Gastronomy Tourism (23.12.16)

Gastronomy tourism is booming. This is a delight for all, as well as a terrific example of how mainstream tourism can be linked to sustainable travel, as often the most delightful way to embrace a destination’s culture is through its cuisine.

This point is not lost on the World Tourism Organisation, whose 3rd UNWTO World Forum on Gastronomy Tourism took place in Madrid earlier this week. It celebrated – as well as focused on how best to build upon – the fact that gastronomy has become a central part of the tourism experience.

From Nomadic Thoughts’ perspective this falls in line with our recent requests when planning holidays. The biggest sea-change is clients’ desire to build the trip around maximising on an ‘experience’, rather than simply taking a fly, flop and drop holiday. This is close to our heart, as we delight in designing an exciting mix of activities, cultural exchanges and learning opportunities, of which adventures in gastronomy are among the most vividly remembered.

From local farm visits and fresh food market excursions, to indigenous cooking classes and festive dinner extravaganzas, the joy of discovering local culinary wonders is becoming more and more popular. This bodes well for not only the traveller, but also the local community, offering as it does a direct link to those working in the tourism service sector as well as those starting afresh.

The rise in gastronomy tourism appears to be a result of the surge in cooking programmes and social media food postings. Tourists appear more and more interested local produce, and truly unique local tastes, flavours and recipes. As my previous blog on South American Cuisine highlighted, one of the most exciting aspects of engaging in local gastronomy is the chance to sample the local lifestyle, as well as recipes, of rural communities. This in turn provides hitherto untapped opportunities to generate income and employment.

Certainly local cuisine has always played an important part in my memory of any foreign trip. Two weeks ago, while travelling in Jordan and staying in the Feynan Eco Lodge, I visited one of the chef’s local community homes. Sipping tea and chomping through the freshest bread ever, I loved hearing how the mother produced and provided the Lodge’s bread, while several members of the local community offered cooking classes, as well as main dining room chef services.

Equally, experiencing local Christmas feasts across the globe can be as thrilling as being invited to celebrate the Eid al-Fitr festival, which follows Ramadan. It’s a two way thing – families delight in sharing their traditional cuisine, and visitors gain a terrific insight into local life through food.

After all, sharing food remains the most sociable experience in the world. I will always remember the hospitality, and exciting mix of gastronomy, offered by Sikh communities. I can still smell a yak-butter-tea brew whenever I think of Tibet, and can clearly recall the first time I was offered gado-gado, with peanut sauce, during a Javanese celebration, cooked snake during Chinese New Year and a wall of Turkish delight at a wedding.

As the recent UNWTO Global Report on Food Tourism stipulates “the cuisine of the destination is an aspect of utmost importance in the quality of the holiday experience”.

It’s a wrap… cooking, eating and travelling.