The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) defines gastronomy tourism as “a type of tourism activity which is characterised by the visitor’s experience linked with food and related products and activities while travelling.
Along with authentic, traditional, and/or innovative culinary experiences, Gastronomy Tourism may also involve other related activities such as visiting the local producers, participating in food festivals and attending cooking classes.
Eno-tourism (Wine Tourism), as a sub-type of Gastronomy Tourism, refers to tourism whose purpose is visiting vineyards, wineries, tasting, consuming and/or purchasing wine, often at or near the source.”
Gastronomy is reasoned knowledge about what we eat and how we eat it. It is an area of inter-disciplinary knowledge which studies and generates physicochemical, cultural and socio-economic processes in which human beings cultivate, process, distribute and consume good foods and beverages which affect their physical, mental and social wellbeing.
Gastronomy has always formed part of tourism, but the relationship between them has changed significantly over recent decades. In recent years, we have seen a phenomenon in which increasing interest in food has led the relationship between gastronomy and tourism to evolve towards new models, giving rise to a new tourism segment, that of gastronomy tourism.
The need to eat is the same for all of us, but it also differentiates us. Gastronomy tourism has arisen precisely because of this difference: the difference between tourists who simply feed themselves during their travels and those for whom gastronomy has a decisive influence on their choice of destination and who wish to satisfy their hedonistic and cultural appetite in addition to their physiological need to eat.
Over recent decades, gastronomy tourism has gone beyond the table setting and now includes all sectors of a destination’s food and tourism chain – producers (agriculture, fishing, etc.), processing firms (dairies, olive mills, canning plants, wineries, etc.), the tourism and hospitality sector (restaurants, specialised accommodation, gastronomic activity firms, etc.), the retail sector, the commerce sector (sale of products) and even the knowledge sector.
Gastronomy tourism today cuts across many tourism products. It has expanded the possibilities for enjoyment and knowledge offered by good-quality local gastronomy products in the different territories and by the activities that are possible in their productive and processing environments.
Gastronomy tourism is therefore based on a concept of knowing and learning, eating, tasting and enjoying the gastronomic culture that is identified with a territory. It is not possible to talk about gastronomy tourism without also talking about the culinary identity of the terroir as a distinguishing feature.
The territory is the backbone of gastronomy because a destination’s landscapes, culture, products, techniques and dishes define its culinary identity and are the foundation of, and should be part of, the DNA of the tourism experiences offered to visitors.
Destinations all over the world are now developing strategies to develop the culinary identity of their territories and to promote proposals whereby their gastronomy and its singularities may exert an important influence on tourists’ decisions to travel there and/or to attract the profile of gastronomy tourists who wish to experience the gastronomic culture of the places visited.
Great progress in the shaping of a diverse gastronomy tourism offer that is largely experience-based points to the interest among the various sectors involved in developing it.
From the point of view of demand, one of the main obstacles for quantifying gastronomy tourists and measuring the impact of gastronomy tourism worldwide is the lack of a well-defined, standardised definition of gastronomy tourism and of a methodology for comparisons.
However, both market research and the statistics available in some destinations point to a clear rise in so-called gastronomy tourists and also indicate that they are tourists who consume more than average and who are demanding, discerning, putting value in authenticity and reject uniformity.
So food has become an essential inducement for differentiating tourism destinations and making them attractive, and gastronomy tourism has become a market segment in itself.
There is a broad consensus today that gastronomy tourism can contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in destinations and there is a huge opportunity for developing this contribution in areas such as rural development, economic growth, job creation or responsible consumption and production.
The scenario, therefore, is one in which gastronomy is conceived as a great asset for tourism destinations, and gastronomy tourism offers great opportunities to the whole sector and to society in general. But it is also a greatly changing environment, in which today it is more necessary than ever to plan and define strategies that determine the roadmap for both consolidated and emerging gastronomy tourism destinations.