Food has always been a component of tourism but it is only recently that it has been truly recognized for the significant part it plays in the overall experience of a destination. Today’s tourist is better informed, more cultured, well travelled and looking for new experiences. Food offers a gateway into other cultures, through taste, through food preparation and the whole eating environment. Food and drink provide lasting memories that define a holiday or travel experience.
Food is of course a physical necessity, we all eat, but it embodies cultural identity and individuality, giving the tourist an insight into a new experience, the exotic, the unusual and a deeper insight into the place they are visiting. Food tourism could be commercial or domestic, festive or ordinary, involving restaurants, festivals, cookbooks, speciality food stores, food events, cookery classes, films, brochures, food and wine tours and other similar ways of physically experiencing the product. But there is also the tangible aspects of food and drink that provide a knowledge base into the religion, traditions, customs and history of other places.
One could say that food tourism has shaped such traditional gastro destinations as France or Italy, whereas in emerging destinations such as Vietnam or Oman, food plays an important role in the attraction of tourists and the overall experience. Destinations now realize that there is great potential for food tourism to offer a sustainable tourism product, the wine routes of South Africa and California are testimony to this and newer markets would do well to ensure that the food options on offer are as appealing as possible and shown in their best light. Part of the joy of travel is the enjoyment of trying out unaccustomed cuisines, but not just the eating but the finding it, for example truffles and the producing of it, parmesan cheese and wine.
Travel exhibitions now provide ideal platforms for food tourism, be that as part of a country or region exhibit or as a stand alone attraction such a specific food event or location. For example Cheddar in Somerset, England is visited for its cheese production and Reims in France for its champagne production. As well as this many exhibitors incorporate traditional food into their stand exhibits adding interest and appeal to the tourism offering.
Exhibition organizers can also use food tourism as a focal point of a show, linking all the different elements via food and drink or by using food as an added attraction to the show. ITTFA member TIP Alpe-Adria has a connecting theme throughout their 2011 exhibition based on cookery which will highlight the different types of food across the Alpe-Adria region. Food and drink will be the main connecting theme with Friday 28 January dedicated to the culinary arts in general. All exhibitors will be encouraged to prepare their exhibition programme for that day based on the cuisine of the region. The organizers have also introduced a new prize for 2011, the Jakob prize, which will be awarded to the best culinary offering.
Antonio Dell’Aquilano, current President for ITTFA is the Exhibition & Event Manager for TTG Italia who hold their B2B event, TTG Incontri, this month in Rimini. “There is without doubt an increase in the promotion of food and drink tourism at our event. We have lots of exhibitors offering eco-gastronomic experiences and we have pro-actively invited buyers dealing with the same product to stimulate business and growth in this area. In addition, for TTG Incontri – TTI 2010, we have organized a series of ‘happy hours’ at the end of the business appointment sessions showcasing typical food and drink products, offered by the various Italian regions. This initiative has been very well welcomed by the Regional marketing boards who recognize the importance of food and drink as a key element in the holidays experiences.”
Tasting tourism is therefore what it is all about and ensuring that this is covered and promoted as part of the marketing initiative for all tourism destinations. There is plenty of growth in this area at travel trade exhibitions and with recession still biting, this area of tourism is a great draw for visitors. ITTFA is dedicated to the continual development of the travel trade show industry, increasing participation and setting high standards worldwide. For details on all our members visit us at www.ittfa.org
Wendy Walker / Sara Armitage Evans
International Tourism Trade Fairs Association (ITTFA)