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What the Food Tourism Trend Means for Your Property

By Alex Gaggioli, August 11, 2016

Introduction

People love food, plain and simple. And today, people love it so much, that they’re willing to plan entire trips and itineraries around a specific type of cuisine. From the growth of online travel blogs, the focus local tourism offices have on local cuisine, and the launch of start-ups, it’s evident that people’s attention is on food tourism. With more travelers interested in food tourism, there are several ways your property can capitalize on the trend.

The Rise of the Foodie and Food Tourism

What food tourism means for your property

While the well-known term Foodie has become popular in the past few years, the word actually dates back to the 1980’s. Eating is obviously fundamental to human life, but people are more interested in unique food experiences than ever before. While not every property and location can or will offer a mind-blowing food experience, your location has likely experienced some of the culture shift.

People no longer eat to survive (and haven’t for a long time), but instead they look at is as an experience, which is often worth traveling for. Even while not traveling, people love to post picture-perfect food photos to social media, making food presentation more important.

With consumer interest heavily set on food tourism, it only makes sense to position your property in line with the trends. Traditionally popular restaurant ranking systems like Michelin Stars and The Pellegrino List have long showcased the world’s most sought-after restaurants.

Today, they still have a heavy influence on where people travel and drastically affect the restaurants themselves. But now, with a growing interest in a wider array of foods and experiences, people are driven by more than just these traditional rankings. Local guides and lesser known ranking systems are now more heavily used. And this is a good thing for any property because it means you have many ways to entice guests with food destinations that may not be quite as a prestigious as a three-star Michelin restaurant.

What You Can Do to Capitalize on the Trend

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There are many ways that your property can approach food tourism. Whether you have an in-house restaurant, a well-established food scene, or live in a place where the trend is just picking up, there are creative ways to get started.

Identify the Local Buzz

Before you start making any plans, I would first identify the local buzz. Destination marketing organizations (DMOs) who are tasked with representing a city, state, or area have put their focus on food tourism, according to a recent Skift report. DMO’s have shifted a lot of their attention to a destination’s food.

Take a look at your local tourism authority and try to get a feel for the type of content they’re promoting. What type of events, blog posts, and guides are they offering travelers as they make their way to your city? Depending on where you’re located, your tourism authorities may have varying levels of authority. Many cities have top notch tourism authorities who provide a lot of value to both travelers and businesses. Take a look at the conversation and see how you can take part.

In the case that no such tourism authority exists for your city, take a look at a nearby major city’s tourism website to get a feel for the type of content they’re producing. SanDiego.org, for example, has an entire section dedicated to dining, nightlife, craft beer and wine. Peru’s tourism website is also quite impressive. They have their gastronomy section broken into sections and show the most popular dishes by region alongside a restaurant guide.

Using your local tourism websites in combination with top-notch resources, find inspiration for your own website. Each resource will help you better understand how people position food to increase tourism.

Your Property’s Restaurant

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If your property has a restaurant, you have a unique opportunity to capitalize on the foodie trend. Restaurants are a great way to advertise your property. As always, advertise your restaurant on your website with big, beautiful pictures that showcase your food. Use photos of the food and restaurant on social media to give it a stronger presence. The same advice rings true if you have a bar, which may or may not serve food.

The main goal of increasing your bar or restaurant’s presence online and in person is to increase food and beverage sales. In an interesting article from Hotel News Now, they showed that one potential way to increase food and beverage sales was to offer free games in public spaces, creating an experience for people hanging around your hotel. Coupling games with food and drink in public areas could be a winning strategy for your property.

List Unique Local Restaurants and Bars

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No matter where you’re located, it’s likely that there are unique food experiences. Whether it’s Michelin star restaurants, local mom and pop restaurants, or something in-between, every location has its local claim to fame (i.e. Seattle’s coffee, Chicago’s pizza, Peru’s ceviche, China’s dumplings, etc.).

Capitalize on whatever your local town has to offer and create a local guide. If you don’t know much about food, or just don’t have time, consider reaching out to a local blogger or enlisting the help of your staff. A quick Google search will help you identify bloggers in your local area, and many of them will be willing and able to help you out, although it will cost you. You can offer them monetary compensation or free a night in your hotel where you already have open availability anyway.

Regardless of how you source your information, there are many ways you can display this information on your website. We created a tutorial on how to create a city guide for your property in a previous post which you can access here.

Another idea is to create a list of events specifically tailored to food experiences. Food festivals, beer crawls, restaurant tasting events, and similar events will attract guests to your property. Even if food isn’t the only reason someone is traveling, a person’s got to eat, so this information is helpful to a wide range of guests.

Partner with Local Companies

Consider partnering with local tour companies and guides to help your guests discover the local flavor. There are new services popping up to help people discover all the different food, wine, and beer tours in various cities.

For example, Foodie & Tours is a website committed to finding the best gastronomic experiences in Europe. They hand pick restaurants, tours, and activities and have created special relationships to give people truly unique experiences. Foodie & Tours is just one example of a company committed to helping people plan their food travel experiences.

Wineries and breweries often offer special experiences, so consider creating a partnership to offer your guests discounted rates.

Conclusion

Staying ahead of trends and shifts in market attention is important for all properties. The rise of the foodie and a growing interest in food tourism opens new doors for travel businesses, including your hotel. Using the current trends and identifying how food is shaping your local tourist scene, you can then create content and experiences to attract this new niche traveler.

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