Culinary tourism: the imperative to adopt a strategic and comprehensive approach.
The subject of this article is to outline a conceptual framework for the strategic planning of culinary tourism projects (assets and events) at destination level. It is postulated that such a tool could contribute to destination development and competitiveness.
Marios Sotiriadis, PhD in Tourism Management from the University of Nice, France. Visiting Professor at University of South Africa.
Tourism destinations and businesses are constantly looking for ways to improve and differentiate their offerings to tourists and visitors. They aim to achieve a better positioning and gain a competitive advantage. Every destination should provide valuable experiences and tourism operators should devote their resources to catering for their guests through their offerings. Furthermore, the consumption of food and drink is an important part of contemporary lifestyles, often indicating social status and the extent of cultural capital. It should therefore not be surprising that specific forms of culinary / gastronomic consumption have also become an important part of tourism.
Culinary-based tourism has grown dramatically, although it takes many different forms in different places, including the following:
· Food- and drink-themed events and festivals (e.g. Annual Food Festival in Hong Kong; Wine & Food Festival Cancun-Riviera Maya, Mexico);
· Food and drink markets (e.g. “producers’ markets”, such as Cours Saleya in Nice, France);
· Traditional, national types of eating (e.g. the Churrascarios of Brazil);
· Food producers and drink manufacturers who offer visits and tours to their premises and opportunities to taste their products (e.g. Scotch whiskey);
· Food producers who develop attractions to promote their brands (e.g. Société Roquefort, France);
· Opportunities for tourists to visit working farms (e.g. Wensleydale Creamery, England); and
· Hotels that offer food- and drink-themed breaks where visitors can learn to cook particular dishes and/or appreciate local wines (Mediterranean resort hotels).
In addition, some areas have developed culinary routes and trails, linking together various food-themed attractions in the area (e.g. the network ‘Bienvenue à la Ferme’, France). Furthermore, there is an increased demand for culinary-based attractions. With the growing global interest in nutrition, cuisine and gastronomy, it seems likely that an increasing number of destinations are attempting to use their cuisine and culinary tradition as a tourism asset to enrich and differentiate their offerings and an attraction for potential tourists. Within this general context and business environment, destinations worldwide are seeking to extend their tourism offerings by investing in and taking advantage of their gastronomic tradition.
The subject of this article is to outline a conceptual framework for the strategic planning of culinary tourism projects (assets and events) at destination level. Academic research suggests that using appropriate approaches and adequate planning and management tools are likely to result in more effective tourism systems at destination level. As primary resources, culinary assets allow visitors to experience the hosting destination more fully and get better acquainted with it, although this is not their sole function. Other functions of culinary assets are their contribution to extending the opportunities of destination development, and their use as a tool of destination branding to attain differentiation and competitive advantage. Based on theoretical background of strategic planning and Leiper’s tourism model (Leiper, 1990), a conceptual tool / framework has been suggested to be used as a strategic planning tool for culinary tourism projects. It is believed that culinary tourism should be considered and approached from 3 perspectives: Consumer (tourists and visitors), Destination (hosting spatial area) and Marketing (communications), as depicted in the following figure.
Figure. Framework for culinary tourism: a strategic planning tool.
The main advantages of this framework are twofold. Firstly, it provides a useful foundation for understanding of culinary tourism by considering three interlinked perspectives, namely: consumer behaviour, destination development, and destination marketing / branding. The main elements of culinary tourism are related and interact within a system of visitors and providers who demand and offer culinary tourism services and experiences. Secondly, it incorporates the main issues – functions, stakeholders, strategies, strategic plans and performance evaluation – to be considered and analysed in the strategic planning of culinary tourism at destination level. Hence, it encompasses the fundamental elements and the dynamics of a culinary tourism system. All the elements of culinary tourism are linked, and the realisation of their interrelationships provides a true understanding of its full potential.
It is worth indicating that the suggested framework can be used only in combination with other tools to achieve a comprehensive approach to designing, managing and marketing culinary tourism assets strategically. The article argues that such a strategic tool has a value and utility in the sense (i) it enhances a comprehensive approach, that is to say it provides an integrated approach incorporating the main issues to be dealt with in the field of culinary tourism; and (ii) it contributes to positioning and analysing culinary tourism within the context of a whole destination system. It provides an additional tool for destination planners and managers to be used along with other tools in performing their tasks at strategic level.