A taste for travel

With tourists choos­ing to ex­pe­ri­ence for­eign climes by see­ing how they taste, food tourism has be­come the plat du jour for modern trav­ellers, writes Pa­trick Han­lon & Rus­sell Al­ford

The Irish Times Magazine - - TRAVEL -

When choos­ing week­end get­aways, city breaks and coun­try­side so­journs, trav­ellers are in­creas­ingly seek­ing “real” ex­pe­ri­ences to add depth and value to their trip – and food is fre­quently at the top of hol­i­day wish lists.

Tourist boards and tour op­er­a­tors are tak­ing note and are now mar­ket­ing to­wards the culi­nary trav­eller. Bol­stered by the “live like a lo­cal” ex­pe­ri­ence of­fered by the likes of Airbnb and WithLo­cals, trav­ellers are un­cov­er­ing the story of a place more and more by tast­ing its flavours.

In a Food Travel Mon­i­tor re­port pub­lished in 2016, 75 per cent of leisure trav­ellers said they had been mo­ti­vated to visit a des­ti­na­tion be­cause of culi­nary ac­tiv­ity. A sim­i­lar Euro­pean- wide, multi- gen­er­a­tional study un­der­taken by Ex­pe­dia Me­dia Solutions re­ported that al­most half of those sur­veyed plan travel around food and drink ex­pe­ri­ences.

As food and travel writ­ers, we’re led by the nose and taste­buds around the world to un­cover the flavour of any des­ti­na­tion, from chas­ing cus­tard tarts and Vinho Verde in Lis­bon to seek­ing out Poland’s plumpest pierogi, gin bar hop­ping in San Se­bastián to a gelato pil­grim­age along the boot of Italy.

But din­ing out is not the only way to ex­pe­ri­ence the food of a city or coun­try. From cook­ery cour­ses and food mar­kets to vine­yard vis­its and farm tours, a com­bi­na­tion of tast­ing and hear­ing the sto­ries from lo­cals and pro­duc­ers re­in­forces the cul­ture and iden­tity of a place. Con­nec­tion is the end goal, link­ing gourmet trav­ellers to a place’s his­tory, cus­toms and lo­cal peo­ple.

In Ire­land, food- led con­fer­ences such as Food on The Edge, touRRoir and Bal­ly­maloe Lit­fest have all helped to shape the food tourism in­dus­try and put Ire­land on the map as a cut­ting- edge leader in the field. Fáilte Ire­land has played in a big part in pro­mot­ing Ire­land as a culi­nary des­ti­na­tion and guid­ing restau­ra­teurs, chefs and pro­duc­ers through their ‘ Place on a Plate’ ini­tia­tive, telling the story of lo­cal, sea­sonal Ir­ish food on ev­ery plate and in ev­ery glass.

In Lon­don, Jen­nifer Earle has run Choco­late Ec­stasy Tours for more than a decade and feels lucky to have rid­den the food tourism wave. “The tours were the first reg­u­lar ‘ food tourism’ ex­pe­ri­ence in Lon­don in 2005,” she says, “and it was al­most ex­clu­sively peo­ple liv­ing fairly close to Lon­don book­ing tours as an ex­pe­ri­en­tial gift. Lo­cals are still 50 per cent of my cus­tomer base, but the num­ber of tourists join­ing us has in­creased.”

She adds: “A tour is some­thing you can en­joy at any age and when it’s com­bined with a bit of his­tory you feel like you’ve done some­thing ‘ cul­tural’ with­out the risk of bore­dom. Tak­ing a food tour is a much more ‘ real’ way to get to know cities and the peo­ple that pop­u­late them.”

An­other en­trepreneur who spot­ted an ap­petite for food tourism is Sheena Dig­nam, who runs Gal­way Food Tours. Lead­ing vis­i­tors through the City of Tribes, Dig­nam shares a selec­tion of the food and drink that makes Gal­way such a gas­tro­nomic des­ti­na­tion. “Tourists just want a slice of real Gal­way life,” she says. “By meet­ing the pro­ducer, shop owner, restau­ra­teur or chef, they get that first- hand hu­man con­nec­tion that makes tast­ing pro­duce all the bet­ter. A con­nec­tion to a place is height­ened by a con­nec­tion to its peo­ple.”

Lo­cals are now join­ing Dig­nam’s food tours of Gal­way city and be­yond, echo­ing the marked rise in do­mes­tic tourism and stay­ca­tion trend in Ire­land. “We love get­ting lo­cals and they in turn love be­ing a touri st i n their own town,” Dig­nam says. “We’re all guilty of stick­ing to a rou­tine and go­ing to the same places. I work with over 50 lo­ca­tions in Gal­way and I get to bring peo­ple to places they might have never even heard nor thought of.”

In Belfast, “lo­cals are still pre­dom­i­nantly the bulk of our guests on tours, but more and more in­ter­na­tional tourists are find­ing us and book­ing as the first thing they do here,” says Caro­line Wil­son, owner and op­er­a­tor of Taste and Tour NI, lead­ing walk­ing food tours around Belfast and be­yond. Wil­son dis­plays an in­fec­tious en­ergy and pas­sion for North­ern Ir­ish pro­duce daily on her tours of Belfast’s best food and drink of­fer­ings and in­sists “it’s the per­fect way to get to know a city, meet lo­cals, taste the best dishes and find all the food and drink hot spots that only a lo­cal would know”.

“I can def­i­nitely see that tourists are com­ing here to dis­cover the food and drink we of­fer, along­side the peo­ple and places.”

Tech­nol­ogy and so­cial me­dia are fu­elling this trend, with on­line book­ing sys­tems, web­sites, dig­i­tal pub­li­ca­tions and blogs pro­mot­ing food tourism and reach­ing a far wider, in­ter­na­tional au­di­ence than ever be­fore.

Just as Airbnb rev­o­lu­tionised the ac­com­mo­da­tion sec­tor, mar­ket­ing ‘ like a lo­cal’ liv­ing, and TripAd­vi­sor trans­formed the world of word- of- mouth re­views and rec­om­men­da­tions from tourists and lo­cals, so­cial me­dia is bol­ster­ing food tourism and

Din­ing out is not the only way to ex­pe­ri­ence the food of a city or coun­try. Cook­ery cour­ses, food mar­kets, vine­yard vis­its and farm tours do too

help­ing to build big busi­nesses out of it.

Earle says “More and more peo­ple are in­ter­ested in food and shar­ing that, from eat­ing well at home to want­ing to dis­cover new and ex­cit­ing things to eat and drink when they travel.”

Com­bin­ing her own per­sonal travel ex­pe­ri­ences and tour busi­ness in­spired Earle’s new ven­ture, a self- guided tour of Lon­don, pre- booked on­line. “I re­alised that there’s a gap for know­ing where to go but ex­plor­ing those places on your own sched­ule. So I ’ ve j ust l aunched Taste Trip­per, a self- guided food tour of­fer­ing flex­i­bil­ity for tourists to ex­pe­ri­ence lo­cals’ best rec­om­men­da­tions for craft food and drink.”

Tourist boards are sim­i­larly chas­ing the culi­nary trav­eller and mar­ket­ing their gas­tron­omy on the world stage. In 2016, both North­ern Ire­land and Cat­alo­nia en­gaged in ‘ Year Of’ mar­ket­ing cam­paigns cel­e­brat­ing the rich di­ver­sity of food and drink across their ar­eas, whilst the German Na­tional Tourist Board is set to launch its ‘ Culi­nary Ger­many’ cam­paign in 2018. High­light­ing Ger­many as a de­li­cious desti- na­tion, nat­u­rally the cap­i­tal Ber­lin is set to get a gen­er­ous slice of the ac­tion.

“Ber­lin has so much more to of­fer than cur­ry­wurst and ke­bab,” Chris­tian Tän­zler of Visit Ber­lin ex­plains. “Food­ies love Ber­lin for its cre­ative chefs and restau­rants in un­usual lo­ca­tions and the Ber­lin food scene demon­strates ex­actly what the city is: open- minded, mul­ti­cul­tural, cre­ative and sur­pris­ing.”

Of Visit Ber­lin’s plans for 2018, Tän­zler says: “We are plan­ning to bring a lit­tle bit of Ber­lin to sev­eral coun­tries in Europe with our con­cept ‘ Pop Into Ber­lin’, a week- long pop- up in dif­fer­ent in­ter­na­tional cities with a tem­po­rary restau­rant fea­tur­ing modern Ber­lin food, a Ber­lin- styled bar, iconic DJs and artists from the city and a bou­tique with de­signer Ber­lin crafts.” Can’t travel to the city? Maybe in the fu­ture the city will come to you.

So in­creas­ingly, it’s not just your pass­port you need to pack when trav­el­ling, but a vo­ra­cious ap­petite, too. Pa­trick Han­lon & Rus­sell Al­ford are food and travel writ­ers at gas­tro­gays. com

The Tier­garten in Ber­lin: food­ies love Ber­lin for its cre­ative chefs and restau­rants in un­usual lo­ca­tions

Caro­line Wil­son of Taste and Tour NI leads a food tour in Belfast

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.