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Sustainable Tourism starts with Local Food and Drink

The following text is published by World Food Travel Assocation: Businesses, destinations and organizations around the world are trying to figure out their next step to bring back business and get people spending again. And in fact, we are coaching our own community right now to plan for the future, innovate as needed and prepare for the relaunch of travel and tourism. Now is not the time to sit back and wait. Smart destinations around the world already know that food and beverage form the very foundation of destination marketing for the simple reason that 100% of travelers eat and drink. Visitors can return home with memories of chain hamburgers and chain coffee, or they can return home as raving fans, eager to share photos, videos and stories of food and drink experiences they discovered while traveling.

Tourism boards are well advised to consider the attention they give to culinary tourism as they plan now how to encourage visitors to return after the pandemic ends. The solution is not as simple as putting captivating pictures of food and drink front and center in consumer marketing campaigns. Fast forward to a few months from now, when travel restarts and every destination in the world is marketing its outdoor recreation, entertainment, shopping, meeting venues and attractions. With so many destination voices speaking at once, your messaging runs the risk of getting lost in sea of similarity. To complicate matters further, a new challenge we identified in our 2020 Food Travel Monitor is the fact that visitors are no longer responding to “local” and “authentic” as words that incite consumers to action. Travelers now expect all food and drink in a destination to be local and authentic. In other words, those words are no longer your USP.

What can destinations focus on to get their messages heard in that sea of similarity? What you should be asking is, how do you promote local and authentic without using the words “local” and “authentic”? The answer is to name the food or drink products themselves, and feature the people who make them.

On April 23, I read a Facebook post about Focaccia di San Giorgio, a dish that is unique to the Liguria region of Italy. The dish was created in memory of the Flag Day of Genoa and San Giorgio, which is April 23. Upon reading further, I learned that Genoa considers itself the focaccia capital of the world, not to mention some of the world’s best pesto comes from the area as well. Now, I have 3 great reasons to travel to that region. Food lovers can get focaccia and pesto anywhere in the world, but will they taste the same as those they enjoyed in Genoa? Probably not – they never do – because the taste of place – the terroir – everything about the locality of Genoa – cannot be replicated outside of Genoa. In other words, people have to travel there to get the real thing. You’ve probably experienced this phenomenon yourself by bringing home a bottle of something from a recent trip. It never tastes the same at home, does it? In the case of Liguria, the region has a totally unique product that would be hard to replicate elsewhere. Potential visitors understand that they need to travel to Liguria to find “the real thing.”

The next step in the marketing campaign would be to feature one of the bakers who makes this focaccia. Let’s call him Marco. Potential visitors want to see Marco and get a glimpse of his story, which should be evocative enough to entice people to book their trips. They want to see how he makes his focaccia. They want to learn about him and his family. And most importantly, they want to taste the real thing in his bakery. Meeting Marco and glimpsing the renowned Focaccia di San Giorgio is only one prong of a multi-tiered strategic approach that destinations should be working on right now.

Many destinations around the world should be using their unique and memorable food and drink products and experiences to lure visitors back. How can you be leveraging your area’s unique food and beverage products and experiences to do exactly this? To learn more about how the World Food Travel Association can help your destination to leverage the power of food and drink in tourism towards future success, please send me an email.

Authored by Erik Wolf. Erik is the founder of the food travel trade industry, and Executive Director of the World Food Travel Association, the world’s leading authority on food and beverage tourism. He is the publisher of Have Fork Will Travel, author of Culinary Tourism: The Hidden Harvest, and is also a highly sought speaker around the world on gastronomy tourism. He has been featured in The New York Times, Newsweek, and Forbes, and on CNN, Sky TV, the BBC, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation,, and other leading media outlets.


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