Travel advisors assisting clients in exploring their food and beverage interests should help identify and market the broader experiences a destination offers, especially festivals, live performances, and more typical local experiences like food trucks and food carts.
According to a new study, culinary travelers are more likely than others to visit historical and cultural attractions, shop and take tours. They also are much more likely to attend a live music festival or concert, sporting events and the performing arts.
Nearly half of the respondents to the study who say they have recently eaten at a fine dining restaurant also ate at a food truck, food cart, or food stall (45%), according to the study, conducted by the World Food Travel Association (WFTA).
“It is great if a destination is known for one primary food attraction (such as gourmet food or wine), but more than ever, destinations need to concentrate on a whole range of offerings to support their key attraction,” according to the study’s executive summary.
Culinary travelers are flocking to festivals because they want to try new things, said Matthew Stone, associate professor at California State University, Chico, and lead WFTA researcher, during a recent press conference unveiling the results of the study. The last similar WFTA report was released four years ago.
“I can only eat so many meals at restaurants in a typical day. But at a festival, I can try 5, 10, 20 things,” he said.
Millennials are more likely than older age groups to attend food festivals, take cooking classes and participate in food/beverage tours while traveling, Stone noted. For example, 31% of Millennials will attend a food festival, versus 15% of Boomers and 24% of Generation X age group members. Millennials also are much more likely to incorporate cooking classes into their lives (13%) than their Boomer (4%) and Generation X (9%) peers.
“As we see people get younger, they are more active and exploratory,” Stone said.
Aashi Vel, co-founder at Traveling Spoon, and in attendance for the press conference, said her company is going to start offering food festivals as part of their tours as a result of the survey’s findings.
The WFTA report showed that 33% of culinary travelers have attended a food festival (compared to 17% of non-culinary travelers), while 28% of culinary travelers have attended a beer festival (compared to 14% of non-culinary travelers). Additionally, 24% of culinary travelers have taken a food or beverage tour (versus 13% of non-culinary travelers), while 23% of culinary travelers have attended a wine festival (compared to 9% of non-culinary travelers).
Culinary travelers can also be more lucrative clients for travel advisors, the study showed. American culinary tourists spend 30% more per day on a trip than non-culinary travelers, while Canadian culinary tourists spend 12% more. Worldwide, culinary travelers spend 24% more per day than other leisure travelers.
Furthermore, 77% of leisure travelers say that food and drink experiences make them more likely to return to a destination.
“People are exploring food interests wherever they go,” said Erik Wolf, WFTA executive director.
Even if someone doesn’t identify themselves as a culinary traveler, eating and drinking like a local is still the number one motivation (53%) for tourists, the WFTA study showed; followed by visiting local landmarks (35%); attending a food, beer or wine festival (27%); and eating at a gourmet restaurant (27%). “This is what is getting them off the couch,” Stone said.
Finally, culinary experiences should make for great testimonials, the WFTA study shows. According to the survey, 71% of all leisure travelers say food and drink experiences while traveling give them many stories to tell when they return home.
The survey, conducted last year, reached 4,554 leisure travelers in six countries, including Canada, China, France, Mexico, the UK and the U.S.