Perhaps for some of us a vacation of adrenalin heart stopping adventure is just too much. Perhaps a vacation visiting ruins and historical places is a tad blah. We could be among those folks who find adventure in exploring new foods. Discovering flavors and ingredients that are culturally fueled, with stories spanning generations, is a totally exhilarating and completely satisfying adventure.
So, what is culinary tourism?
Previously called ‘gastronomic tourism’, a culinary themed trip is one where you venture out into a new town, region, country or continent and experience a different culture through traditional food and drinks. In my opinion it is one of the best ways to learn about the people, their belief system, religion, culture, tradition, even history. People tend to relax around food and you learn more about them this way.
The guided or unguided vacation can include lectures, cooking classes, home visits, wine tasting, food pairing or visiting renowned restaurants in a region.
When did it become an attraction?
It was in 2002 when Erik Wolf, president of the International Culinary Tourism Association, brought to light the economic significance of food in travel. Visitors will spend as much on food as they will on any chosen attraction or activity. When I was selling travel, many clients would ask me where the best bars or restaurants were in the cities they were visiting. I booked more wine tasting and food pairing trips than bungee jumping or museum hopping activities.
In a struggling world economy and a limping travel industry, it is important to have new markets to delve into. Although culinary tourism is not new, it is a way of promoting travel through food, which creates renewed interest in travel and creates new jobs in the hospitality industry. Tour guides, chefs, restaurants, niche travel agents and entrepreneurs in home kitchens are all benefiting from it.
Culture shock or a food adventure?
Sometimes when we visit a new country and decide to try whatever is put in front of us we may find that the offerings are less than conventional. When on earth did someone decide to dry Mopane Worms and serve them as a snack, served in Southern Africa or Fruit Bat stew in coconut milk, served in the Seychelles?! Naturally not all culinary experiences are going to be as extreme but it does go to show that there is adventure in experiencing new cuisine.
Make sure you do your research and that you know something of the culture of the destination you are travelling to. If your goal is to try something new then perhaps know the ingredients up front to avoid any stomach upsets or allergic reactions. Another important tip is to know the customs so that you don’t offend someone in Morocco for instance by refusing a glass of mint tea. It is always the little things that make a great trip memorable.
To our readers, I would love to hear about customs you came across during your culinary travels.
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Author: Principle writer – Celeste Wilson
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