How is Food Tourism Changing the Traveling Game?

By Amanda Roland

Everyone knows that New Orleans is famous for the beignets and Italy is where to go to get the best traditional Margarita pizza, but who knows that the banista— a phyllo dough pastry filled with layers of egg and sirene cheese mixed together—is one of the top foods in Bulgaria? Ask a top food tourist and they can likely list many traditional and delicious foods from all across the world. Food tourism is defined as “the act of traveling for a taste of place in order to get a sense of place,” according to the World Food Travel Association (WFTA). In a 2016 survey conducted by the association, more than 45% of respondents indicated they had participated in at least five culinary experiences in the past year. This number is predicted to rise as food tourism grows. Unlike common tourism, food tourism focuses on culinary experience—food and drink that are locally sourced, rather than mere sightseeing.

Blogs like “Food Fun Travel” features articles like “The Truth about Mongolian Food Culture” and “The History of Kimchee: What to Eat in Seoul, Korea” written by two food bloggers and photographers. These types of blogs inspire many others to travel unique places and experience special food.

Food Tour Corp is a parent company that hosts a national network of top food and culinary tour companies in places like Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, Louisiana and Texas. These companies work to promote each area through sustainable tourism and ensures all events and activities can be enjoyed by everyone while maintaining an intimate feel that is non obtrusive to people living and working in each place.

Jeff Swedarsky, the founder of Food Tour Corp, explains that the appeal of food tourism is finding new ways to experience places where we travel.

“You can find out so much about a culture through its food,” Swedarsky said.“A Food Tour, when done correctly, brings together those elements in a more unforgettable fashion.”

On the Food Fun Travel blog, you can find resources about virtually any place on the globe. But there are plenty of food experiences available in the good old USA, even in unexpected places.

“In the U.S. I love places that have something different that they can show everyone, but I also love destinations that people do not expect to have a fantastic food scene,” Swedarsky said. “For instance, New Orleans is an incredible place for food for obvious reasons, whereas Cleveland and Indianapolis are unexpectedly great. Internationally, I love places with significant cultures. For instance, throughout Southeast Asia You could find such differences in cuisines and cultures such as Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. I think you could find wonderful things anywhere whether it’s Eastern Europe or the East Coast of the U.S.”

The WFTA says that top adjectives described of foodies or food tourists are authentic, eclectic and innovative. While many food tourists do opt for fine dining, it’s only a small percentage. Most food tourists seek out authentic experiences, whether that be local street food or experiences like cooking classes to recreate the region’s food themselves. For example, a food tour in Cleveland may have you try a beef jerky tasting and learn to appreciate handmade almond, cashew and peanut butter. Or travel to Bali and visit Naughty Nuri’s—a hole in the wall with amazing and sticky barbecue pork ribs where you will most likely share the table with other customers and shake your own martini.

Food tourism can also significantly boost an area’s travel economy so it is indeed beneficial for communities to promote their food scenes. The WFTA estimates that food and beverage expenditures make about a 25 percent impact on a local economy.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization conducted a recent study which showed that food events are the most popular tourism product, followed by cooking class and workshops, as well as food fairs highlighting local products. A similar study also reveals that organizing events is the most used marketing and promotion tool, followed by brochures and advertising. There’s also science to prove it that social food experiences taking place while traveling can be embedded into memories and create feelings of happiness. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Ethnic Foods studied visitors traveling to Lima, Peru and found that when the visitors had a new food experience accompanied with socialization with other travelers or guests did contribute to a greater level of gastronomic satisfaction.

If you want to begin dabbling in food tourism, what is the best way to get started? Buy some cookbooks of foods in which you are interested and areas you would like to explore. Try cooking some simple dishes to get a feel for the food style. Look into cooking related experiences where you would like to travel. Many cities and towns offer private and group classes, lasting from several hours to several weeks, in culinary institutes or in hotels, restaurants and even in people’s homes.

Read food history of regions and other pertinent information on the many food blogs that exist. If budget strains exist, look for creative ways to find new food experiences. If you are interested in Latin American food, there are many excellent spots in Florida that embrace Latin American cuisine, especially in Miami or Tampa. San Francisco has a vibrant Chinese food scene and New York City has almost every type of international cuisine.

Or, find your dream international food choice and begin to research and explore budget conscious transportation and lodging options. Visit during off-season times and explore reputable Airbnbs or hostels.

If the best ways to explore a city is through its food. You — and your stomach — should begin packing!


For unique food tours and experiences in the U.S.:

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