Experiential culinary outings enrich advisors and clients

Traveling Spoon connects travelers with local experiences in the homes of locals like Zeljka, a host in Croatia.

Traveling Spoon connects travelers with local experiences in the homes of locals like Zeljka, a host in Croatia.

Traveling Spoon connects travelers with local experiences in the homes of locals like Zeljka, a host in Croatia.

Focus on Culinary Travel

Experiential culinary outings enrich advisors and clients

By Jamie Biesiada

Traveling Spoon connects travelers with local experiences in the homes of locals like Zeljka, a host in Croatia.

Traveling Spoon connects travelers with local experiences in the homes of locals like Zeljka, a host in Croatia.

Traveling Spoon connects travelers with local experiences in the homes of locals like Zeljka, a host in Croatia.

The travel agency community is increasingly partnering with experiential culinary companies like Eatwith and Traveling Spoon, which enable travelers to book culinary experiences with locals. Those partnerships serve the dual purpose of giving advisors unique experiences they can offer clients and providing a commission on a part of travel — dining — that traditionally hasn’t paid.

Several major consortia have relationships with experiential culinary companies. Ensemble Travel Group last fall partnered with Eatwith. Signature Travel Network has a relationship with Traveling Spoon. Virtuoso has partnerships with both as well as with Access Culinary Trips.

Breaking bread on a Traveling Spoon meal.

Breaking bread on a Traveling Spoon meal.

Breaking bread on a Traveling Spoon meal.

Tzell Travel Group and Protravel International, two large agencies owned by Travel Leaders Group, also have partnerships with Eatwith, and Tzell has a relationship with Traveling Spoon.

Karen Magee, vice president of partnerships and leisure services at Tzell, said it’s becoming increasingly difficult for travelers to feel connected to a destination as the world becomes more accessible. Niche companies like Eatwith and Traveling Spoon are attempting to address that problem, as are some legacy ground partners.

“The best way to achieve that is by giving clients an opportunity to connect with local residents, and what better way to immerse yourself into another culture than through its food?” Magee said.

Traveling Spoon company has recently partnered with the travel agency community, enabling agents to book its product and get a commission.

Traveling Spoon has recently partnered with the travel agency community, enabling agents to book its product and get a commission.

Traveling Spoon has recently partnered with the travel agency community, enabling agents to book its product and get a commission.

Suzanne Hall, senior director of land and hotel supplier relations for Ensemble, said she was attracted to the partnership with Eatwith because it offers a commissionable product for advisors. It also offers a chance for agents to position themselves as experts in their ability to create and deliver tailored, personalized experiences for travelers.

That’s what these companies were hoping for. Traveling Spoon, for example, first started working with travel advisors in the last year and a half, co-founder Steph Lawrence said. 

She said the feedback she receives most often from advisors is, “This is exactly what I’ve been looking for,” or “I’ve had such a hard time finding these types of experiences.”

Or, she said, “They see their travelers are asking for these kinds of experiences more and more.”

A meal is cooked in the Authentic Croatian Cuisine in the Heart of Zagreb experience, which Traveling Spoon added thanks to tips from travel advisors.

A meal is cooked in the Authentic Croatian Cuisine in the Heart of Zagreb experience, which Traveling Spoon added thanks to tips from travel advisors.

A meal is cooked in the Authentic Croatian Cuisine in the Heart of Zagreb experience, which Traveling Spoon added thanks to tips from travel advisors.

The agency community has also been a resource for Traveling Spoon. Thanks to some advisor recommendations, Lawrence said, the company has expanded its offerings to places like Croatia. 

Ken Frohling, global head of business development with Eatwith, said that working with the agency community was a natural choice for him. He was one of the original team members at Viator, where he built the travel agent platform.

“Our type of product, Eatwith, it’s a different concept,” Frohling said. “You have to be convinced to go into someone’s home and meet with strangers and eat with them. That requires broadly what I call an influencer. An influencer might be an Instagram poster or on social media, but more likely it’s a travel agent referring their guest to something they think is unique and cool and really an experience.”

It also provides advisors a way to earn a commission for dining bookings, he said. Traditionally, advisors have made restaurant recommendations, a service that pays in client loyalty, but not in dollars.

Products such as Eatwith’s are also a useful selling tool. Hall recommended advisors either take their clients on a local Eatwith experience or gift them one close to home to try before traveling.

“Right in your own backyard, you can use this product to demonstrate what a phenomenal agent you are,” Hall said. “It’s such a great way to reach out to your customers and give them a taste of how you function, operate and think as an expert travel advisor.”

Advertisement
Advertisement