Culinary tourism is boiling hot!

Culinary tourism is boiling hot right now (pun intended.)

Back in January, we shared a link on our Tourism Currents Facebook Page that really resonated with our followers.

Here is a screenshot….

Screenshot of a Tourism Currents Facebook Page post about culinary tourism


As a result, we wanted to explore culinary tourism further on a global scale, provide examples of who is doing it well, and give you ideas of how you can highlight what you offer in this particular niche market.

What IS Culinary Tourism?

About a year ago, travel media company Skift partnered with the OCTA (Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance) to produce a special report specifically on food tourism. The OCTA is a nonprofit organization that consults on F&B-themed tourism development worldwide.

Here is how they define this market:

Food tourism is any tourism experience in which one learns about, appreciates, and/or consumes food and drink that reflects the local, regional or national cuisine, heritage, and culture.”

A few things to know about culinary tourism….

  • According to the American Culinary Traveler, “The percentage of US leisure travelers who travel to learn about unique dining experiences grew from 40% to 51% between 2006 and 2013.”
  • In the Global Report on Food Tourism by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), they say “It is one of the most dynamic segments within the tourism market.”
  • Travelers want to connect with their food. Experiencing local food provides a traveler great insight into the local culture and provides a truly authentic experience.
  • Visitors want to see where their food comes from. They are interested in how it is grown and how it is prepared.
  • You’ve heard about “day trippers;” now there’s a viable segment called “food trippers.

Recipes for Success in Culinary Tourism

To help us with examples of places that are using this market to their advantage, we reached out to friends on three different continents, since culinary tourism is global (as is our readership and clientele.)


We started in Scotland with Susan McNaughton, who in addition to owning Craigwell Cottage in Edinburgh also helped start the Crail Food Festival.

Crail is a small village that had no existing “foodie” credentials but had big ambitions to set up a food festival. The festival had around 1,200 visitors the first year; it grew to 5,000 or so visitors in Year Five and is going strong.

On a larger scale, the city of Edinburgh has done a terrific job combining their food history with great surroundings on walking tours through Edinburgh, on your own or with a guide. Check out Edinburgh Food Heritage Trail and Eat Walk Edinburgh.

Culinary tourism tours in Scotland - Eat Walk Edinburgh



In Australia, Ken Burgin of Profitable Hospitality with Ken Burgin provided us with a couple of great examples of success in the culinary tourism market.

Most think this market is solely for adults, but Winey Kids is proving that parents and their children can enjoy more than just Happy Meals together. The focus is specifically on the McLaren Vale Wine Region of Australia and provides tips on how to enjoy it with your children.

Another great find that Ken sent us is Flinders Island, Tasmania, a proud community of 800 people that is doing a great job promoting their food assets. Both the destination website as well as the Flinders Island Fresh site promote all their offerings and you have to love their slogan, “From this little part of Tasmania, BIG things are growing!”

Their website states very clearly what they are all about….

“The Flinders Island Fresh family are all small business owners who have a passion for the products they produce.  These items are not mass produced, but made in just small amounts – all of them are 100% natural or as close to it as you can get! The majority are sourced from local ingredients where possible and use sustainable methods of production.”

Be sure to take a look at how Flinders Island is incorporating culinary tourism into their destination marketing, as they are doing it right and quite well!

Eulinary tourism example from Australia - Tasmania's Flinders Island Fresh



To drill down to an individual tourism business we asked Barbara Ann Kinghorn, proprietor of the Coral Tree Guest House in Port Elizabeth, South Africa for her thoughts. Her take on culinary tourism is slightly different than what you might expect.

Barbara said:

“Hospitality includes food, and the core business of Coral Tree Guest House is to offer unique hospitality to our chosen niche markets, by catering for the specific needs of families with little children, travelers with pets, and people in wheelchairs. But part of being hospitable means that we gladly provide meals for the convenience and pleasure of all our guests. We market our fare therefore, as comfort food from our home kitchen – and a service to mothers, who deserve a break from cooking when they’re on holiday.”

To set themselves apart from other B&B competition, they’ve done extensive research in order to cater to various dietary restrictions.

Barbara notes that there isn’t a big demand for this yet, but they do mention in their marketing that they provide meals for diabetic, vegetarian, vegan and Halal (foods that are allowed under Islamic dietary guidelines) guests, and others with gluten intolerance.

Your main ingredient needs to be your strategy

Around the world, food tourism means big business, and it’s only going to get bigger as we continue to share our millions of culinary experiences daily via social platforms. Making use of user-generated content has helped countries, cities, and local businesses develop their own individual “food story” which then helps define their unique attributes and expand their marketing story.

As we stress all the time at Tourism Currents, you must have a strategy for your overall marketing, and if you include culinary tourism in your marketing mix, it is imperative that you don’t do this willy-nilly.

Think about agritourism in your area, cooking classes, wine tasting, festivals that include food, beer and wine, farm tours, immersive food tours, accommodations with F&B offerings, farm-to-table dining, and of course farmers’ markets.

All of these are things you can include in your marketing strategy and from there build out your culinary tourism offering.

How are you marketing culinary tourism in your area? Please use the comment box below to share examples of those who are doing a great job within this market, as that helps all of us in the long run.

(Want to learn on your own/self-paced, but also checking in with us regularly for coaching and consulting? That’s our online Full Course with Full Support – learn how to use social media and digital destination marketing to bring more visitors to town! Lessons are kept updated, and you will never lose access. Ask questions and get feedback any time, in any course module. Includes the option to join our private Facebook Group, “Our Town Matters.”)


Update – Our blog post with tips to help you with Restaurant Week marketing.

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Logo for the Heartland Byways conference for scenic byways, heritage highways, and trails

The scenic byway and heritage highway tribe is gathering together April 4-6, 2016, at the Heartland Byways Conference

Do you have a scenic byway, heritage highway, or themed trail in your destination or region?

As the preferred training partner for the National Scenic Byway Foundation, we hope to see you at the 2016 Heartland Byways conference April 4-6 in Council Bluffs, Iowa (right across the Missouri River from Omaha, Nebraska.)

Our co-founder Sheila Scarborough will present two breakout sessions, plus she and Leslie McLellan will host a Tourism Currents “Social Media Therapy Bar” to answer attendee questions during the exhibitor networking session.

Register here for Heartland Byways 2016.

Learn more about the NSBF (National Scenic Byway Foundation.)

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