What is Food Tourism | World Food Travel Association

“Food tourism is the act of traveling for a taste of place in order to get a sense of place.”

In food tourism we learn about local culinary cultures and customs. We love storytelling and history.

In food tourism we are explorers. We travel near and far to find authentic food and beverage experiences.

In food tourism we discover and open our minds to new flavors, textures, cultures, and heritage.

Food is now a main motivation for travelers choosing their destinations. Travelers are spending more time and money on unique food and beverage experiences. We have seen a global increase in the number of food tour companies, food and beverage focused events and food and beverage experience-focused marketing efforts.

Food Tourism starts to catch on with mainstream tourism with the help and exposure from social media and television shows. Food tourism now includes the full range of experiences, cooking classes, producer visits, enjoying street food, discovering locals-only hole in the wall pubs, touring dramatic wineries, or diving into a one-of-a-kind restaurants. There is something for everyone in the food tourism industry.

In the earliest days of our industry, we defined food tourism as “The pursuit and enjoyment of unique and memorable food and drink experiences, both far and near.” (Erik Wolf, Executive Director, Culinary Tourism: A Tasty Economic Proposition, 2001). This was our industry’s first white paper that explained what food tourism is and how it can benefit industry stakeholders before food tourism was a monetized tourism activity.

The official position of our Association is that these phrases are functionally equivalent. The phrase you prefer to use to name our industry really depends on your perspective, and your mother tongue. Let’s discuss each phrase separately.

We’ve stated before that our definition of this phrase automatically includes beverages because “food and beverage tourism” is cumbersome to say. Also, it is implied that if people are eating, they are probably drinking as well. For some, “food” sounds too common. Perhaps, but the meaning is clear and it is easy to say. Also, “food tourism” avoids the slightly elitist reputation of the two phrases that follow. We use “food travel” and “food tourism” interchangeably, depending on how the use in a particular situation, although we are sure that there are a few professionals and probably even more academics who will be happy to point out the minute differences among all three choices.

We began with this phrase when our industry was young, but we realized after 10 years, that native English speakers found the phrase a bit pretentious. That came as a surprise, as this was never our intent. Still, the elitist perception of the phrase remains. “Culinary” echoes time spent in professional culinary training to become a chef. While it may not be the best phrase, it does already include “beverages” without further explanation. And in certain circumstances, such as discussing “culinary culture,” to our ears, this phrase simply sounds better than “food culture”, although again, the terms are interchangeable.

We find this phrase used mostly in Europe, and mostly among speakers of romance languages. For them, “food travel” sounds very basic and banal – almost like cavemen hunting for food. “Gastronomy” is the term used to explain an area’s culinary culture, and for them, it follows that “gastronomy tourism” makes the most sense. To native English speakers, the phrase does sound a bit “elitist,” but in context, we understand why this term is used. In these markets, it is perfectly acceptable to us to use the term “gastronomy tourism”.

*If you’re looking for more comprehensive and detailed information on the food travel industry we recommend that you have a look at our Food Tourism Industry Handbook: Have Fork Will Travel.

Learn more about our 2020 Food Travel Monitor global food tourism research report.

Estimating the economic impact of food & beverage tourism is at best, very difficult. Over the years, through our own research, secondary research, interviews and conversations, we have constructed our own impression of the value of food tourism. By our estimate, visitors spend approximately 25% of their travel budget on food and beverages. The figure can get as high as 35% in expensive destinations, and as low as 15% on more affordable destinations. Confirmed food lovers also spend a bit more than the average of 25% spent by travelers in general.

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Economic Impact

The following graphic is (c) 2019 by World Food Travel Association.

Research from our 2020 Food Travel Monitor proves that now 96% of travelers can now be considered food travelers. By “food travelers”, we mean travelers who had participated in a food or beverage experience other than dining out, at some time in the past 12 months.

Discover who your own area’s food travelers are with our custom PsychoCulinary Profiling Research.

  • We attend a cooking schools, participate in a food tour, or go shopping in a local grocery or gourmet stores.
  • We visit food or beverage factories, participate in wine/beer/spirits tastings, and of course, eat out in unique or memorable foodservice establishments.
  • We’ll visit a chocolatier, bakery or gelateria to sample what makes the area famous.
  • We love to get off the beaten path and find the new (or new for us), unique or undiscovered experiences.

Find out what kind of food tourism experiences your destination has to offer with our Food & Beverage Experience Assessment.

There are 20 interrelated sectors in the food tourism industry cluster. This includes food and beverage businesses, travel and hospitality businesses and some other related businesses and organizations such as governments, media, and academia. The World Food Travel Association acts to coalesce between all sectors.

Download here a high resolution version of the cluster graphic. Be sure to cite (c) World Food Travel Association.

Stakeholder Engagement is a difficult task but luckily it can be successfully accomplished through our custom Culinary Destination Strategies or Food Tourism Marketing Strategies.

  • Increase in ‘quality’ tourists. Sustainable, respectful, and educated visitors.
  • Increased economic benefit, both urban and rural (lodging, foodservice, transportation, general tourism)
  • Increased media coverage including social media influencers and food and travel bloggers.
  • Discovering your competitive advantage or unique selling proposition (i.e. unique/local food and drink)
  • Increase in tax revenue allocated to government authorities.
  • Increased community awareness and pride in local culinary cultures.

Find out how food and beverage tourism can improve your Destination Development.

The following graphic is (c) 2019 by World Food Travel Association.

Food and Beverage Tourism can be represented by a free-flowing continuum. Agriculture, food and beverage producers, food service and unique experiences work together to create what we know today as food tourism. Each element is just as important as the other in creating memorable food and beverage experiences.

Download here a high resolution version of the continuum graphic. Be sure to cite (c) World Food Travel Association.

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