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Last week, we launched a new FREE Skift Travel Trends Report, The Rise of Food Tourism, brought to you in association with Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance. Below is an extract from it. You can download the full report here for all the goodness.

Food tourism tells the story of a destination’s history, culture, and people.

Over the last decade, destination marketing organizations (DMOs) have leveraged the rise of mainstream interest in food to open new consumer markets and drive business to a wider range of regional travel suppliers working in the food and beverage (F&B) sector.

According to the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance (OCTA), a non-profit organization that consults on F&B-themed tourism development worldwide, “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.”

While cuisine has always been an important part of most travel experiences, the concept of traveling to a destination specifically for its F&B product is a relatively recent mainstream consumer trend. The 2013 “American Culinary Traveler Report,” published by Mandala Research, showed that the percentage of U.S. leisure travelers who travel to learn about and enjoy unique dining experiences grew from 40% to 51% between 2006 and 2013.

In response, DMOs are creating major promotional campaigns and events revolving specifically around their food and beverage experiences, de- signed with multiple storylines targeting different market segments.

This is big business. In 2012, it was estimated that tourism expenditures on food services in the U.S. topped $201 billion, nearly a quarter of all travel income. That makes food service the highest category of travel spend, according to the University of Florida report: “A Flash of Culinary Tourism.”

The report estimates that 39 million U.S. leisure travelers choose a destination based on the availability of culinary activities, while another 35 million seek out culinary activities after a destination is decided upon.

Preferences revolving around food can also have an adverse impact on tourists’ decisions to travel to certain destinations. Travelers’ who prefer the comforts of familiar cuisine might be hesitant to travel to a destination where it is difficult to find a “home-likeness” of food options.

In the report, “An Analysis of the Travel Motivation of Tourists From the People’s Republic of China,” it reads: “Preferences in food are especially important to Asian people. The food factor is likely to hold Chinese tourists in their own country or at least have them remain in Asia rather than draw them to Europe.”

This is driving destinations and hotels to introduce services that cater to this emerging market. For example, New York’s Hotel Plaza Athénée introduced services geared toward China’s rapidly growing numbers of outbound travelers including in-room tea kettles, Chinese breakfast items, and Chinese-language newspapers.5 Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board hosted a meeting with 75 industry executives to dis- cuss Chinese culture. As a result, the Sheraton Gateway in Los Angeles expanded its breakfast menu to include steamed rice and congee and tea and soy milk.

Every traveler today has the ability to digitally share their culinary experiences with friends and strangers around the world, fueling a veritable social media arms race to determine who has the most unique F&B experiences. This report examines how destinations and other travel suppliers are developing new strategies, special events, supplier networks and marketing campaigns to capitalize on the global foodie fervor, and the impact of those initiatives on local communities.

Last week, we launched a new FREE Skift Travel Trends Report, The Rise of Food Tourism, brought to you in association with Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance. The text above is an extract from it, download the full report here for all the goodness.

Photo Credit: Small homemade doughnuts in Poland.