Food for Thought! Gastronomy as a Destination USP

Gastronomy has become a central part of the tourism experience. In recent years, food tourism has grown considerably becoming one of the most dynamic and creative segments of tourism. Both destinations and tourism businesses have realized the importance of gastronomy order to diversify tourism and stimulate local, regional and national economic development.

The “Global Report on Food Tourism“, which has just been published by UNWTO, provides an extensive analysis of the current situation of food tourism, identifying the importance of gastronomy in the development of tourism destinations worldwide and reviews the global trends in food tourism.

According to the results this survey, 88.2% of respondents consider that gastronomy is a strategic element in defining the brand and image of their destination. Only 11.8% were of the opinion that gastronomy plays a minor role.

However, a smaller percentage of respondents believe that their country has its own gastronomic brand: only 67,6% responded in the affirmative. In fact, a considerable  percentage (32,3%) believe that their country has not structured its own brand of gastronomy, meaning that, in general, destinations still have some ways to go in terms of their strategic reflection on gastronomic tourism.

As for gastronomic tourism products that exist in their destination, the organizations consulted underlines in the first place the importance of food events (expressed by 79% of respondents). This is followed by gastronomic routes and cooking classes and workshops, with 62% answering affirmatively, food fairs featuring local products (59%) and visits to markets and producers (53%).

68% of the organizations consulted carry out marketing activities or promotion based on food tourism. The marketing and promotional tools most used by these entities are: organizing events (91%), producing brochures and advertising (82%) and dedicated websites on food tourism (78 %). At a lower level are promotional tools such as tourism guides (61%), blogs (43%), and familiarization trips for journalists and tour operators (13%). And lastly, only 4% of the organizations surveyed said they used social networks for the promotion of food tourism.

Asked about the existence at their destination of collaboration between the tourism sector and local gastronomy actors (producers, restaurants, markets, etc.), the general opinion is that there is cooperation on concrete marketing actions, in particular, with local restaurants, but there are currently no stable instruments of cooperation for the development and promotion of food tourism. In fact, 37.5% of respondents recognize that collaboration does not exist or is not very significant.

Key conclusions are drawn concerning firstly the need for the creation of plans to establish development guidelines and create gastronomic tourism products  for destinations. In the field of marketing and promotion, it is important for destinations to seize the opportunity represented by gastronomy for the definition of a strategy to build the image and brand of destinations. Key factors are: bringing chefs on board as interpreters of the territory, the development of high-quality and credible promotional tools—such as food guides—the organization of events, the media and use of the Internet and social networks.

Full Report here

Check out Some recent Posts on Food Tourism and Destination Marketing Campaigns!

Targeted Destination Marketing: Engaging the Foodies

Grassroots Destination Marketing Initiatives

France & Wine Tourism Collaboration

and don’t forget to Subscribe  to the dedicated Blog Section of our website, to keep receiving your abouTourism Blog Post updates! 

Grassroots Destination Marketing Initiatives

Here are some fresh & interesting grassroots marketing initiatives, to give us some food for thought:

Ireland & Food Tourism Development

Fáilte Ireland has launched a search for 12 “food champions” who will build Ireland’s reputation as a food tourism destination.

The tourism body is encouraging the public to nominate people with “a resounding passion and belief in Irish food, together with a commitment and drive to actively influence and shape the future of Irish cuisine and food tourism in their region”.

Nominees could include people who own or run restaurants or other food service business, chefs and food producers.

Once selected, the 12 people will travel to Prince Edward County in Canada on a fact- finding mission. This region has become a food tourism destination because of initiatives like the Prince Edward County Taste Trail. When the group returns home, they will work with their local communities to help:

  • Build Ireland’s food tourism reputation and encourage visitors to stop, spend and stay longer
  • Develop networks & relationships within local business, organisations and regional stakeholders
  • Enhance regional knowledge base & develop engaging food experiences
  • Utilise food tourism as an economic development strategy


Canada & its Millions of Directors

The Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) has launched a new initiative inviting Canadians to submit videos highlighting Canada as a tourism destination.

The 35 Million Directors project aims to collect hundreds of videos shot by amateur filmmakers that showcase the best Canadian tourism destinations, activities and events.

The entries, uploaded on a dedicated new website, will be assessed by a panel of expert judges, before being edited into a series of promotional advertisements to encourage international travel to Canada. Professional directors will craft the public’s narratives into a grassroots campaign highlighting the country and its tourism offerings.

Prizes will be awarded to winning entries, and the final film will premiere at the Tourism Industry Association of Canada Congress event in November before being broadcast on national television and the web.


Georgia Tourism & the SmackDown Challenge

The Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) launched a Challenge with which Georgia tourism professionals are encouraged to assemble teams to work together on a creative  proposal that will focus on Georgia residents.

The Smacktown Challenge was a statewide competition between tourism organizations, attractions, and travel partners and hosted by GDEcD. Each competitor submitted a proposal outlining a tourism marketing campaign for 2013 that will promote inner-state travel for all communities across Georgia. GDEcD will implement a version of the proposed plan in 2013.

It was recently announced that Greater Rome Convention & Visitors Bureau (GRCVB) was the team to win it. Check out their proposal in this video:

Key objectives for the proposals were to: Provide measurable economic impact to Georgia during the month(s) of the promotion in 2013 by encouraging and inspiring Georgia residents to stay in-state and spend more money during February and/or August; Generate qualified leads for Georgia Tourism Partners; Drive measurable results to include web site hits, travel guide requests, media attention, event attendance numbers, hotel stays, etc.; The campaign should contain some type of control mechanism to ensure that participants are indeed Georgia residents.


Targeted Destination Marketing: Engaging the Foodies

More and more destinations and DMOs are turning to diversified campaign initiatives in order to reach target audiences. Food is certainly an element very closely connected to the destination and definitely part of the whole on location experience for visitors but for the local community as well.

Niche social networks such as Foodspotting are embraced by DMOs realizing the importance of regaining that focus that is currently lost in the mainstream networks, engaging target audience on a deeper level,  while other destinations focus their marketing efforts on food through dedicated campaign initiatives. Are you hungry yet?

ELDHÚS – Iceland’s Little House of Food

Imagine having the chance to sample real Icelandic food in the country’s most remote and stunning locations? Inspired by Iceland recently took  the dining experience to a whole new level by introducing a new initiative called Eldhús, a pop-up food experience on wheels which travelled across the most remote and extreme areas of Iceland seeking out the best of Icelandic cuisine. Eldhús is an Icelandic word meaning kitchen. Literary, it means house of fire, referring to the part of an house where the open fire would be kept alive for cooking, before the days of metal stoves.

This tasty 12-day expedition through Icelandic gastronomy ran in March and saw Eldhús braving frozen glaciers and volcanic terrain, teetering along mountain paths and stopping off at Iceland’s most extreme beauty spots for tips and native delicacies from local farmers and fisherman.

Through the Inspired by Iceland communities on Facebook and Twitter people of Iceland were invited to nominate themselves or the people they know to take on the role of chef for one night and visitors to Iceland eating at Eldhús were lucky enough to be dined by these winning chefs.

Source: inspiredbyiceland

Foodspotting in Philly

There are likely at least a half dozen specialized communities where your target audience is spending time and interacting online. In these communities, you will find a high percentage of users are interested in your destination and in specific categories.  As larger social networks have become mainstream, niche social networks find their way in many DMOs social campaigns for a chance to connect with target markets on a deeper level, focus their efforts to groups that are already interested and join the discussion that is already going on about their brand.

Recognizing the importance and interest of the foodies community to the destination, Philadelphia became the first destination, through the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (GPTMC), to launch a major Foodspotting program with multiple guides, a contest at launch and Foodspotting’s marketing support, becoming a featured destination on their web and mobile platform.

Philadelphia’s branded page enables GPTMC to bring the With Love, Philadelphia XOXO® tourism initiative to Foodspotting, encouraging people to visit several area restaurants and link Foodspotting friends to Visit Philly’s other web and social media properties, including Greater Philadelphia’s official visitor site.


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,”