The Rise of Food Tourism: How food tourism can boost the hospitality & tourism industry

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For the hospitality and tourism industry, does marketing food have a big impact? There are a number of implications on the positive impact food tourism has on helping the growth of hotel and tourism businesses, such as

  • Positive media coverage
  • Increased website traffic
  • Increased number of bookings from food tourists


Food Tourism – The Latest Trend

Public interest in food has been steadily increasing, ultimately transforming food tourism into the new global trend, even more so fueled by countless unique food experiences posted on social media sites. Unlike common tourism, food tourism focuses on culinary experience—food and drink that are locally sourced, rather than mere sightseeing. According to the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance (OCTA), culinary tourism refers to “any tourism experience in which one learns about, appreciates, and/or consumes food and drink that reflects the local, regional, or national cuisine, heritage, culture, tradition or culinary techniques”. The concept suggests people pursue a memorable food or drink experience by developing a better understanding and/or consuming local food or drink with the essence of culture in them. It is considered first-hand cultural experience and it is on top of the tourist attraction list.


What Hotels and Tourism Businesses Can Do To Promote Food Tourism

As food tourism is a growing tourist attraction, hotels and tour agencies can promote certain cuisines at certain countries by organizing regular tours focusing on cuisine. For instance, Four Seasons Hotel in Hangzhou, China, runs a private dinner and tour where tourists will be taken to the local food market where they can enjoy authentic Shanghainese and Cantonese cuisine.


Social media plays a role in driving the interest and enthusiasm in food experiences. Hence food tourism is massively popular among millennials, who share their food experiences on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. It is possible for marketers to acquire additional promotion through organizing events, such as market feast or beer festivals, and encouraging millennials to share the experiences on social media. Furthermore, a recent study by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) involving the UNWTO Affiliate Members working in different sectors, shows that food events are the most popular tourism product, followed by cooking class and workshops, as well as food fairs highlighting local products. Similar study also reveals that organizing events is the most used marketing and promotion tool, followed by brochures and advertising.

Social Media for Food Tourism

Current food tourism trends include food bloggers and food Instagram accounts, with videos, reviews and recommendations to top it off. Food photography is one of the most popular forms of Instagram posts along with fashion and photography. Popular food related hashtags on Instagram such as #foodie, #foodporn and #nom has over 20 million images. Users who share their experience ultimately gained thousands of followers, drawing attention to the places they visited, contributing to brand awareness and brand recognition. Additionally, the #travel hashtag also features many culinary posts. Therefore, food photography contributes to the improvement in tourism.


Another strategy is to enlist the help of social media influencers, particularly, food bloggers. Some food bloggers have a massive online following, which would contribute to increasing a hotel or a restaurant’s publicity. By allowing food bloggers to write reviews, take stunning photos of the food, and share their experiences, visual content for the restaurants are generated. Social media examiner published a social media marketing report in 2016, which shows that 37% of marketers considered visual marketing to be the most significant form of content, with blogging following after. Furthermore, social networking sites such as Instagram and Snapchat that primarily covers visual content (photos and videos), can be considered tools to use in visual marketing.

Cooking Classes and Workshops

Another popular food tourism product is cooking class and workshops. Cooking sessions are quite common in a number of countries including Japan, France and Italy, where tourists are able to visit local villages or gardens to collect ingredients and later on, cook meals from scratch accompanied by the locals. It is a whole new culinary tourism experience as it is not the same as watching cooking shows on television at home, rather it is an authentic experience in a place where a certain cuisine originates.


Food Tourism Helps To Promote Destination Marketing

As food is an integral part of cultural experience, some believed that food tourism plays an important role in promoting destination marketing. For the millennials, the internet is the main source of information as well as inspiration. Hotels and tour agencies can develop relevant content as part of their destination-marketing strategy. For instance, Australia has their own Instagram page focusing on all things local and featuring tourist attractions and culinary hotspots. Hence tourists are able to plan thoroughly—which places to visit and what food or drink to try.


To conclude, culinary experience is becoming more and more a focus for traveling. As a new trend with a high amount of interest among the millennials, there are quite a number of digital marketing trends that hotels, restaurants, and tour agencies need to catch up to, focusing on content strategy and development. Moreover, some believed that dining is not the ‘final destination’ for food tourists, rather, it is learning about where the food comes from and how it was produced—is the future of food tourism. This means that there is an increasing request for a memorable cooking experience, and it is crucial for hotels and tour agencies to expand their culinary tourism choices in order to meet their customers’ demands and provide quality food tourism experiences.

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