Destination Marketing and the ”FOOD” element: A Market Overview

Gastronomic tourism refers to trips made to destinations where the local food and beverages are the main motivating factors for travel. It is also known as “food tourism”, “tasting tourism” or “culinary tourism”.  According to the International Culinary Tourism Association, culinary tourism is defined as “the pursuit of unique and memorable eating and drinking experiences”.  What this means is there is a particular audience of people who are willing to travel the world in order to sample and experience authentic international cuisines.

The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation ( GPTMC ) joined with the William Penn Foundation, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission ( DVRPC ) and the local food community today to announce the launch of Philly Homegrown™, a $450,000 consumer education and tourism marketing program. Philly Homegrown™, accompanied by the tagline Real Local Flavor, promotes the people, places and flavors of the area’s 100-mile foodshed—from Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties to Amish Country to the Atlantic Ocean.

Food has an undeniable importance for holiday makers. As such, food tourism has gained an enormous potential in recent years. A high percentage of travellers, consider dining and food as relevant activities during their travels.  However, the role of food in the marketing of destinations has until recently received very little attention globally and locally. All indications, though, are that local food holds much potential to enhance sustainability in tourism; contribute to the authenticity of the destination; strengthen the local economy; and provide for the environmentally friendly infrastructure. Food also holds a key place in the “think globally, act locally” debate. Some buyers are keen to support local businesses, or protect the environment by avoiding foods which have been transported long distances.

California Travel & Tourism Commission and Wine Institute Launched National "Land of Wine and Food" Campaign back in 2008.The heart of the campaign focuses on the Web site

Destination marketing campaigns around the world show that there is a strong connection between tourism and gastronomy. However, there is little empirical evidence, to show for example, whether or not there is a gastronomy-tourism market segment. Or, does destination’s gastronomy contribute to the tourists’ quality of experiences while visiting the destination? And, do tourists return to the destination to resample its cuisine? In any case, gastronomy plays a major role in the way tourists experience the destination, and indicate that some travellers would return to the same destination to savour its unique gastronomy. To this direction more and more Destination Marketing campaigns are now focusing on the food element as a central part of its destination tourism product.

Mexico embraces food tourism to bring visitors via its latest ''Aromas & Flavors'' Marketing Initiative

Facts & Stats

  • Culinary tourism tends to be largely a domestic tourism activity, with consumers travelling to places to eat and drink specific (usually local) produce.
  • A domestic survey of leisure travellers in America found that 17% engaged in culinary related activities.
  • The International Culinary Tourism Association predicts that this will grow rapidly in the coming years. According to USA Today (27 Feb 2007), 27million Americans have made culinary activities part of their travels in the last three years.
  • In the UK, food tourism is estimated to be worth nearly $8 billion each year. International culinary tourism is less significant than its domestic counterpart. Whilst consumers do consider food when deciding where to take a holiday, it is not usually the main consideration.
  • The growth in popularity of ethnic cuisines like Thai, Indian, North African, Mexican and Chinese throughout the industrialised countries is attributable to a significant degree to tourism where visitors sample local foods and develop a taste for them.
  • Food and drink festivals constitute the sole instance where the decision to travel is taken solely on the grounds of the gastronomic experiences offered. These are becoming more prevalent, in particular in Europe. Whilst this segment is growing, at present there are estimated to be no more than one million international culinary tourists travelling each year.
  • Gastronomic consumers tent to be couples that have above-average income, are usually professionals and are aged 30 to 50. This correlates closely to the demographics of the cultural tourist.
  • The International Culinary Tourism Association states that on average, food travellers spend around $1,200 per trip, with over one-third (36% or $425) of their travel budget going towards food-related activities. Those considered to be “deliberate” food travellers (i.e. where culinary activities are the key reason for the trip) tend to spend a significantly higher amount of their overall travel budget (around 50%) on food-related activities.
The "Great Northumberland Picnics'' campaign aimed to find the best locations for eating out and wanted to let people know where they best like to spread their picnic blanket, as well as the best places to go and things to eat in the county.
  • The main source markets tend to be in Europe and North America, in particular:
    • Germany
    • United Kingdom
    • Benelux countries (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg)
    • Italy
    • France
    • Scandinavia
    • United States

In Europe, the main competing destinations are:

  • Spain
  • France
  • Italy

In Asia, they include:

  • Japan
  • India
  • Thailand


The " Have a cracking time in South Devon" campaign will encourage visitors from across the UK to come to South Devon to enjoy one of most delicious yet undervalued great natural local resources, South Devon crab.

According to the Barcelona Field Studies Centre there are 5 major trends driving the food tourism revolution in destination marketing.

Trend 1: Trading up

All across world, growing affluence of the populations has a profound impact on consumer spending. Consumers spend a higher proportion of their income on prepared food, gourmet products, eating out and food items with some form of health or ethical benefits. For discretionary purchases, consumers have traded up where the product is aspiration or traded down when the product is only function.

Trend 2: Demographics and Household Change

An ageing population and changing life styles have driven demand for increased eating out and food tourism opportunities. Groups that provide growing markets for food tourism are summarised in the table below.

Growing markets for food tourism

DINKS: Double Income No Kids.
SINKS: Single Income No Kids.
Both Dinks and Sinks: younger people, between 25 and 35 years of age, no children, affluent.
Empty Nesters: parents whose children have flown the family nest. Between 45 and 55 of age, well educated, high disposable income.
Boomers: members of the baby boom generation in the 1950s.
Divorcees: searching for new partners and subsequently will take prospective partners out for dinner and away for romantic weekends.

Trend 3: Rejection of ‘MacDonaldisation’

Tourists have increasingly rejected the industrial ‘fordist’ model of low cost mass production of food, searching out local, fresh and good quality cuisine that reflects the authenticity of the destination. The end of the ‘MacDonaldisation‘ of food culture has seen Starbucks fail in Australia as the brand is perceived as bland and lacking individuality.

Trend 4: Growth of the Multi-Cultured Consumer

Multiculturalism has become an everyday concept in the daily life of the consumer, driven by immigration, globalisation, the internet, the expansion in specialist and minority TV channels and the relentless growth in international tourism. What were once exotic foods have become foods of first choice and today curry is the United Kingdom’s favourite dish.

Trend 5: The Role of the Celebrity Chef and Media

The emergence of the niche food programmes, TV channels and magazines means the food celebrity and expert has been created. The celebrity chef shapes tourism products in a way that is often referred to as the ‘Delia effect’ after the media chef Delia Smith, whose 1998 television programme ‘How to Cook’ resulted in an extra 1.3 million eggs being sold in Britain each day of the series. The phenomena of Gordon Ramsey with ‘Hells Kitchen’ and the ‘F word’ or Jamie Oliver‘s campaign for good wholesome school dinners all drives our interest in good quality food. source:

The Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) launched its 'I Love Korean Food' campaign in three Australian cities―Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. The "JC Decaux Citylights" campaign will feature Korea's unique cuisine and give Australians the chance to win a trip to Korea for two to experience a taste of royal cuisine. To enter the competition, contestants are urged to submit an entry at naming three dishes on the table featured in the campaign's poster. The contest runs from March 22 through Aug. 31. The winner will be announced on Sept. 3.

Tourism organizations (including national, state and regional tourism boards) as well and  tour operators can benefit from targeted food tourism campaigns.  Fine cuisine and travel go hand and hand and a targeted marketing campaign can help drive that point home to these potential travelers. Gastronomic  tourism is considered a subculture of cultural tourism and certainly food is a major component of any culture. This trend can be used to encourage travelers to visit other states or even foreign countries on a quest for the best  food experience in the world.  As Benjamin Christie nicely points out  “If a person wants the best steak they may travel to Texas, the best barbeque in Louisiana and no visit to New York city  would be complete without sampling a piece of New York style pizza. Overseas, a trip to Singapore wouldn’t be complete without sampling Singapore chilli crab, butter chicken in India, chicken stay in Malaysia, peking duck in China, sushi in Japan, quesadilla in Mexico, Maori cooked hangi in New Zealand and the best pasta would require a trip to Italy, of course. The list is endless when it comes to culinary tourism”.


“Fabulous Food 1Malaysia’ celebrates the unique, diverse and fabulous Malaysian culinary that so aptly conveys the rich cultural tapestry of Malaysia,”

12 thoughts on “Destination Marketing and the ”FOOD” element: A Market Overview

    1. yes you are correct smadar, wine/beer tourism has also grown and can intermix with or be part of culinary tourism. It is so important to support the local and unique-for if we do not we will have no choice in the future and all culinary/beverage products will be made by huge companies; what a shame that would be! you sound passionate, keep it up!

  1. Your site is really having a very nice look!

    Rejection of ‘MacDonaldisation’, how can you tell this with one or 2 examples like McDonalds / starbucks, there are so many franchisee or similar setups there… can you reply your comments. Thanks

    1. Thanks for your comment. Rejection of MacDonaldisation and the need for tailor-made products & personalized services has been a dominant trend for many years now. People – and tourists in specific – seem to look for more authentic and unique experiences while travelling abroad.

      The evolution of tourism has been repeatedly compared with colonialism. In the beginning all travelers were looking for safe choices in every aspect concerning their trip including their food. For this purpose they preferred to taste familiar flavors wherever they were going (just like the colonial missions used to carry their own food within their ships). The more familiar they were getting with each destination they were visiting (or conquering), the more closer they were coming to the local customs & traditions.

      In both cases, the global map has been uncovered. We are now able to travel in almost every place in the world without feeling insecure or unfamiliar with it. Most of us have an idea of what an Asian food tastes like even if we’ve never been to an Asian country before.

      Now that we feel secure, we are ready to become explorers again and look for more. Its human nature (or should I say sociology of tourism)

  2. Culinary or food Tourism really should be shouted from the heights and form the heart of any destinations promotion. And I wish to congratulate you for presenting an excellent article.

    Every visitor will eat and drink at least once a day!

    I feel that if you keep your visitors happy with great food experiences [and that does not just include the high end places] you have just increased the opportunity for repeat business-which surely is the intention of any destination?

    The World Summit on Culinary Tourism is taking place in Canada later this year and would be an excellent opportunity for all involved in the exciting tourism niche to model great practice and pick up new ideas! Info can be found here
    [ ] and would be an excellent place to network and model some of the great practice that is occurring globally.

    Food is one thing that unites people regardless of race and origin lets unite and celebrate it!

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