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In an exclusive interview with Travel and Tour World, Erik Wolf, Executive Director & Founder at World FoodTravel Association speaks on the staggering rise of food tourism globally.
TTW – What made you specialize in the food tourism and travelling? How do you relate culinary to travelling?
Erik Wolf : I have been a foodie my entire life, and have worked my entire professional career in the travel industry. After the Dot Com bust in 2001, I suspected a layoff in the company I was working for. I was right and three months later I was laid off. I did some soul searching to look at what I liked doing, where I had contacts, and my skill sets. It all came back to food and travel. I put the two words together and a new industry was born. Food and drink are an important part of traveller experiences, because 100% of visitors to a destination must eat. Not all visitors go shopping or even stay in a hotel but everyone eats. We can let them eat Western fast food, or send them home with tasty memories. The more of the five human senses that are incorporated, the longer lasting the memories will be.


TTW – With the present growing knack for both business and personal travelling, how does food tourism act as a catalyst in promoting tourism?
Erik Wolf : Food and drink are personal passion drivers. They motivate people to choose one destination over another. So if a destination has the best American cole slaw or Indian fish curry, it will drive people to visit. Not everyone is propelled by an interest in food, but that interest is going. There is also an increase in opportunistic food travellers – who participate in a food or drink activity because it is there.


TTW: What are the specified zones where the food tourism has flourished and drawn tourist from worldwide?
Erik Wolf : The world-wide popular destinations are still popular. There is no replacement for Paris, New York City or Singapore. The secondary and tertiary destinations are now starting to grow in terms of prominence. Most of the Canadian provinces have food tourism marketing programs. Scotland and Ireland have both done great jobs marketing their food and drink. Recently, Sweden has been doing a lot to market its food scene. These lesser known destinations are supplanting popular foodie destinations like Spain and Italy, especially among seasoned foodie travellers who have been to these favourite countries already. There are so many more destinations that are embracing food tourism – it is almost impossible to name them all.


Defining Food Tourism

We are often asked to define “Food Tourism”. We have seen many definitions from around the world, but for us, the definition is as simple as this. Food Tourism is:
“The pursuit and enjoyment of unique and memorable food and drink experiences, both far and near.
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”. 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 we had used the phrase “culinary tourism” to describe our industry. We stopped using that phrase in 2012 because our research showed 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 and our Association are all about. “Food Tourism” is inclusive and 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.
We’ve seen many more definitions of food tourism, some of which are quite elaborate. Of course things like fresh, local, organic, sustainable, and seasonal are all important considerations, as is preserving the local culinary culture. These are details that tend to overcomplicate our understanding. In defining “food tourism”, simpler is better.

The Flying Gourmet looks at the latest Culinary News

The first white paper ever published to address the strategic issues regarding the "culinary tourism" niche market is now available for download at www.culinarytourism.org. The paper, entitled, "Culinary Tourism: A Tasty Economic Proposition," was written by Erik Wolf, a destination marketing consultant with 15 years' experience in the travel industry.

The white paper begins with a general overview of culinary tourism and why food, beverage and travel industry professionals need to pay attention to it. A brief outline of the agricultural "roots" of culinary tourism is followed by a realistic discussion of the economic potential of the niche. Examples from Australia and California's Napa Valley are cited. As Wolf examines the typical profile of culinary tourists, he highlights what makes culinary tourists interesting - they are explorers. The paper is not an implementation plan for a culinary tourism strategy, and Wolf only briefly canvasses the various types of culinary tourism. Instead, he goes into detail regarding the litany of benefits that culinary tourism offers food/beverage providers, the travel industry, residents, communities, and of course, tourists. The paper concludes by acknowledging several issues that may hamper culinary tourism development, and he predicts the future of the culinary tourism niche.

Culinary tourism is important for many reasons. According to the U.S. National Restaurant Association, the Travel Industry Association of America and the Canadian Tourism Commission, dining out is one of the most popular tourist activities. Consider that nearly 100% of tourists dine out while traveling and the message starts to sink in. Even culinary tourists cannot eat constantly. Tourists who are interested in wine/cuisine also show an affinity for museums, theater, shopping, music, film festivals and outdoor recreation. Business owners will appreciate the fact that the higher the total dinner bill, the more likely the patrons are tourists.

The concept of culinary tourism is as old as time. Thousands of years ago, merchants traveled the Seven Seas, looking for foodstuffs to trade. Spices, wine, fruits and olive oil were the currencies of yore. Today, we unwittingly do much the same. However, modern travelers tend to prefer restaurants and wineries in place of battered ships traversing pirate-infested trade routes.


Flying Gourmet continues with a feature on
... Airline food and one of Canada's original caterers.



More on food from GourmetSpot (www.gourmetspot.com).
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