Gastronomy is turning into a strategic element of promotion for a rising number of tourism authorities, as travellers look for authenticity, sustainability and cultural interaction. This phenomenon has been recognised by UNWTO, which has named 2018 the Year of Gastronomy Tourism.
Learning to prepare papaya salad in Bangkok or paella in Valencia, discovering centennial traditions of Inca cuisine in Peru, appreciating an authentic Sacher Torte in Vienna or learning to distinguish various grapes of Bordeaux wines; gastronomy experiences are invading the world of tourism and there is no country today which would not propose an opportunity to learn about its local cuisine.
Gastronomy used to be the mantra of a dozen countries a few decades ago – from Italy or France in Europe to a few ‘exotic’ countries such as Morocco, Mexico, Japan or Thailand. They embraced a long time ago the idea of turning culinary into a tourism activity. They since have been joined by the rest of the world. In a 2017 UNWTO study on gastronomy tourism , a survey indicated that 87% of tourism organisations believe that gastronomy is a distinctive and strategic element in defining the image and brand of their destination and is seen as a driving force for tourism development. Indeed, gastronomy came in third position as a motivation for travel.
Food tourism follows a general trend of traveller’s search for authenticity and ethical values in tourism. Gastronomy helps to protect landscapes, rural activities, farming, local products and traditions. Through products (olive oil, honey, pepper, vanilla etc…), food tourism also gives a strong identity to less known territories. From the discovery of a cuisine with an expert – chef, farmer or food producer – to a gastronomy based trip to the best tables of a destination, the exploration of street food or learning specific cooking, creativity around food has no limits. The 4th UNWTO World Forum on Gastronomy Tourism will look at its evolution in Bangkok from May 30 to June 1, 2018.