on culinary activities while on vacation, and the information available on food and drink destinations is more accessible than ever.

    Tourists statistically spend more on food and drink than locals do. (take out cost image by Melking from Fotolia.com)

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    Because of the incredible influence culinary tourism has as an industry, marketing it as a novelty to tourists is a clever way to bring in business. Thus, it has become a focus of study in hospitality and cooking programs the world over, including at the International Culinary Tourism Institute, which opened in 2006. Even the media is tapping into this market with programs on the Food Network and Travel channels, such as "Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations" and "Have Fork, Will Travel." This creates jobs and continuous revenue for food and tourist industry professionals.

    Culinary tourism is now a course of study in hospitality and cooking programs. (cooking image by AGITA LEIMANE from Fotolia.com)

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    Any place that creates food and drink of international repute will offer trips and vacations to tourists so that they can experience it fully. Those who dream of a tour of the vineyards in Burgundy or Tuscany might consult organisations such as Active Gourmet Holidays, which pairs local cooking and dining experiences with other cultural activities. La Villa Bonita offers cooking classes and a culinary vacation in Mexico, and in the U.S. there are many popular "routes" that will lead you on the culinary adventure of your preference, such as the salsa trail through Arizona or the Hot Tamale Trail through the Mississippi Delta.

    Travellers are free to follow their palates to different states and countries. (food image by cico from Fotolia.com)

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