Focus on Culinary Travel

TW photo by Jenn Martins

TW photo by Jenn Martins

At its core, the essence of food, its flavors and textures, has remained relatively consistent over time. There are technological advances — the plethora of meat substitutes comes to mind — but those moments of wow when biting into homemade pasta in Italy, pho in Vietnam or a taco in Mexico are just as awe-inspiring now as they were 50 years ago.

Yet while tastes and smells might be fairly consistent over time, the culinary travel experience has changed profoundly, as evidenced on the pages that follow. 

Like travel itself, food offerings have evolved with the changing demands and expectations of travelers. 

For the authentic: food tours through neighborhoods that people have never heard of, offering interactions with tradition. 

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For total immersion: even in theme parks, where the menu is as much a part of the experience as the rides, and in minibars, which no longer just stock nuts and soda but represent the property’s brand and a locale. 

For consciously sourced and tailored options: so prioritized that resorts are hiring on-staff nutritionists. 

And, of course, for Instagrammability: as our writer discovers at a cruise line’s Chef’s Table. 

Such changes are mostly welcome. The World Food Travel Association identifies as two of the most negative factors impacting food tourism 1) maintaining the viability of small businesses and farms and 2) the growth in globally standardized experiences.

As tourists demand that what they eat be local and authentic, they will increasingly support mom and pop shops and experience culture through cuisine. And while it might drive chefs crazy to see their guests photographing meals rather than eating them, the association says that the impact of social media and travelers using the internet to arm themselves with information about food and drink are positive travel motivators. 

The association defines food tourism as “the act of traveling for a taste of place in order to get a sense of place,” which encompasses well what travelers increasingly want.

As Travel Leaders writes in introducing its 2019 Culinary Collection, “We travel to experience the new — new cultures, new landscapes, new experiences — but of all these pleasures, what we tend to remember the most are the new flavors we encounter along the way.”

—Johanna Jainchill