6 Tips to Becoming A Culinary Destination


6 Tips to Becoming A Culinary Destination


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We’ve had the good fortune of working with many countries like Thailand, Singapore, Philippines and Australia in their efforts to build their culinary tourism market. After all, culinary experiences are the most popular method for driving tourism today. Food has a compelling way of connecting travellers to the history and traditions of a place. We can expect that more cities and countries will be looking at ways to amplify their gastronomic delights.


Here’s what we’ve learned along the way:


1. Government initiatives make a huge difference in putting a destination in the global gastronomic map, but it takes a long term, strategic commitment and a sustained campaign to keep it there. Sponsoring an international food festival makes news. But sponsoring it for several years makes a measurable contribution to your tourism and export business.


When the Philippines first decided to host Madrid Fusion Manila, it brought the world’s best chefs to its shores and sent them off bearing produce and indigenous ingredients to experiment with. It took at least two more years of hosting this food festival for the world to take notice. Granted, there were already murmurs about the country’s cuisine but MFM was the catalyst in making it into a bonafide global movement. Today, calamansi has become the new yuzu and Filipino food is touted as one of the hottest trends.


When Singapore made a bid to become Asia’s food capital, it did so in a big way: by sponsoring practically every regional and international food initiative and festival for several years. The small island city-state is now punching well above its size in gastronomic influence. Culinary tourism is one of the key pillars of their strategy.


In 2015, Tourism Australia launched its successful ‘Restaurant Australia’ campaign. The objective was to tap into the growing interest in culinary tourism and position Australia as a leading destination for food and wine. As part of their multi-pronged approach, Tourism Australia recruited René Redzepi to open Noma in Sydney for a ten-week residency. The uniquely Australian menu showcased Australia’s best produce and attracted the attention of the world’s media. Building on this momentum, Tourism Australia hosted the 2017 edition of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards, drawing both the world’s best chefs and leading food writers.


2. A culinary destination has to offer a diverse range of food experiences for it to be interesting. These experiences range from thriving open markets and authentic street eats to artisanal producers, fine dining restaurants, chef pop-ups and food festivals. It feeds off a whole ecosystem of farmers, producers, restaurateurs, food guides and social media influencers to build a unique narrative.


3. Culinary experiences are important but without city planning, infrastructure investments, transportation and marketing, you don’t have a “destination.” While travelling to hinterlands just for food feeds the intrepid explorers in all of us, we still want to retire to comfortable lodgings, have ease of travel, and efficient public transportation. That takes roads, bridges and airports to make the journey pleasurable.


4. Export has to follow. When tourism departments work hand in hand with export and trade ministries, it is a winning strategy. Imagine what jamón Ibérico has done for Spain and quinoa for Peru. There’s a causal relationship and correlation between inbound tourism and export of goods. Inevitably and increasingly travellers want to bring a sense of a place back through edible souvenirs. Likewise, export goods become goodwill ambassadors for a country luring travellers back to provenance and the source as the ultimate manifestation of authenticity.


5. Harness a chef’s star power. Celebrity chefs become ambassadors for their home country and are given a powerful platform to promote their national cuisines. Virgilio Martinez has toured the world educating media on Peru’s biodiversity and the nuances of its cuisine. Ferran Adrià has arguably made Spanish cuisine the gold standard of new world gastronomy.


6. Engage the media to tell your story. Netflix’s Chef’s Table series, CNN’s Culinary Journeys and Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain are just examples of how heady mix of wanderlust and food potently bring a destination to life and draw out diehard foodies. Websites like Roads & Kingdoms feed our obsessions with food, music, and culture. Stories + Objects is an immersive storytelling platform that showcases the mastery of creators and cultivators around the world through a series of beautifully crafted short films. Along the way you can purchase Taha’a vanilla beans from Tahiti and gros sel from Île de Ré directly from its makers.


Catherine Feliciano-Chon

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