When we travel, what better experience than feasting on their national dish? The dishes may vary with each flag, but the nostalgia that is transmitted through them helps us understand the culture of the nation we are visiting. It is in that first bite that we begin to understand the hands that worked the produce, the freshness of the local products, and the recipe that has passed from generation to generation. The emotion that arises is addictive.
Traveling to eat has become a way of life for the new generations. Millennials -according to the Food Institute- are spending 44% of their annual budget on gastronomic experiences, the vast majority of them when traveling outside of their home country. This is a massive contrast to the previous generation (Baby Boomers), which was more conservative in its financial decisions, and its higher consumption was focused on material luxuries. The World Food Tourism Association (WFTA) revealed that more than 50% of Millennials are considered culinary tourists compared to 40% of Baby Boomers.
Gastronomic tourism is so much more than merely eating out or posting photos on social networks. In a survey carried out by Top Deck Travel in 2016, it turned out that for these up and coming generations tasting the local gastronomy of the country helps them understand their culture, makes them part of the history, and creates a sense of community. Culinary experiences have become the priority of this demographic of travelers, and eating happens to be much more important than partying or shopping.
The editor of the travel magazine Skift Magazine Greg Oates, said that gastronomic tourism is nothing new. Still, its exponential growth is remaking how destinations position themselves in the global tourism marketplace. Like many other industries, tourism is changing at light speed, and for travelers, culinary experiences are more critical now than they were five years ago. These experiences go beyond restaurants, and there are also composed of visits to farmers’ markets, cooking classes, guided tours, among others.
These realities have opened the doors to several opportunities that could potentially boost the economy of the country. For example, in Puerto Rico, they are in the best possible moment to create a real gastronomic ecosystem, including all the pillars of the local culinary industry (chefs, restaurateurs, professional associations, government offices, etc.), to highlight the existing offer and formulate a 360-degree experience. If there is something that can attract the tourists to this Caribbean island, it is the unique seasoning of their grandmothers, the authentic recipes of their mothers, the mofongo, the roasted pigs, the piña colada and the tropical drinks with rum.
For a lot of countries, gastronomy is the door to the World.
Paul E González Mangual is an author of four books, founder of FOODIEcations, columnist for Sabrosía Puerto Rico, TEDx speaker, Guinness World Record Holder, whiskey enthusiast, coffee addict, and producer of the Coffee & Chocolate Expo.
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