Eat Well, Travel Better

What Is Food Tourism?

We are often asked to define “Food Tourism”. We have seen many definitions from around the world, but for us, the definition is as simple as this. Food Tourism is:

“The pursuit and enjoyment of unique and memorable food and drink experiences, both far and near.

We say “food tourism”, but drinking beverages is an implied and associated activity. It is also cumbersome to say “food and drink tourism”.

We need to clarify “far and near”. In addition to traveling across country or the world to eat or drink, we can also be food travelers in our own regions, cities and neighborhoods. If you rarely leave your neighborhood and travel across town to a new neighborhood to go to a special grocery store or to eat out, you’re a “food traveler” in your own backyard! The act of traveling is implied because most people travel at least across their own town, if not the region, the country and even the planet. The distance covered is not as important as the fact that we are always on the move. We are all “travelers” of a sort and we are all “eaters”. Therefore, we can also all be regarded as “food travelers”.

Previously we had used the phrase “culinary tourism” to describe our industry. We stopped using that phrase in 2012 because our research showed that it gave a misleading impression. While “culinary” technically can be used for anything relating to food and drink and initially seems to make good sense, the perception among the majority of English-speakers we interviewed is that the word “culinary” is elitist. Nothing could be further from the truth about what our industry and our Association are all about. “Food Tourism” is inclusive and includes the food carts and street vendors as much as the locals-only (gastro)pubs, dramatic wineries, or one-of-a-kind restaurants. There is something for everyone in the food tourism industry.

“Gourmet” is not food tourism, rather it is a subset of our larger industry.

The Association’s own research shows that only 8.1% of all foodies self-identify with the “gourmet” label. In other words, the overwhelming majority of people just like good food and drink, and not necessarily the expensive restaurants and wines. Those are actually part of the “gourmet tourism” industry, which is a small subset of the “food tourism” industry. Beer tourism, wine tourism, chocolate tourism, etc., are all subsets of the larger food tourism industry.

We’ve seen many more definitions of food tourism, some of which are quite elaborate. Of course things like fresh, local, organic, sustainable, and seasonal are important considerations, as is preserving the local culinary culture. These are details that tend to over-complicate our top-level understanding. In defining “food tourism”, simpler is better.

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