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Skift Take

Food is now the leading hook in travel and many travelers the world over not only perceive food tourism as an adventure but are also calling for more adventure type tours to heavily incorporate food experiences among hiking or white water rafting expeditions.

— Dan Peltier

The line between food tourism and adventure travel continues growing thinner as nearly a third of adventure tour operators say travelers have asked them to make food a larger part of their trips.

The Adventure Travel Trade Association recently surveyed 281 inbound and outbound tour operators and travel agents from 54 countries (80% were tour operators) who served an average of 3,300 travelers per year. The survey found that 50% of travelers would enjoy incorporating a food experience outside of traditional meals into a physically active style of adventure travel. As the following charts depict, 51% of these tour operators said their tours incorporating food experiences are more popular than itineraries without food.

It’s becoming more difficult for tour operators to ignore the impact food has on tourism and traveler intent to take a trip to their dream destination. Many adventure travel thrills can be replicated in several parts of the world, but native food experiences make certain destinations unique and cannot be mass produced across continents. Tour operators are beginning to better understand that food is one of the last non-digitized experiences that travelers must be physically present for to digest and take in.

Food can also be baked into each kind of tour an operator leads giving travelers an incentive to buy more packages and tour operators a way to differentiate themselves from competitors offering the same activities.

Chart 1: Just more than half of respondents (51%) said that adventure tour itineraries that integrated food experiences were more popular than those that did not.

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Chart 2: More than two-thirds of respondents said their tours have either a moderate or heavy food focus. For operators offering “high food focus” itineraries, the average reported price per day for such trips was $472. The top five countries for which travelers are currently expressing interest in adventure itineraries with a specific food focus are (in order): Italy, France, Peru/Spain (tied), Thailand and India.

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Chart 3: Learning about the role of food in culture is important to all travelers but particularly interesting to middle age and older travelers. It’s important to note that only 10% of respondents said their clients are aged 28 and younger.

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Chart 4: It’s a similar story with trying local food as it is with learning about the role of food in culture, with middle age travelers saying trying local food is very important to them.

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Chart 5: Travelers who use travel agents have interest in more traditional food tourism activities such as cooking classes and winery and brewery tours. Some of the more adventurous food activities, such as foraging with a local specialist, getting a behind-the-scenes look at food sourcing or traveling with a celebrity chef don’t garner as much interest among adventure tour participants.

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Chart 6: Adventure tours that include food experiences still don’t widely market their food components. Some 76% of respondents said they incidentally market food components of their tours. About 30% of outbound tour operator respondents said they make food central to marketing their tours, the largest percentage of respondents claiming this.

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Source: Adventure Travel Trade Association

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