Last week I visited the Dutch Caribbean island nation of Bonaire, where I had the pleasure of speaking about food and beverage tourism at two tourism industry events. The timing of the speeches was fortuitous, since Bonaire just received its Culinary Capitals certification from our Association.
The local people are incredibly friendly and as expected, there was indeed good food on the island. The nature was pristine and if you’ve ever wanted to see pink flamingoes en masse, this is the place. It’s also a haven for birdwatchers and stargazers in the night sky.
While on Bonaire, I met with eight stakeholders of the Culinary Capitals application committee. Bonaire’s culinary resources were good enough to earn it the certification, but now it seeks to improve its score next year. We looked at a Vision of what Bonaire in 2030 looked at in terms of its cuisine, and discussed the areas in need of attention in the application that could help Bonaire get there. We also looked at some best practices examples from around the world and discussed which ones might work on Bonaire. Then we ended with a short list of tasks that the stakeholder group could realistically implement within the next 12 months.
As part of their commitment to Culinary Capitals, the Bonaire tourism office hired a marketing assistant whose work will partly be devoted to managing the Culinary Capitals certification. We will meet monthly and discuss how the stakeholders are progressing towards the common goals we agreed on.
There is work to be done, but the path is clear. As collaborators, we made tremendous progress with a short site visit. And as a destination, Bonaire now has a well-lit path directing its course for ongoing sustainable food and beverage tourism development. The most important thing is that Bonaire recognizes the need to develop itself for the benefit of locals first. And tourists will reap the seeds they sow. Alternately, many destinations develop only for tourists without much regard for the will of the locals. Bonaire is doing it the right way.
The island is already the Caribbean’s latest culinary gem. What else does Bonaire have up it’s sleeve? Watch this space and find out!
By Erik Wolf, Executive Director & Founder, World Food Travel Association