Food has been one of the main motivating factors for many travelers in the 21st century. People do not just enjoy a place with good food, but they are also curious about the food-making and production process. Today’s consumers travel all over the world to be educated with new knowledge and to enjoy unique dining experiences. The rise of food tourism has never been this prominent across time.
The following article post originally appeared on https://skift.com and was written by Dan Peltier.
Food connects a traveler to a place in a way that’s arguably closer and more engaging than anything else they could encounter. Confining a food tourist’s dining experience to the walls of a restaurant isn’t enough to make them feel like they got what they came for. – Dan Peltier
“Dining will be the last form of live entertainment.”
This affirmation by Reserve’s CEO Greg Hong last week at Skift Global Forum in Brooklyn represents the trend of experiential travelers engrossed with food and wanting to learn more about how their meals are prepared and where they come from. Visiting a winery and doing a tasting no longer whets travelers’ appetites the way it once did. Now they want to meet with the wine grower and be personally shown around the vineyards, for example.
It’s become a challenge to find a city, state, or region that hasn’t branded itself as a food destination to some extent, and some studies have found one in two millennials consider themselves foodies, for example, according to Bob Williams, a marketing professor at Susquehanna University who studies food tourism and his wife Helena, co-founder of gastrogatherings.com, citing a journal paper he and Helena co-authored. There are, however, differences between travelers calling themselves fair-weather foodies and those who visit destinations specifically to revel in exclusive and even one-on-one experiences with chefs, farmers or craft brewers.
Tourism boards caught in between realize that regardless of a traveler’s passion point for food, they need to double down on the number of culinary experiences they offer to remain competitive with both types of food tourists. These travelers spend about 18-20% more in destinations for every age group and country of origin, says Helena.
“It’s important for destinations to offer a critical mass of six different experiences because some travelers want variety and others want several experiences grouped around a certain food,” said Williams, citing a white paper she and Robert co-authored. “It’s important for all the wineries, for example, in a certain region to work together because wine and food trails are appealing to food tourists.”
“There’s a reason why Napa Valley is more popular as a wine destination than New York State even though New York produces a lot of wine and has beautiful wineries. Napa clusters its wineries together so when you visit the region you’re probably going to several wineries rather than only one. New York hasn’t gotten that cluster reputation yet. If state and local governments could just do a few simple things they could really jumpstart this process of co-branding.”
Future of Restaurant Dining
If dining is the last form of live entertainment, than the restaurant is a stage where travel brands can approach brand-building from a fresher angle.
Some brands like Easton Porter Group already consider Hong’s thinking as a best practice, making the kitchen the first thing guests see when they first arrive. Walking into the 1804 Kitchen House at the Zero George Hotel in Charleston, South Carolina, guests immediately smell what’s cooking for that evening’s dinner and get a handshake from the chef at the check-in desk located among the pots, pans, stove tops, and spices. This room is the reason guests stay at Zero George and serves as the hotel’s community space where the chefs share their stories and lead customized cooking classes.
“Hotel restaurant staff are also the concierge and have an incredible responsibility to make sure expectations are met,” said Curry Uflakcer, marketing director for Easton Porter Group, which owns boutique hotels and restaurants in Charleston and Virginia. “Dining is entertainment but we think of it more as a contemporary dance than a ballet. Our restaurants are less tasting driven and more experience driven, where guests have a lot of access to the chef.”
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