by Erik Wolf
How can food tourism (culinary tourism, gastronomy tourism, wine tourism, beer tourism, et al, ad infinitum) actually help destination marketers and small business owners? The answer can be both easy or hard, and it depends on you. We hear this question a lot, and while the answer seems obvious to many of us, others might need some inspiration.
One of the founding tenets of food tourism, and one which we have always purported since our industry’s Day One, is that food and beverage tourism is really about those food and beverage products and experiences that are unique and memorable. In short, businesses that want to impress food-loving travelers should serve memories and not just meals.
There is fierce competition among hundreds of destinations for the same types of experiences. Potential travelers can choose sea, sand, history, culture, weather, culture, sport, gastronomy and any of hundreds more possible things to do, see, experience or enjoy. Your destination may no longer be able to stand on its own merit, even if great food and drink are available. Destinations cannot rest on your laurels. More on continuous innovation another day.
In fact, today great food and drink are assumed by travelers. This means there is fierce competition among businesses within destinations as well. Reheating prepared foodservice meals in the microwave? Shame on you. Food-loving travelers will know and tell other travelers as well. In this case, a “penny saved” is definitely not a “penny earned”.
What can destinations and businesses do to get their voices heard above the marketing noise? Focus on your USP, or unique selling proposition. What does your destination or business have that is different from other destinations or businesses?
Some destinations with a rich history of culinary culture may have several USPs. For example, the champagne method of producing sparkling wine, and also the country’s cheese and overall gastronomy. Other destinations may have their “one claim to fame” such as Cincinnati (Ohio, USA)’s chili.
For businesses, you might have to think a little harder. Fancier restaurants often offer diners a unique “amuse bouche” as a starter when they arrive. But the solution can be simple too — such as a signature wedge of lemon served on top of a Caesar salad, or a special “Nana’s recipe” sauce that would be hard for anyone to duplicate. Can’t think of anything really special that you offer? Consider carving out a vegan section on your menu, or specializing in gluten-free preparations. There are 1,001 ways to be unique. You get the idea.
Like today’s food tourism inspiration? You can learn more about the power of food tourism at our FoodTreX London | Food Travel Innovation Summit, taking place every November on the day before World Travel Market begins.
Erik Wolf is the founder of the modern food travel trade industry, and also of the World Food Travel Association. He has served as the Association’s Executive Director since 2003.