Food is the subject of various types of tourism product and is a common theme in marketing, by businesses and destination authorities. Tourism in which food plays a primary or supporting role is already popular and has good prospects, but there are also challenges for the food and tourism industries to overcome, which vary with location.
Practical implications – Opportunities are suggested as well as some of the problems to be resolved by suppliers and marketers if the potential of food tourism is to be fully exploited. Originality/value – The paper is a reassessment of the signi ance of food tourism as a product and market and a reminder of possible pitfalls regarding its successful sales and marketing. Keywords Food products, Tourism, Sales, Suppliers Paper type General review Introduction Food is an important tourist attraction in an assortment of forms and enhances or is central to the visitor experience. It has assumed a prominent role in tourist decision-making and satisfaction, tourism products and place promotion strategies. As such, it can be a useful instrument of destination and general development.
Tourists and the tourism industry around the world thus share an interest in food, although certain concerns must be addressed to ensure visitor expectations are met and perhaps exceeded. This paper reviews the contribution made by food to tourism, assesses the challenges, which accompany the development of food tourism and suggests directions for future research. Food tourism appears to be thriving and have excellent prospects, but attention to differing needs, quality standards and effective communications are required if it is to realise its potential as an asset for both the food and tourism industries.
The term tourism industry is employed throughout and this encompasses hospitality businesses dealing with food service. Food, tourism and tourists Food and tourism have a very close relationship and food is a critical tourism resource (Henderson, 2004; Quan and Wang, 2004). It is vital for physical sustenance and all tourists have to eat when travelling, but food can be a major draw and primary motivator for some, which satis? es a multiplicity of physiological and other needs and wants (Tikkanen, 2007). With regard to bene? ts, food offers pleasure and entertainment and serves a social purpose.
The focus does; however, tend to be on conditions in destinations and markets of western developed states. There is perhaps a continuum of commitment amongst tourists (Enteleca Research and Consultancy, 2000) and organised activities like sampling, and learning about food, are undertaken by those with a more serious, and special interest. Such food-based tourism has been variously labelled culinary tourism (Wolf, 2002), gastronomy tourism (Hjalanger and Richards, 2002) and tasting tourism (Boniface, 2003) in addition to food tourism (Hall et al. 2003).
These types of tourism usually incorporate an appreciation of beverages, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic (Hall, 2003), although wine tourism is studied and marketed independently (Hall et al. , 2000). Other tourists have a more casual attitude, yet must decide upon what and where to eat when away from home. Dining out and trying national and local cuisines are agreeable pastimes on holiday and a diversion for some BTMICE (business travel, meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) travellers.
Many tourists enjoy watching the scenes at outdoor and indoor markets as traders and customers go about their everyday business. Those on self-catering vacations may also buy ingredients and cook their own meals, as well as patronise commercial establishments. Special produce, especially if closely linked to the destination, is a popular souvenir and useful gift. Consumption patterns may even change on the traveller’s return as a consequence of exposure to previously unknown foodstuffs and methods of preparation.
Similar observations apply to drink and vacations are generally seen as an opportunity to indulge and experiment (WTO, 2003). Knowledge of and partiality for overseas food seems to be growing amongst western societies, members of which comprise the bulk of the outbound tourism market, and is evident in larger Asian cities. Internationalisation of demand and supply is illustrated by the choice of goods on supermarket shelves and diversity of restaurants which people have access to in their hometowns (Verbeke and Lopez, 2005). Major cities have multiethnic populations, a characteristic re? ected in the food available.
Domestic and international visitors are becoming more adventurous and open to new experiences overall and with speci? c reference to food. Many are also looking for the genuine and authentic, which, it is believed, can be found in local foods and eating-places (Reynolds, 1993). Concurrently, there is a trend towards universal standardisation and homogenisation, which is demonstrated by the spread of fast food chains (Al? no et al. , 1998). Tourism is both an outcome of and vehicle for globalisation and the imperative of striking a balance between the local and global pertains to food as much as other arenas.
Gastronomic experiences play a part in determining perceptions of and satisfaction with the overall travel experience (Neild et al. , 2000; Remmington and Yuksel, 1998) and food is agreed to impinge on tourist attitudes, decisions and behaviour (Hjalanger and Corigliano, 2000). Food and wine can be a very powerful in? uence on feelings of involvement and place attachment (Gross and Brown, n. d. , forthcoming) and poor quality and service failure can impact negatively on health, disrupting trips and tarnishing destination reputations (Pendergast, 2006).
Commercial opportunities: food as a tourism product Eating facilities are a core tourism product and food and drink outlets may be designed principally for tourists or depend heavily on them. Tourists also consume cooked and uncooked foods from regular stores and purchase speciality souvenir products and cookery books. Food festivals are often arranged which involve several enterprises and a series of events, celebrating local fare. Farmers markets are increasing in number and attract both tourists and locals with their fresh produce, some of which is organic.
These displays are tempting in an era of health scares and doubts about the nutritional value of mass-produced processed foods and factory farming. Cooking schools are another type of tourism food product, sometimes run by or associated with well-known chefs, which usually sell a mix of tuition and accommodation. Restaurants and hotels renowned for their food are tourist attractions with sometimes international appeal and the cult of the celebrity chef has created ? gures recognised worldwide, some having short residences in other kitchens as well as their own.
Farms and food plants may open their premises to the public, some constructing interpretive centres or museums. These can be comparatively modest, but include corporate visitor centres operated by famous global brands like Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Guinness beer and Cadburys chocolates. Such attractions are less common in developing countries, although there have been efforts in appropriate locations to present tea and coffee plantations to visitors with onsite interpretation and supporting amenities (Jolliffe, 2007). Facilities have a Public Relations function, but there are revenue-earning possibilities from entrance fees and retailing.
Commercial and public sector initiatives have resulted in food circuits for those travelling independently or on organised excursions. Strategic alliances of this nature showcase local foodstuffs and sites such as cheeses and cheese makers in Europe. There are many combined food and drink trails while other itineraries are devoted principally to the latter; for example, touring routes of breweries and wineries in Canada (Telfer, 2001), Cognac vineyards in France (Les Etapes du Cognac, 2007) and whisky distilleries in Scotland (Malt Whisky Trail, 2007).
These do, however, commonly have a food element. In addition to being a form of tourist attraction, food is a signi? cant area of interest for organisations making up the tourism industry. Of? cial marketing by the public sector organisations is considered in the next section, but tour operators and travel agents also highlight vacation-dining options, which are deemed a factor in the selection of destinations and accommodation by clients. Catering is obviously a core hotel service and larger visitor attractions are expected to sell refreshments.
Conventional airlines stress this dimension of in-? ight service, especially in business and ? rst class cabins, and the food policy of low cost carriers is one of their de? ning characteristics. Airports now have an array of food and beverage outlets which generate valuable rental income and the selection at Heathrow’s newly opened Terminal 5 is hailed by authorities as a key passenger facility. Other transport termini cater for travellers to a greater or lesser degree and pleasurable and plentiful food is integral to most cruises.
There are also companies, which specialise in small group tours to areas of the world famous for their food and wine or those, which are less well known (Food and Wine Trails, 2007). The food hawkers who are ubiquitous on streets and beaches in parts of the developing world should not be overlooked, although they Food tourism reviewed 319 BFJ 111,4 are often unregulated and belong to the informal tourism economy (Timothy and Wall, 1997). Matters of food thus pervade many aspects of tourism supply and Fox (2007) argues that an indistinct and bland gastronomic identity can be a serious impediment to destination success.
However, much depends on the place, its other tourism resources and markets targeted and the importance of food tourism should not be exaggerated. 320 The marketing of food to tourists As well as the marketing of food by tourism businesses, the appeal of food to tourists has been recognised by destination marketers at a national, regional and local level (Frochot, 2003; Okumus et al. , 2006). It is acknowledged to be a visitor concern and possible priority, perceptions of the availability of good food and an absence of anxiety about food hygiene being seen as a strength and opportunity.
Proponents contend that food tourism is set to the “next big thing” which will rival ecotourism as a fashionable trend (Center for Hospitality Research, 2005). A country’s food can be a critical dimension of destination image and the theme has always been used in advertising, notably of locations which are traditionally associated with ne foods such as France and Italy. However, other regions are now giving greater prominence in tourism promotion to their food and wine.
The movement is evident in the “new world” of Canada (Canadian Tourism Commission, 2002), US states like California; Australia (Tourism New South Wales, 2000; Tourism Tasmania, 2002), New Zealand and South Africa (du Rand et al. , 2003). Urban centres worldwide boast of their restaurants and Oriental cities, not least Hong Kong and Singapore, proclaim themselves to be “food paradises” with the former having over 9,000 restaurants from which tourists can select (Au and Law, 2002). The hawkers found across much of Asia are depicted as an interesting novelty for westerners, sometimes illuminating facets of society.
Those in Malaysia and Singapore, for example, are portrayed as representative of the multiculturalism in both states where Chinese, Indian, Malay, Eurasian, Western, other cuisines and “fusion” food are all on sale from hawker centres and more formal outlets (STB, 2005; Tourism Malaysia, 2007). Even Las Vegas is investing in food to assist in its reinvention and repositioning as a tourist destination, which is not reliant on gambling alone. It now claims to have outstanding restaurants, some linked to famous chefs. Tourism authorities in rural Europe too market local produce unique to their area to visitors (Bessiere, 1998).
In one instance, an annual British Food Fortnight celebrates the numerous regional foods in England, Scotland and Wales and has received a very favourable response (BBC, 2005). The National Tourism Organisations of Britain and Scotland and Wales actively promote the food of these countries (VisitBritain, 2007) and the Scottish agency has launched a nationwide programme to remind the hospitality industry about the role of good food in a successful tourism industry and encourage improvements. Such marketing activity is not directed at tourists alone and residents are important actual or potential consumers of special food products.
Many restaurants and events depend on local support, which helps to alleviate any adverse consequences of a seasonal pattern of tourist arrivals. The presence of destination inhabitants and sharing of space with them can also be regarded as a facet of the tourism product and a sign of the authenticity of the experience. However, at the same time as some visitors may seek out indigenous establishments and shun those dominated by tourists, others are more wary of unfamiliar environments where both the food and clientele are deemed alien.
The effect is likely to be greater the wider the cultural gap and prompts a predisposition to turn to that, which is recognisable when in strange surroundings. This is a topic for exploration, alongside the sentiments of local diners about tourists in their midst, and the idea of the restaurant as a theatre where the tourist-resident relationship and its con? icts are enacted merits study. Such considerations indicate divergences in food tourism needs, which must be appreciated by destination marketers and the industry at large in order to deliver required services to a broad range of visitors.
Food tourism as an instrument of destination and general development As suggested in the above section, food tourism is a possible competitive advantage and it can be a core element in the branding of a country or destination by marketers. A clearly de? ned gastronomic identity and heritage can be exploited in crucial processes of differentiation and rejuvenation, helping to convey a unique sense of place (Fox, 2007). Food can thus be central to destination development, which, in turn, can be harnessed to overall economic advancement.
Of? cial support for the concept of food tourism and miscellaneous schemes is indicative of tourism’s actual and potential ? nancial rewards. Spending on food is a major item in the tourist budget which in total may constitute a pillar of many national and sub-national economies with estimates that food and beverages account for as much as a third of overall expenditure (Meler and Cerovic, 2003). Tourism has a multiplier effect and is an additional source of business for agricultural producers and food industries.
Demand from tourists represents a chance to enlarge markets beyond domestic residents and engage in product innovation and diversi? cation. New channels can be forged for overseas expansion, selling to customers already familiar with the goods. Investment in the agricultural and food sectors and output may thus rise as a consequence of tourism and tourism-related trade (Plummer et al. , 2005). Tourism, incorporating food tourism, can also be used in a cluster strategy whereby mutually bene? cial commercial synergies are stimulated amongst geographically proximate businesses (Jackson, 2006; Novelli et al. , 2006).
There are other economic returns of food tourism and governments see it as a tool in rural development which can help to stimulate agrarian economies in danger of decline (Boyne et al. , 2003), protecting existing jobs and creating employment. These objectives correspond with those of sustainable tourism development policies as heightened food tourism in the countryside can favour local farming communities and small-scale ventures.
Elsewhere, food tourism may also reinforce environmental protection by discouraging the wasteful long distance transportation of food supplies. Advantages are therefore not just con? ed to economics and business, but encompass social and environmental factors, which are of interest to companies with an expressed commitment to corporate social responsibility as well as of? cials. Implications for practitioners Despite enthusiasm for food tourism amongst consumers, suppliers and marketers, there are some dif? culties to surmount if its potential is to be realised and all parties are to be satis? ed. One pressing challenge is that of preserving the local distinctiveness Food tourism reviewed 321 BFJ 111,4 322 valued by tourists in the face of globalisation pressures.
Action must be taken to try to safeguard and encourage indigenous suppliers, ensuring that they receive maximum bene? t from food tourism. Such moves are vital in the less developed world (Telfer and Wall, 1996) where food imports for tourism can lead to heavy leakages from the economy and opportunities for linkages between the tourism and agricultural sectors are missed (Belisle, 1983; Torres, 2003). These problems should be addressed in integrated economic policies and there is already awareness that the economic activity accompanying spending on food by tourists, especially the strengthening of supply chains can be bene? ial even in the poorest of countries (Ashley, 2006).
Food hygiene is another matter of signi cance (Grif th, 2006) and formal systems of regulation, inspection and control are essential to build and retain tourist con dence. These procedures assist in guaranteeing standards and preventing outbreaks of food poisoning and disease due to inadequacies in storage and preparation. Tourists and the tourism industry in generating countries can thus be reassured about personal safety within a food context, threats to which damage destination image and visitor arrivals if suf? iently grave (Larsen et al. , 2007; MacLaurin, 2002). Safety regimes are not just applicable to destinations and conventional establishments, but also to modes of transport. The importance of recognising and responding satisfactorily to the differing food needs of tourists has already been mentioned. These encompass religious observances and food could be a key worry for certain groups with strict dietary codes, such as Muslims, when travelling abroad.
The dramatic expansion in Chinese travellers now underway also has implications for hospitality businesses unfamiliar with native Chinese cuisine and habits. There may be general misunderstanding between hosts and guests regarding food and culinary etiquette (Cohen and Avieli, 2004), compounded by linguistic and cultural barriers. All tourists thus require information about what is on offer and sometimes advice about correct behaviour in order to facilitate their participation and enjoyment.
Possible measures to aid in this process are the publication of tourist guides, installation of foreign language signage and multilingual menus with ingredients and prices clearly marked. Tourism is extremely competitive and this extends to food tourism with rivalry amongst destinations to entice visitors on the basis of related traits. National and local uniqueness must therefore be identi? ed and emphasised, utilising food as a means of positioning and differentiation in advertising. At the same time and as remarked upon previously, less adventurous tourists may welcome foods to which they are accustomed.
The capacity to meet such preferences should not be overlooked in marketing messages which can present this as a favourable attribute connected to a destination’s cosmopolitanism and its ability to accommodate guests from around the world. Food can also be combined with non-food tourism products, exempli? ed by the use of heritage buildings as suitable settings for food and wine fairs. These animate the site, boost attendances and sales, augment the attractions inventory and strengthen destination competitiveness so that all partners gain from the collaboration.
Additional concerns arise about the quality of food and service, as well as its provenance and authenticity. The tourism industry should have the competences to ful? l marketing promises to avoid disappointed customers and harmful publicity. Progress towards the realisation of such goals means investment in appropriate technologies and education and training so that there is a skilled and enthusiastic workforce able to prepare and serve the necessary foodstuffs with con dence and air.
Finally, food and wine is one aspect of a lifestyle, which individuals either enjoy or aspire to and tourists often seek a between their lifestyle notions and destinations in much tourism. Other lifestyle attractions cannot be neglected and due attention should be devoted to their stock and standard. Collectively, these features can give product developers and marketers a broader platform on which to operate and lifestyle becomes the source of a complementary mix of marketing themes (Gross and Brown, 2006). Few destinations can rely on the allure of their food alone and it is best presented as one ingredient of a more diverse product offering.
The challenges outlined above can also be seen as avenues for research. More work is necessary on the role of food as a motivator and determinant of destination choice together with its place in the tourist experience and levels of satisfaction as well as host-guest attitudes and exchanges. From the perspective of suppliers, questions about the supply chain, skills and service delivery should be examined and governments need more information about the economics of food-tourism interactions as a basis for better-informed policy making.
Other topics for exploration are the effectiveness of advertising which features food to assist in marketing decisions. Such issues are relevant to all destinations, but this review has suggested the importance of location in shaping relations between food and tourism. International studies and comparative and cross-cultural analyses are especially useful in revealing and explicating contrasts and similarities across destination and markets around the world. Much of the academic and practitioner literature to date is western in orientation and emerging principles and practices may require revision in light of dings from beyond the developed world. There is thus considerable scope for further research, which includes collaborative projects between industry and academics.
The outcome will be an enhanced understanding of the nature and dynamics of the relationship between food and tourism and ways of maximising the role of food tourism in business and destination development. Conclusion The characteristics of food tourism and speci? c challenges confronting providers vary with the destinations and stage of overall and tourism development, but some general conclusions can be drawn.
Food tourism in its different manifestations currently enjoys a high degree of popularity and appears to have excellent prospects. It yields numerous commercial opportunities, the realisation of which necessitates effort and investment in products and their creative and innovative marketing by a range of tourism and tourism-related businesses. The tourism and food sectors should strive for an increased awareness of the contribution of food to the tourist experience and improvements in quality, cooperating in new product development and joint marketing.
There is also room for greater and perhaps more focused advertising directed at tourists by food businesses in general. Destination marketers too must endeavour to appreciate the food tourism resources of the places they are promoting and the particular demands of diverse tourist markets, as well as work to raise standards, if they are to devise effective and sustainable food tourism strategies.