Why food and beverage is the answer to revitalizing tourism in the post pandemic world

Business insights

It is a huge shame that millions of tourists leave a sun-drenched beach area with memories of nothing more than fish and chips, sausages, hamburgers, pizzas, colas and imported beer – the same food and drink they can get at home. Those millions of tourists will never be ambassadors for that destination because they simply did not experience anything unique and memorable.

World Food Travel Association research shows that food-loving visitors spend on average 25% of their travel budgets on food and drink. Food lovers spend more on culinary souvenirs, actively seeking out local grocery or gourmet stores and thinking nothing of spending £200 on food and drink products to bring back home from a trip abroad. That is in addition to everything we already spend on restaurants, cafes, wineries and breweries, bars, food and beverage tours, cooking classes and other culinary experiences.

A few things happen when we share these food and beverage products with friends at home. First, the word-of-mouth machine starts. Friends and family sample our souvenirs. They hear our endorsements, and they put themselves in our shoes. They see our pictures and videos and imagine what it would be like to be there, sampling these food and drink items in person themselves. Then invariably, someone always asks, “Where can I get this here?” If the product is not available locally, then someone will have to make a trip to buy it. The product gets added to a brand new wish list, and that demand can eventually lead to product export opportunities, which can either create or reinforce inbound tourism.

Take the case of Guaraná soft drink from Brazil. Brazilians living in the United States know and love this drink and asked for it to be imported and sold in their local stores. The more Guaraná that was shared with other non-Brazilians, the more it gave people a reason to visit Brazil to discover what other gastronomic wonders the country was hiding.

Food and beverage brands can also most certainly encourage tourism. There is a very good reason why over a half million visitors each year (pre-pandemic) visit Epernay and Reims, France. It is because they know the Dom Perignon, Pommery and Taittinger cellar names.

Specific food and beverage products can also encourage tourism. Great balsamic vinegar is available everywhere, but if you want the real thing, then one simply must visit Modena. Visitors to Napa/Sonoma, Tuscany or Burgundy and are pretty much guaranteed a great wine experience, and other regions are known for culinary products and experiences. Spain’s Basque Country is known as a Michelin Mecca. Visitors to the Arab world can expect coffee (or tea) and dates in ample supply. When visiting Australia and New Zealand, be sure to try the local avocadoes featured prominently in many dishes.

One great food alone may not be enough of a lure, so packaging food and beverage products with other destinations assets can often work well. Turkey has great gastronomy and history. South Africa has scenery and a fantastic wine industry, as does Australia. New Zealand has scenery, outdoor recreation and great wines too. Peru also offers a rich culinary culture, history and other cultural experiences. Sri Lanka has beautiful tea plantations, as well as a rich history and fantastic other cultural attractions.

Authentic experiences and genuine products can have another major impact on an area, namely increasing community pride. To be known as the place where visitors (and locals alike) can get the real thing is a badge of honour. Scotland is proud to be the whisky capital of the world (with Ireland coming in second place). England and Spain’s Basque Country are known for their quality hard ciders. The Netherlands is known for its real gouda and edam cheeses. San Francisco is known for its sourdough bread. New Orleans is known for its beignets. Quebec, Canada is known for maple syrup (as is the north-eastern USA). Chocolate lover? Head straight to Belgium or Switzerland. Lover of spices? Then Grenada is the West Indies is your port of call. Each of these destinations is fiercely proud of the quality products they produce.

This type of cachet can be built with different products in your area. All that is needed is the agricultural ingredients, creativity, and business acumen. Sadly, many entrepreneurs still do not have access to one or more of those essential components. Better training and investment opportunities can help these entrepreneurs to survive and thrive as economies world-wide adjust to the new normal.

By Erik Wolf. Executive Director, The World Food Travel Association

ERIK WOLF, MA, CCTP, MCTPis recognized as the founder of the modern food tourism industry and the World Food Travel Association. He is a highly-sought speaker, thought leader, strategist and consultant, in the US, UK and abroad, on food and drink tourism issues.