Travelers are feasting on offerings centered on their culinary tastes, and travel agents should be seeking out ways to serve a market that AAA estimates could reach 22 million Americans this year.
Forty three percent of AAA travel agents report an increase in the number of travelers planning culinary-focused vacations, “with most planning foodie trips to Italy, France and Spain” internationally, AAA said, releasing a recent survey. AAA said average spend is $63 per person, per day on food and dining purchases on their most recent vacation.
According to AAA, 75% of Americans feel that food and dining are an important part of their travel experiences, and about 80% say they have engaged in activities like touring wineries and distilleries, eating with local families and engaging in hands-on experiences such as cooking classes led by local chefs while traveling.
Said Connie Walsh, CTC, at Forks on The Road Travel in Boston, “Food tourism is booming for sure; I just got a nice call this morning to do a couple of tours to Emilia-Romagna, which is the real foodie region of Italy. It’s been growing over the years as more people get involved in cooking and categorizing themselves as foodies.” Walsh said Southeast Asia, Thailand and Portugal are popular, and many cruise lines, such as Oceania, are growing more recognized for their culinary offerings.
While 79% of Millennials and GenX respondents agreed that food-related experiences are important, more GenX respondents (49%) agreed “strongly,” vs. 41% of Millennials. Only 36% of Baby Boomers strongly agreed, with 16% strongly disagreeing that food-related experiences were important.
Julie Hall, AAA public relations manager, believes that since these trips are generally more expensive, they may be more popular among GenXers, who have more money to spend. Walsh said she is working on a honeymoon to the South Pacific, and is helping the couple book culinary excursions as part of their trip.
Millennials said they have sought out “high quality, sophisticated food” the most (62%), followed by “unique experiences, such as dining with a local family” and theater dinner shows (48% and 44% respectively).
“There is no better way to learn about a destination and immerse yourself in the local culture than by experiencing its unique food and dining customs,” said Bryan Shilling, AAA managing director of travel products and services. “When planning a culinary vacation, seek the advice of a trusted travel advisor, who can help customize a trip that matches the individual traveler’s dining preferences.”
AAA also asked its travel agents about what they hear from travelers in their culinary planning. When asked to name some of the common mistakes travelers make when booking an international trip, 35% said travelers don’t plan their meals in advance.
“When travelers are planning an international trip, they’re focused on other things, like getting their passport, whether their phone will work. They tend to think they will figure out their dining plans when they get there,” said Hall.
AAA’s findings come from a telephone survey of 1,013 adults living in the continental United States, March 9-12, 2017. Additionally, AAA/CAA travel executives responded to an online survey conducted Feb. 10-24, 2017. Each travel executive was asked to respond on behalf of all travel agents at their club, and responses were weighted by the number of full-time travel agents at that club. The club travel executive survey represents the input of 2,110 AAA/CAA travel agents.