There was a time when only diehard foodies would even consider sharing photos of the culinary masterpieces on their plates. Enter Facebook and Instagram, and before we knew what hit us, nearly everyone was posting their food and drink pics with vigor. With the rise of social media, the food movement swept across cultures around the world. The travel industry, too, felt the effects, as culinary travel emerged as a viable niche.
Travelers today increasingly seek out authentic culinary experiences. They want to go beyond restaurant lists and celebrity chefs, to experiences that are more varied, more three-dimensional, immersive and real. The desire is not just to eat well during their travels, but to really learn about a region or culture through its food and traditions.
“The approach I’ve always taken, as a food and travel writer, is to apply an endless curiosity and adventurous appetite to deep-dive explorations of the ingredients, cuisine and rituals of the countries and communities we visit,” said Adam Sachs, an award-winning journalist and former editor-in-chief at a leading culinary magazine. “There’s no better — or more enjoyable — way to engage and understand the world than through the flavors and stories of its food and wine culture, and the people and personalities behind it.”
What do culinary travelers want?
They want to learn something and connect to the local culture they’re visiting through food. They want to return home with exciting stories, and maybe a new recipe or culinary tip, to share with their family and friends. It’s the how of the equation that’s changing.
“I think we’re moving away from an idea of destination dining to a more inclusive understanding that food is culture, and how you engage with it is part of being a sophisticated traveler,” said Sachs. “It’s not just about getting the right table at the right restaurant. It’s about having authentic experiences that really help you savor a particular food culture and get to know the people and traditions behind it.
“Part of experiencing the diversity of the world is in tasting things you can’t find anywhere else and having food experiences that really drive home a sense of place that you can’t replicate somewhere else.”
How has the profile of the culinary traveler changed?
“The growing popularity of the food media — the evolution of traditional outlets like Bon Appetit into lifestyle brands, the enduring influence of Anthony Bourdain, and the success of shows like “Chef’s Table” on Netflix — has definitely helped create a celebrity status around chefs and certain culinary destinations, and contributed to an increased awareness of food as a key driver for travel,” explained Sachs.
“I think while, in the past, we may have seen the traveler who is interested in avant-garde gastronomy or fine dining, and the one who wants to explore the local ingredients and market stalls of a city, as separate people. Now, we’re seeing the merging of these personalities. The food-focused traveler wants real experiences and tastes they can’t find at home, that contribute to their understanding of food culture generally, and that can be high or low, Michelin-starred restaurants or street-food vendors.”
Who is the foodie cruiser?
As more people are looking for true immersion during their journeys, foodie cruises are rising up to meet the demand, especially in the luxury sector.
Culinary cruises include such enriching and personal experiences as chef-accompanied foraging trips, excursions to local markets or farms or wineries, farm-to-table meals, onboard culinary-focused lectures, wine tastings, and cooking lessons led by world-renowned chefs or local culinary experts … all while exploring culturally rich regions of the world from the comfort of a luxury vessel.
“The foodie cruiser can be any age,” said Mary Rembold, of Pikes Peak Cruise and Travel, but “currently it’s the Baby Boomers and older that are enjoying food and wine cruises. Food enhances all the senses of touch, feel, taste, and it provides memories of locals. We all have fond memories of a trip, and many times, it includes a memorable meal and dining experience. The food experience is universal, and really all ages enjoy foodie cruises.”
Some travel advisors have noted that Millennials are also a market segment to watch when it comes to culinary adventures.
Where do foodies like to go on cruises?
Europe, of course, is a top region for culinary cruises, with its diversity and depth of cultures. Italy, France, Greece, England, Spain, and Portugal are tried-and-true destinations. Other regions that travel advisors can plot on their clients’ culinary-focused bucket-list maps include: Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Japan, Africa, Peru, Argentina, Morocco, and Russia.
Just about any place you can think of probably now has a culinary cruise offering with an immersion component. One luxury cruise tour to Alaska, for instance, visits a local fourth-generation Juneau family inn, where the guests help cook local salmon and enjoy locally harvested greens and berries. A native cultural ambassador talks about the importance of the harvest. The guests also meet a kelp or oyster farmer, or a foraging expert, to learn about how the landscape shapes the region’s culinary staples.
How do you sell to people interested in culinary travel?
“There are great food stories everywhere you look,” said Sachs. “Our job is to help unlock these stories by shining a light on the dishes, rituals, producers and traditions that define the food culture of a place. The power of cruising is you’re traveling along a specific path and seeing how the landscape and culture changes as you go. The opportunity here is to help make connections between the ingredients and dishes and foodways of the places as we travel between them.”
Rembold also offered this tip: “When a client travels on a culinary cruise, it’s like dining at 5-star restaurants and experiencing incredible regional meals. If you take a look at what the price would be for these meals individually, the luxury cruise line cost is minimal. It’s actually a fantastic deal.” Explain that to your clients and watch their eyes light up … and their mouth begin to water with anticipation of their culinary journey.
FROM THE SPONSOR:
As Silversea’s legacy of luxury continues, so does our dedication to excellence, innovation and expansion of product offerings. We are proud to introduce S.A.L.T (Sea and Land Taste), our newest culinary program. S.A.L.T. is set to revolutionize culinary travel for the cruise line’s guests, when it launches with the new ship, Silver Moon, in August 2020. The pioneering concept will enable travelers to use food to dive deep into the world’s richest cultures, to truly understand the soul of a destination.
Taking guests on a journey of culinary discovery, Silver Moon will showcase an entire ecosystem around the food cultures of the world through the S.A.L.T. program. The ship’s guests will dine on fine cuisine in eight restaurants plus the S.A.L.T. Kitchen — a space entirely dedicated to the authentic flavors of sailed destinations. The S.A.L.T. Kitchen will offer an ever-changing menu and a regionally inspired wine list to enable diners to form meaningful connections with local cultures. In the S.A.L.T. Bar, which will adjoin the S.A.L.T. Kitchen, guests will enjoy regional drinks to better engage with destinations. Silver Moon’s S.A.L.T. Lab is where guests will deep-dive into regional food cultures under the tutelage of expert local chefs and industry authorities. Silversea’s guests will learn about local ingredients and artisanal techniques, through insightful workshops, tastings, and demonstrations.
Sail on the Silver Moon to go beyond your food horizons with S.A.L.T. or explore another of our 900 destinations across seven continents. For more information, visit www.silversea.com.