Culinary tourism

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France is a country that has been strongly associated with culinary tourism with both international visitors as well as French citizens traveling to different parts of the country to sample local foods and wine.

Culinary tourism or food tourism is the exploration of food as the purpose of tourism.[1] It is now considered a vital component of the tourism experience.[2] Dining out is common among tourists and "food is believed to rank alongside climate, accommodation, and scenery" in importance to tourists.[2]


Culinary or food tourism is the pursuit of unique and memorable eating and drinking experiences, both near and far.[3] Culinary tourism differs from agritourism in that culinary tourism is considered a subset of cultural tourism (cuisine is a manifestation of culture) whereas agritourism is considered a subset of rural tourism,[4] but culinary tourism and agritourism are inextricably linked, as the seeds of cuisine can be found in agriculture. Culinary/food tourism is not limited to gourmet food.[5]

While many cities, regions or countries are known for their food, culinary tourism is not limited by food culture. Every tourists eats about three times a day, making food one of the fundamental economic drivers of tourism. Countries like Ireland, Peru and Canada are making significant investment in culinary tourism development and are seeing results with visitor spending and overnight stays rising as a result of food tourism promotion and product development.[6]

In addition to the above information, the World Food Travel Association adds the following information for clarification:

We say "food tourism", but drinking beverages is an implied and associated activity. It is also cumbersome to say "food and drink tourism". We need to clarify "far and near". In addition to traveling across country or the world to eat or drink, we can also be food travelers in our own regions, cities and neighborhoods. If you rarely leave your neighborhood and travel across town to a new neighborhood to go to a special grocery store or to eat out, you're a "food traveler" in your own backyard! The act of traveling is implied because most people travel at least across their own town, if not the region, the country and even the planet. The distance covered is not as important as the fact that we are always on the move. We are all "travelers" of a sort and we are all "eaters". Therefore, we can also all be regarded as "food travelers". Previously the World Food Travel Association had used the phrase "culinary tourism" to describe our industry. We stopped using that phrase in 2012 because our research indicated that it gave a misleading impression. While "culinary" technically can be used for anything relating to food and drink and initially seems to make good sense, the perception among the majority of English-speakers we interviewed is that the word "culinary" is elitist. Nothing could be further from the truth about what our industry is all about. "Food Tourism" is includes the food carts and street vendors as much as the locals-only (gastro)pubs, dramatic wineries, or one-of-a-kind restaurants. There is something for everyone in the food tourism industry.


A brief overview of the history of the food tourism industry can be watched in this video.


Research from the World Food Travel Association's 2016 Food Travel Monitor proves that 93% of travelers can now be considered food travelers. By "food travelers", we mean travelers who had participated in a food or beverage experience other than dining out, at some time in the past 12 months. They may have visited a cooking school, participated in a food tour, or gone shopping in a local grocery or gourmet store. These are the types of activities that food travelers engage in. We also go on tours at food or beverage factories, participate in wine/beer/spirits tastings, and of course, eat out in unique or memorable foodservice establishments. We'll visit a chocolatier, bakery or gelateria to sample what makes the area famous. Most importantly, food travelers are explorers. We love to get off the beaten path and find the new (or new for us), unique or undiscovered experiences. It may surprise many readers to learn that foodies with a Gourmet preference are absolutely in the minority. To be specific, our 2010 PsychoCulinary research showed that only 8.1% of food travelers expressed an interest in Gourmet experiences as their primary interest. By the time our 2016 research was published, that number had risen to 18%, but still very much in the minority. We attribute the increase due to television programming about chefs, chef competitions and cooking.


The most frequent misunderstanding or misconception among professionals in our industry is that agritourism and food tourism are interchangeable terms. Nothing could be further from the truth. Agritourism is a subset of rural tourism, and involves farms, farm activities, and can include farmers' markets. As an activity, agritourism tends to be popular with locals and close-in regional travelers, but it tends to be less attractive to visitors from across countries or across the world. Very few visitors will pay money to ride a cow or purchase a bunch of rhubarb to take back to their hotel room. Farm tours generally are a more popular activity with children, which is another reason farm visitors tend to be more local and regional (because it is much more expensive to transport a family with children by air than it is by car). Recently, some visitors have expressed interest in food pedigree (sourcing), composting and animal welfare. These are more food industry issues and have less to do with tourism, although some travelers take their behavior and values with them while traveling. The bottom line is that agriculture has a very limited appeal to long haul visitors, and therefore has limited economic potential. The food tourism industry, and our Association, respect agriculture, and farmers, and acknowledges that the seeds of cuisine are in agriculture. Rather than focusing on agritourism, a more profitable potential for the agriculture industry is in value-added agricultural products. Look at our wheel of economic development which illustrates how agriculture, agritourism and food tourism (in other words, our entire community) interrelate.


Estimating the economic impact of food & beverage tourism is at best, very difficult. First, we would need to find how many travelers there are to an area. Then we would need to interview them to find out how much they spend on food and drink while traveling. We could dig deeper and ask them what percentage of their expenditures are for sustenance vs. a unique food or beverage experience. We would also have to factor out expenditures by locals. And how would you account for a visitor's spending on gourmet souvenir items in a grocery store? As you can see, the task is very difficult, and the cost of figuring out exactly how much travelers are spending on food and beverage experiences can outweigh the findings. The World Food Travel Association (WFTA) provides a formula. Over the years, through the WFTA's own research, secondary research, interviews and conversations, the association has constructed its own impression of the value of food tourism. By itsestimate, visitors spend approximately 25% of their travel budget on food and beverages. The figure can get as high as 35% in expensive destinations, and as low as 15% on more affordable destinations. Confirmed food lovers also spend a bit more than the average of 25% spent by travelers in general. The association recommends that interested parties conduct more evidence-based research if you require absolute precision. The WFTA is confident that your results will most likely fall in this range. Most governments publish data on total visitor arrivals and expenditures. Take the estimated economic impact of visitors to your area and multiply it by 25%. That is your estimated economic impact of expenditures on the food and beverage sector.


Food Tourism may sound like a great idea, but what tangible, measurable benefits can your involvement with our industry bring to you? Here's our short list of what you and the various players in your area can realize as you become more engaged in a sustainable food and drink tourism strategy:

- More visitor arrivals

- More sales (rooms/airplane seats/restaurant meals/wine/beer/car rentals/etc.)

- More media coverage

- A new competitive advantage or unique selling proposition (i.e. unique food and drink)

- More tax revenue to government authorities

- Increased community awareness about tourism in general

- Increased community pride about, and awareness of, the area's food and drink resources

Cooking Classes

A growing area of culinary tourism are cooking classes. The formats vary from short lesson lasting a few hours to full-day and multi-day courses. The focus for foreign tourists will usually be on the cuisine of the country they are visiting, whereas local tourists may be keen to experience cuisines new to them. Many cooking classes also include market tours to enhance the cultural experience.

Food Tours

The food tour formula varies from tour to tour and from operator to operator (of which there are many). Most, however, feature the following elements:

  1. They operate in major cities, generally but not always capital cities, that have substantial tourist numbers. Tours exist – amongst other places - in London, Paris,[7][8] Rome, Istanbul, New York City, Lisbon, Berlin, Madrid, Belfast, San Francisco, Copenhagen, Kuala Lumpur and Barcelona. The essential for operators is to find a city with a vibrant and interesting food culture. Street food may feature.
  2. There are wide variations in cost, however they are more expensive in the United States,[9] and less so in Asia.
  3. Tours are generally on foot. The distances traveled are never large – sometimes as in the Indian Food Tour of London,[10] they are focused on a few adjoining streets. Few tourists seem to want a cycle tour although one or two cycle tour companies are considering a food element.
  4. Tours typically last for a minimum three hours although many last longer. Many tours start around 11:00 am local time and continue well into the afternoon, making it the day's major attraction. Tours generally start and end at public transport hubs such as metro stations.
  5. Participant numbers vary but 12 to 16 is generally considered the upper limit.
  6. Tours rarely charge for small children who share food with parents/carers. Tours may not be necessarily fully compliant with wheelchair use – this will depend on the exact tour and the attitude of each location to disability.
  7. Tours take visitors to places they might otherwise not have seen, so they can shop and eat like locals rather than rely on tourist “traps”. Phrases such as “eat the city like a real Parisian/Berliner/Londoner/New Yorker” are often employed in food tour publicity.
  8. All tours are guided by local people. Many tour guides add their local knowledge as a bonus, perhaps recommending restaurants in other parts of the city.
  9. Tours are primarily about food. The format varies from company to company but will generally include visits to markets, bars, and cafés where those on the tour are invited to sample the wares. There is usually a shop visit to buy the sort of food that is difficult to source elsewhere. Tours may end up with a sit-down meal at a restaurant where there is usually the choice of beer, wine or soft drinks.
  10. Guides talk about food, often pointing those on the tour to shops they use. They may discuss how the sort of food they and their families eat differs from the food generally offered to tourists. They are unlikely to be kindly disposed to international fast food outlets.
  11. Guides generally add in material about the history of the area the tour is in. Most tours are close to, but not in, major tourist zones.
  12. Tours assume that participants eat almost anything and are not designed for special diets. However, most can accommodate vegetarians although vegan diets are rarely catered for – an exception is the Indian Food Tour (as many in India are vegan). The same warning applies to those looking for gluten-free etc.
  13. Many tour companies aim to create a sustainable tourism model over which they provide to their clients an experience that makes a positive impact on the local environment, society and economy by working only with local producers and/or family own establishments, and celebrating local traditions, all on foot, which means having a zero carbon footprint

See also


  1. ^ Long, Lucy (2004). Culinary Tourism. The University Press of Kentucky. p. 20. ISBN 9780813122922. 
  2. ^ a b McKercher, Bob; Okumus, Fevzi; Okumus, Bendegul (2008). "Food Tourism as a Viable Market Segment: It's All How You Cook the Numbers!". Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing. 25 (2): 137–148. doi:10.1080/10548400802402404. 
  3. ^ Retrieved 2001-01-01.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help); Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ Wolf, Erik (2006). Culinary Tourism: The Hidden Harvest. Kendall/Hunt Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7575-2677-0. 
  5. ^ Wolf, Erik (2001). "Culinary Tourism: The Hidden Harvest" white paper. World Food Travel Association. (currently out of print). 
  6. ^ Wolf, Erik (2014). Have Fork Will Travel. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 978-1490533995. 
  7. ^ "Discover the Paris food scene like a true Parisian". 
  8. ^ "In Paris, 8 New Tours, From Art to Shopping". The New York Times. October 16, 2016. 
  9. ^ "Traveling to eat: Food tourism grows in USA". USA Today. February 19, 2007. 
  10. ^ "Indian Food Tour - East End London". Secret Food Tour. 

External links

  • World Food Travel Association
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