Food Tourism Strategies to Drive Destination Spending

by Greg Oates, Luke Bujarski + Skift Team - May 2016

Skift Research Take

Destination marketers face a new imperative to refine and align their culinary experience branding and marketing strategies to connect with today’s digitally savvy traveler. Even non-traditional tourist destinations must commit to smarter branding and marketing strategy, in order to capture sustained tourism in-flows. Here, stakeholders must work together to hone their content strategies and build local networks to bring out the best of what destinations can offer.

Report Overview

The purpose of this report is to help destinations and their tourism partners develop better branding and marketing strategies around food tourism and authentic culinary experiences. Destinations are missing out on longer stays, more repeat visitation, and higher average visitor spending if they’re not packaging and promoting their food tourism product in line with 2016 trends.

The biggest shift in the evolution of food tourism strategy today is segmentation. What appeals to one foodie won’t to many others, so it’s paramount for destination marketing organizations (DMOs) to delineate the different verticals within their unique culinary travel experiences. A sample of those might include: gourmet/fine dining; fast casual and gastropub; farmers’ markets and food festivals; organic and vegan; and wine, beer and spirits, etc.

As illustrated in our survey in this report, the majority of Americans identify most with casual food, craft beer, food markets, and food festivals, dramatically more than traditional segments such as fine dining restaurants and wine tourism. Meaning, if DMOs are emphasizing their upscale restaurant inventory more than anything else, they’re speaking to a minority and could be missing the mark on what mainstream travelers want out of any given destination when it comes to the food experience.

In 2016, food tourism continues to revolve more around the rise of spirits, craft beers, and other alcoholic drink categories. Beverage trails, first made popular by destinations such as Kentucky and its Bourbon Trail, are surfacing in other parts of the country. Beer culture in particular is booming in America. Craft beer, especially, has grown into a massive consumer market.

Brewers reported a 13% increase in volume in 2015 — the eighth consecutive year of double digit growth. In response, destinations are developing travel experiences that combine local breweries and brewpubs to tap that interest. Other cities are creating similar product experiences around coffee, spirits, liqueurs, etc., to rebrand their identities for foodies.

Based on those two shifts, DMOs are responding by developing more segmented and sophisticated digital content that speaks directly to a wider range of culinary niches and consumer tastes. Looking ahead, also expect to see a significant jump in video storytelling due to its engagement success on online, inspired by the mega-popular food travel shows. DMOs are morphing into media companies these days, and they’re starting that process with great food and great culinary-themed stories celebrating the local destination narrative.

Executive Summary

The purpose of this report is to help destinations and their tourism partners develop better branding and marketing strategies around food tourism and authentic culinary experiences. Destinations are missing out on longer stays, more repeat visitation, and higher average visitor spending if they’re not packaging and promoting their food tourism product in line with 2016 trends.

The biggest shift in the evolution of food tourism strategy today is segmentation. What appeals to one foodie won’t to many others, so it’s paramount for destination marketing organizations (DMOs) to delineate the different verticals within their unique culinary travel experiences. A sample of those might include: gourmet/fine dining; fast casual and gastropub; farmers’ markets and food festivals; organic and vegan; and wine, beer and spirits, etc.

As illustrated in our survey in this report, the majority of Americans identify most with casual food, craft beer, food markets, and food festivals, dramatically more than traditional segments such as fine dining restaurants and wine tourism. Meaning, if DMOs are emphasizing their upscale restaurant inventory more than anything else, they’re speaking to a minority and could be missing the mark on what mainstream travelers want out of any given destination when it comes to the food experience.

In 2016, food tourism continues to revolve more around the rise of spirits, craft beers, and other alcoholic drink categories. Beverage trails, first made popular by destinations such as Kentucky and its Bourbon Trail, are surfacing in other parts of the country. Beer culture in particular is booming in America. Craft beer, especially, has grown into a massive consumer market.

Brewers reported a 13% increase in volume in 2015 — the eighth consecutive year of double digit growth. In response, destinations are developing travel experiences that combine local breweries and brewpubs to tap that interest. Other cities are creating similar product experiences around coffee, spirits, liqueurs, etc., to rebrand their identities for foodies.

Based on those two shifts, DMOs are responding by developing more segmented and sophisticated digital content that speaks directly to a wider range of culinary niches and consumer tastes. Looking ahead, also expect to see a significant jump in video storytelling due to its engagement success on online, inspired by the mega-popular food travel shows. DMOs are morphing into media companies these days, and they’re starting that process with great food and great culinary-themed stories celebrating the local destination narrative.

Introduction

Over the last decade, the most innovative culinary travel experiences have emphasized the local destination as much as the local food and drink specific to that region. In Skift’s 2016 Megatrends Report, we focused on how “Food is Now The Leading Hook in Travel,” primarily because of its ability to connect travelers directly with the local social rhythms and cultural context of any community in many different ways.

Rising income levels, better eat-out (order-in) options, busier lives, less time to cook at home, and other factors are also pushing people to cook less and spend more on prepared food and restaurant experiences. Data from the National Restaurant Association show that in the U.S., overall restaurant spending per capita has jumped by as much as 25% since 2000 (see figure).

U.S. Annual Restaurant Spend Per Capita

FoodReport_chart-5

Sources: National Restaurant Association data adjusted for inflation; population data from U.S. Census Bureau; * projected by restaurant.org

Restaurant industry sales in the U.S. alone will reach US$ 783 billion (NRA) by year’s end 2016, an increase of 49% since 2000, according to NRA data (adjusted for inflation). This trendline also appears global. A recent report by Research and Markets projects global restaurant sales to grow 6.9% annually through 2019.

Increased spend on prepared food has also been coupled with growing demand for more authentic, more individual, and more memorable local travel experiences around food. The popularity of food trucks, beer and spirit trails, farmer’s markets, culinary festivals, wine immersion classes, and many other unique culinary events are testament to the expanding spectrum of local food offerings that travelers increasingly seek during their travels.

Avid food tourists today are also compelled to explore deeper into local neighborhoods beyond the typical tourist scenes. They’ll travel farther away from their hotels for a memorable meal, and they’re more interested and willing to ask probing questions about the process behind the meal’s production. The more unique the culinary experience is, the more unique the travel and destination experience is.

Celebrity chefs and other food media brands like Anthony Bourdain, star of CNN’s “Parts Unknown,” are driving some of that. Bourdain and his contemporaries are household names because of their ability to define a unique sense of place through their travels, using food as an entry point. The food is often just a conversation starter to eventually expand on the local social fabric and cultural customs. Bourdain has spent years promoting back-alley boudin shops in Montreal and low-key fromageries in Marseilles as the best method to grasp a destination’s unique soul away from mainstream tourist traffic.

“If you do a poll of what motivates people to travel to a particular place, food is now the number one reason,” Bourdain told Skift. “I’m sure that that’s a significant change. I think people are less interested in scouting online to go up the Eiffel Tower, look around, and then come down again. I think they’re looking to have a more, for lack of a better word, a real experience.”

Chef Eric Ripert, host of “Avec Eric” on the Cooking Channel, travels to unique places like the Korean Demilitarized Zone, the most militarized border in the world, to explore what the local guards eat.

That type of ambitious storytelling is what’s driving the dreams of culinary tourists today, but it’s also raising the bar and expectations of all travelers. Large destinations and hotel groups in particular should adopt the same type of creative and adventurous spirit in their product development and promotional campaigns.

Destination marketing organizations are now developing new culinary experiences for a much wider and more segmented audience of food and beverage tourists. They’re also improving their online platforms and creating new digital campaigns that better delineate those segments. That helps customize the message and personalize the travel experience more for the individual tourist.

“Some destinations just put together a restaurant guide, and that’s useless from a foodie’s perspective, because there’s nothing there that really captures the excitement for us,” says Erik Wolf, executive director of the World Food Travel Association (WFTA). “It goes back to the experience. I think a lot of destinations focus too much on eating out, but that’s just 5% of the things involved in food tourism. We’re interested in food tours, food festivals, farmer’s markets, factory tours, going to grocery stores to purchase food and beverage souvenirs to take home, and a lot of other activities.”

Meanwhile, consumers are increasingly sharing F&B-themed media content across every imaginable digital platform to promote their travel encounters. In fact, it is rising exponentially. Instagram, for example, displayed 195 million photos for the #food hashtag and 89 million for #foodporn in May 2016, up from 168 and 76 million photos only four months before in January.

Professional food bloggers, YouTube influencers, and amateur online content providers are also growing in numbers, adding to the amount of F&B information available at traditional food industry stalwarts like Yelp, OpenTable, and other established platforms.

“The rise of websites like Eater are now becoming one of the biggest influencers,” says Wolf. “There’s also a bunch of new apps coming online like ChefsFeed, where professional chefs post reviews of their favorite restaurants.”

In effect, all travelers are foodie travelers now to some degree. Evidence of that is illustrated in preliminary data from an upcoming WFTA research report entitled, “The American Culinary Traveler 2016,” due out later this summer. Over 95% of the 3,000-plus people polled said they’re interested in some type of culinary travel experience. That’s up from 77% in the same report last published just three years ago in 2013.

“So we can now say finally that almost everyone is interested in a compelling food-and-drink-related travel experience,” Wolf explains. “Food is something that 100% of all travelers have in common, so destinations have an opportunity to create a longer lasting impact that touches on all five senses by developing their food tourism strategy as comprehensively and customized for travelers as possible.”

Identifying the American Culinary Customer

Who is the American food tourist today? More specifically, destinations need to ask who is their specific culinary-minded customer. As food customer segments expand, it may be helpful to identify unique psychographics of today’s foodie travels so destinations can adapt their product development and marketing campaigns.

It’s a scenario similar to the adventure tourism industry a decade ago. Originally identified as a sector for young backpackers and highly athletic people, adventure tourism now encompasses many types of active travel experiences for all ages and budgets.

The World Food Travel Association recently developed a research tool and methodology the group calls PsychoCulinary Profiling, that provides destination marketers with a unique way to segment food preferences. They break food tourism into 13 different segments, including: Adventurer, Ambiance, Authentic, Budget, Eclectic, Gourmet, Innovative, Localist, Novice, Organic, Social, Trendy, and Vegetarian.

Wolf explains that while 8.1% of foodies chose Gourmet first when they assessed their interests in a recent survey, other choices score higher, such as Authentic (8.8%), Localist (11.0%), and Novice (10.7%).

In addition, WFTA can calculate how destinations resonate differently with those 13 segments, because different cities also have their own PsychoCulinary profiles.

“Namely, for example, respondents in New York City ranked highest in Gourmet, Trendy and Social, while respondents in Toronto ranked highest in Localist, Eclectic and Organic,” Wolf wrote in the World Travel Market blog. “In other words, specific cities attract not foodies in general, rather, specific cities attract a specific type of foodie.”

With that in mind, some tourism marketing organizations are adapting their product development and marketing strategies to leverage this interest, because they have a better understanding of the food tourist segment.

For example, the Korean National Tourist Board shared the results of a May 2016 consumer profile survey of 4,369 participants, from eight different language regions. The data showed that a total of 2,370 (54.2%) of survey respondents voted for Street Food as the No. 1 most desirable travel activity among English-speaking visitors. That was chosen out of a 50 potential travel experiences in South Korea ranging from shopping to exploring traditional Hanok homes:

Survey Results: Top Travel Activities for English-speaking Visitors to Korea

FoodReport_chart-7

Source:  Korean National Tourist Board

“In response to this growing trend, KNTO has named the top Korean Food Streets and top Korean Food Festivals, and we are rigorously promoting them,” says Sung Kyung Kim, manager of the Korean National Tourism Office. “Companies like O’ngo Food Communications, who were the pioneers in making culinary tours popular in Korea back in 2008, are flourishing.”

 

Skift Survey: Travelers Identify More With Gastropubs and Farmers’ Markets Than Fine Dining

Skift launched a survey to better understand the American culinary palette particularly when traveling. Over 2,000 people responded to the survey conducted via Google Consumer Survey asking: “You’re going on vacation, which ‘foodie tourist’ experience MOST reflects your identity when traveling?”

Overall, “Gastropubs, Burgers, Beer” earned almost a full third (32%) of the votes, followed by “Markets, Festivals, Specialty Grocers” (21%), and “Trendy, Creative, Experimental” (14%). Perhaps surprisingly, the most iconic food tourism experiences — upscale dining and wine — ranked well below the others, except for vegan cuisine.

OVERALL PREFERENCES

Overall Preferences

N=2033 responses from U.S. adult internet population

Also interesting, female respondents ranked “Gastropubs, Burgers, Beer” (28%) almost equally with “Markets, Festivals, Specialty Grocers” (26%). In the other four categories, males and females responded almost exactly the same.

PREFERENCES AMONG MEN AND WOMEN

FoodReport_chart-2

N=2033 responses from U.S. adult internet population

In terms of age preferences, there was some disparity in the responses. Seniors clearly prefer markets and festivals more than their younger peers, while Millennials seem unimpressed with wine tourism. Also, as people get older, their interest in trendy neighborhoods and creative restaurants wanes. All age groups were consistent in their relative interest for fine dining.

PREFERENCES AMONG AGE GROUPS

FoodReport_chart-3

N=2033 responses from U.S. adult internet population

Regional preferences also tend to vary somewhat. Midwesterners identified with gastropubs and burgers more than other regions. Meanwhile southerners tend to be the most inclined toward the gourmet classic dining experience.

PREFERENCES AMONG PLACE OF RESIDENCE

FoodReport_chart-4

N=2033 responses from U.S. adult internet population

Developing Local Food Networks

As DMOs work to identify specific food tourism suppliers and their primary segments of culinary travelers most interested in that destination product, local organizations are also working to develop food community networks aimed to strengthen the local product offering. When a specific culinary segment is strong in a region, and promoted as such, the DMO can then develop a stronger reputation among that specific community of food travelers.

For example, sustainable “farm-to-table” food tourism is less of a trend these because most culinary travelers expect locally sourced ingredients. Except there’s often the concern among foodies that F&B companies are over-promising the amount of locally-sourced food items they offer.

In an industry first, the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance (OCTA) launched its Feast On verification initiative in June 2015 to certify that restaurants, food trucks, culinary events, and other similar companies throughout the province are sourcing local ingredients. The mission of OCTA focuses on bridging the gap between the food and travel industries by developing relationships between growers, chefs, processors, restaurateurs, accommodation providers, distributors, government, and industry organizations.

“The localism marketing term is very hot as a buzzword but with that comes a lot of ‘local-washing,’ where some people say they use local food, but that’s not enough for the food tourist who really wants an authentic taste of place,” says Julia Gilmore, food tourism program manager at Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance. “They want to know how you’re actually supporting the farmers and other producers in the area.”

To date, over 120 companies have participated in Feast On by opening their books to OCTA to prove that they buy a specific percentage of their products from regional suppliers. The program is funded in part by Ontario’s Ministry of Rural Affairs, Agriculture & Food, and the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, with additional support from Foodland Ontario.

“The marketing of places to find local food is common but the verification and certification process is something that we haven’t seen before,” says Gilmore. “Now we can report on spending to the government. We can say 120 restaurants have spent over $15 million on Ontario, showing there’s demand for local food and making it easier to access even more local food.”

OCTA is also expanding its research to learn more about the experience-minded food tourist who’s seeking special events with strong culinary programming. This is a growing trend and food tourism segment that DMOs can have a more elevated role in developing.

“We’re seeing this intersection of cultural and culinary festivals, and we’re seeing where festivals that aren’t necessarily a food festival are putting a large effort on what food they serve,” says Gilmore. “A lot of top restaurants are now partnering with more festivals because it’s great exposure for the restaurants and chefs, and it creates a more dynamic and high-profile experience for the festival and destination.”

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 10.16.31 PM

Expanding Online Food & Beverage Tourism Content

The biggest growth opportunity for DMOs to drive increased visitation of culinary travelers is with online content. Better storytelling focusing on more F&B experiences in more food tourism segments is helping the destinations below brand themselves as culinary hotspots.

“We talk a lot about how it’s not enough anymore to just be posting photos and content, because you need to have really beautiful photos, and you need to be crowdsourcing that content, and you just have to communicate the excitement around your food offering better,” says Gilmore. “The online and the social component is huge, and so is talking about what your brand looks like and what makes it distinctive that’s so important.”

For example, Travel Oregon segments its “Eat & Drink” section into 14 categories, which is far and above more than most regions, ranging from cideries and foraging experiences for the more niche tourist profile, to more classic options like distillery tours and ranch stays. Within that section alone, there are literally thousands of small, independent tourism-related companies catering to every imaginable food and beverage-themed interest.

This spring, the state tourism bureau launched the tongue-in-cheek “You Might Like Oregon” tourism campaign, depicting Oregon as a place that people might like, or they might not. Translation: Oregon is a highly individualistic destination that’s not trying to be something for everyone. But for those it does cater to, suggests the campaign, it caters to extremely well by delivering personalized food travel experiences.

Several of the campaign’s creative elements focus on food, beer, cider, and wine themes, such as this “Bicycling is Even Better When It Ends WIth Beer” content.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization explains the value of personality-driven, food-themed digital content in its conclusions of the UNWTO 1st World Forum on Food Tourism in San Sebastian, Spain in 2015:

“The people are what humanize and make an experience attractive and appealing. Chefs are ambassadors of a territory. You have to work on storytelling, building a narrative of food in the destination, looking for new angles that affect the beauty of uniqueness. The digital era multiplies the channels, promotes conversations and provides the opportunity to listen. Nonetheless, the construction of the message in the public remains vital. The message must always be inspiring; an invitation to dream.”

In North Carolina, Explore Asheville’s Foodtopia initiative showcases, “A community of culinary collaborators who share their creativity, passion and local flavors to craft an experience that will nourish your soul.” The campaign is unique because it leads with the people operating the food travel experiences — or local Foodtopians — front and center, versus the restaurants. The digital content is anchored around videos of the locals, driving interest in the neighborhood food and beverage tourism industry, with descriptions of the food, restaurants, tours, etc., following that.

Sherrye Coggiola, for example, operates The Cantina, serving authentic Southern cuisine. “I was born and raised here, so being a part of the largest industry in the community — hospitality and tourism — has been a great gift,” Coggiola explains.

This should be a more significant trend in tourism. Asheville illustrates how relatively simple it is for even third-tier destinations to introduce local business owners to visitors searching online during their pre-travel research and planning stage.

Restaurant Australia

The Future of Food Tourism Content & Curation

Following is a selection of case studies among first-tier destinations that have developed long-term national or regional food tourism promotions, supported with comprehensive online content marketing platforms.

Case Study: Tourism Australia

In March 2016, Tourism Australia announced the latest impact figures based on the rise in visitation and engagement around its successful Restaurant Australia campaign.

Launched in May 2014, the international food tourism promotion pivoted Australia’s brand reputation toward the luxury segment by focusing on upscale culinary travel experiences.

International visitors to Australia spent a record $34.8 billion in the 12 months ending September 30, 2015 — up 13%, or $4.1 billion — marking the highest jump in total inbound traveler spend since 2001. Visitor spending from the U.S. was up 14%. According to the new Q1 2016 numbers, visitor spend on food and wine in Australia grew by $886 million, or 21% year-to-year. In September, just half a year previous, those numbers were $697 million and 16.9%.

“We’ve also been able to bring together the hospitality industry in Australia, as well as the tourism industry, which was also strategically one of the primary drivers of the campaign,” says John O’Sullivan, managing director of Tourism Australia. “Before that, I think they kind of saw themselves as being quite separate, but with this campaign they’ve actually really become interrelated.”

As this chart shows, the Restaurant Australia initiative achieved its branding goal to elevate Australia in the minds of upscale culinary travelers.

QUESTION: Perception of Australia as a quality food destination by people who haven’t visited?

FoodReport_chart-6

Case Study: Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland’s Year of Food & Drink in 2016 is a celebration of the region’s food revolution over the last decade. Both Ireland.com and DiscoverNorthernIreland.com have published extensive content highlighting all of the independent and local food experiences and events from every imaginable angle.

The quality of the photography, video, and editorial content resembles a glossy travel magazine, versus just a billboard of all the partners’ banner ads. Irish character and a hyperlocal thrust are infused in every page, explaining how: “Northern Ireland is experiencing a spectacular explosion of artisan food and drink companies.”

For example, the website states: “Shortcross Gin from County Down recently scooped a silver medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Glenarm Organic Salmon is lined up on shelves in Harvey Nichols, and Abernethy Butter is the dairy sweetheart of London’s Michelin-starred chefs.”

Each of the months in 2016 have a specific theme when suppliers offer unique offerings and special events. July is Seas, Rivers & Loughs; August is Love NI Meat; and April is all about Brewing & Distilling. Culinary events include the Flavours of the Foyle Seafood Festival in Derry-Londonderry in July, and The Bushmills Salmon & Whiskey Festival in September.

Supporting that. Tourism Ireland’s Destination Delicious landing page builds out even more content, including extensive itinerary options for culinary travel aligned with Tourism Ireland’s three primary regional tourism marketing campaigns: Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Far East, and Causway Coastal. As well, there’s an entire content ecosystem focusing specifically on Northern Ireland as a tourism destination accessible via myriad culinary experiences.

Case Study: Catalonia

The new European Region of Gastronomy Platform launched its first Year of Gastronomy & Wine Tourism in Catalonia for 2016. The innovative tourism development project is designed like a research initiative, created by the International Institute of Gastronomy, Culture, Art & Tourism (IGCAT), to collect data on the business drivers behind cultural tourism. From a consumer-facing perspective, it’s designed to “recognize exciting developments happening at a local level through the growing convergence of food, culture and tourism sectors.”

The European Region of Gastronomy Platform is open to regions that declare a “moral obligation” to ensure improved food quality and support for local cultures/traditions. Potential destinations must also agree to carry out continual evaluation during the year so that best practices can be shared across the network. The Platform also forces regional stakeholder groups to come together to develop the bid in an inclusive environment to prove community solidarity and engagement.

To bid for the 2016 event, the Catalan Tourist Board, Barcelona Tourist Board, Catalonia’s provincial governments, universities, and assorted food and wine organizations banded together to create an impressive candidature document. The report outlines in detail the immediate and legacy strategies to drive more tourism and media exposure to the regions and municipalities surrounding Barcelona.

Overall, the aims of the European Region of Gastronomy Platform are:

  • Share knowledge and experience
  • Showcase the distinctiveness of regional gastronomy, food, wine and cuisines through cross-marketing initiatives
  • Underline the essential linkages of food at regional and European
  • Highlight the gastronomic unity and diversity of Europe through joint projects
  • Promote social cohesion and bonds between communities by providing access to often lesser known regions
  • Drive gastronomic creativity and innovation to enable Europe’s food and gastronomy businesses to compete at global level

California Dream Eater

Q&A: Visit California CEO on The Rise of Food Tourism Video

Visit California was the first destination marketing organization in the U.S. to launch a mobile-first, content-driven lifestyle website in January 2015. That signaled the ongoing shift of tourism bureaus evolving from basically online billboards for their partners to more relevant digital travel media companies.

In March 2016, Visit California launched the Dream365TV Hub platform for video storytelling focusing on local authentic travel experiences statewide. One of the most popular original video series, California Dream Eater combines all of the next generation trends to promote food tourism: immersive video, chatty conversation while eating, user-generated content and programming direction, two-way social media engagement, local hidden restaurants, and a sense of discovery on both sides of the camera.

Series host Chase Ramsey drives around California to explore local culinary experiences suggested by viewers following @CaliforniaDreamEater and #DreamEats on Instagram. Multiple videos in each destination are then posted across Visit California’s plethora of digital platforms highlighting some of California’s most unique F&B experiences.

The earliest Dream Eater YouTube videos have topped 800,000 views to date. Almost all of the videos have more than 150,000 views.

Supplementing the Dream Eater series, the Always In Season video series focuses on California-grown produce and the chefs who use specialty crops to create unique dishes. The content is produced in partnership with Food & Wine magazine to highlight the CA Grown initiative designed to “connect people with farmers.”

Following is a Q&A with Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California.

Skift: How is food tourism evolving in general?

Caroline Beteta: Travelers are increasingly allowing their passions to fuel their vacation choices, and with the rise in foodie culture, more and more people consider culinary experiences a key driver in choosing a travel destination. With California’s farm-fresh food and high-profile chefs, it’s a culinary paradise. In fact, in 2015 more than 50 million travelers included fine dining, wine tasting, or visiting a craft brewery among their activities in the state, according to Tourism Economics.

Skift: What is the mission behind Dream365TV?

Beteta: Dream365TV originated from the idea that chasing dreams is a year-round pursuit in California. The featured original series such as California Dream Eater exemplify California’s fun-loving and free-spirited vibe, and it inspires visitors to come experience the state for themselves.

Skift: What has been the response to California Dream Eater?

Beteta: California Dream Eater is an extraordinary platform to showcase some of California’s most sought-after culinary creations. Because the program is crowdsourced, we’re getting an authentic look at what food lovers around the globe want to sample. We get an amazing response from nearly every video and photo posted, but one standout post was the Mac ’n’ Cheetos from the Attic on Broadway in Long Beach. Both the video and the Instagram post showing the dish were incredibly well received. One Instagram commenter said: “I don’t want to be skinny anymore, I want this instead.”

Skift: California is the location for Bravo’s Top Chef series this year. What does that partnership deliver to Visit California?

Beteta: Visit California’s partnership with Top Chef allowed us to showcase California’s bounty on a national stage to an audience that already loves food.  Putting the spotlight on our great culinary destinations helped highlight some well known foodie destinations, as well as some places that might not have been on everyone’s radar. It was a tremendous opportunity to show the audience that California has an abundance of chefs, artisan producers and restaurateurs, even outside our major cities.

Wildcraft-Cider-Works-cidermaker-Matt-Silva

The Rise of Beer, Spirits & Coffee Tourism

Seeing the power of food tourism to drive average spend higher in their destinations, DMOs are packaging and promoting their beverage-related travel experiences more aggressively. Wine tourism, of course, has grown exponentially over the past few decades in wine producing destinations, but now DMOs are developing similar travel experiences around their beer, spirits, coffee, and other beverage purveyors.

Beer is booming in America. Craft beer, especially, has grown into a massive consumer market in North America, and it’s continuing to grow. According to the Brewers Association, craft beer sales in the U.S. jumped 16% in 2015.

“Our craft beer video is part of our culinary campaign that was awarded a Platinum award at this year’s Adrian Awards from HSMAI,” says Patrick Harrison, VP of marketing at Visit Tampa Bay. “It also helped us land this summer’s Beer Bloggers Conference and two consecutive top three finishes in USA Today’s Best Beer City polls.”

Supporting that, the popular Food Republic blog writes: “The practice of traveling to visit a certain brewery or beer region is on the rise as people want to feel more connected to the food and drink they consume, and explore new cities and cultures through the lens of the beverages that are created there.”

Here’s a sample of how DMOs worldwide are developing different beverage trails:

Denver Beer Trail: The Denver Beer Trail is just one example of many similar initiatives that DMOs are developing to capitalize on the craft beer craze sweeping the nation. Denver has over 100 microbrew pubs in the metro area, and the city’s beer lovers are well on their way to making the city the “Napa Valley of Beer.”

The Denver Beer Trail is further supplemented with more beer content including Beers Brewed in Denver and the Beer Aficionado’s Guide to Denver.

“This is a state where you see a $5,000 bicycle on top of a $500 car,” says Todd Usry, general manager of Breckenridge Brewery. “Those same outdoors enthusiasts are the ones who see the quality in craft beer and are willing to pay a little more for interesting, satisfying beer.”

In March 2016, the third annual Collaboration Fest in Denver was dubbed “America’s Most Creative Beer Event,” by Food & Wine magazine. The concept behind the festival is a focus on special edition beers created by separate independent brewers together in collaboration, who shared their knowledge and resources to deliver a new hybrid brew to Denver.

Austrian Schnapps Trail: Each year in the mountainous Tyrolean region of Austria, over 11 million pounds of fruit are used to produce hand-crafted schnapps, making this the largest schnapps production terroir worldwide. Leveraging that, the Tirol Tourist Board established the Tirol Schnapps Route in partnership with the local chamber of agriculture to develop tasting tours and new destination marketing campaigns.

Over 40 officially approved schnapps makers and distilleries are participating in the project, of which 13 offer a guided tour in English. The route is designed not particularly as a hiking or driving route, but instead it is more like a collection of excursion destinations.

Columbus Coffee Trail: Columbus, Ohio is home to more than a dozen local craft coffee roasters, most of which are single-origin, complemented by many more specialty coffee shops. Each has its own intriguing personal story about what launched their love affair with the coffee bean, so Experience Columbus launched the Columbus Coffee Trail in September 2014, highlighting 13 local roasters and coffee shops.

Visitors pickup a Coffee Passport at any venue along the trail, and after visiting any four of the 13 stops, they earn a special Columbus Coffee T-shirt from Experience Columbus. Since the trail’s launch through March 2016, the trail’s members report more than 9,500 additional cups of coffee sold because of the project. In 2015, nearly 2,000 people completed the coffee trail, and Experience Columbus says the #cbuscoffee hashtag has earned over 3,000 mentions on Instagram and 4,000 on Twitter.

Santa Fe Margarita Trail: Tourism Santa Fe launched the Santa Fe Margarita Trail with 30 partners in May 2016, each offering a custom margarita. Visitors collect stamps from each in their Santa Fe Margarita Trail Passport, which describes the participating establishments and their specific margarita. Visitors can then redeem their passports for a special Santa Fe Margarita Trail t-shirt or other tiered gifts based on number of stamps received.

Tourism Santa Fe is also increasing promotional efforts for a slew of food-themed cultural festivals, including: Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta, Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown, Santa Fe Foodie Classic, and Outside Bike & Brew Festival.

The Sharing Economy’s Impact on Food Tourism

One of the primary functions of tourism bureaus is driving tourism dollars to underserved neighborhoods away from the hotel zones, such as San Francisco Travel. In July 2015, the bureau was the first ever to announce a formal partnership with Airbnb, made possible by the fact that Airbnb charges additional fees to contribute to the city’s bed tax.

The partnership between San Francisco Travel and Airbnb provides neighborhood tourism materials for local businesses to help attract Airbnb guests, and exclusive content provided by Airbnb highlighting local neighborhoods, businesses, and experiences in the area.

“The growth of the sharing economy has generated new visitor demands for creative lodging and transportation options around the world,” says Joe D’Alessandro, president and CEO of San Francisco Travel, when the partnership was announced. “San Francisco is excited to be the first destination to formalize a relationship in this exciting new space.”

According to Airbnb data, the typical Airbnb customer spends 2.1 times longer and 1.8 times more money than the average visitor.

“Home sharing is changing the way we travel, expanding tourism beyond the city center and allowing visitors to live like a local,” says Stephanie Hodges, director of civic partnerships of Airbnb during the Smart City EXPO in Barcelona in Decmber 2015. “Our visitors want to stay longer and spend more, which is only good news for cities. By spreading tourism, cities can benefit greater by increasing the economic footprint to the wider area, and more importantly, to more people and small businesses.”

In the meetings and events sector, food-sharing platforms like Paris-based Vizeat are expanding their operations to cater to large conference groups up to 2,000. Just like the leisure side, conference delegates are craving a more locally immersive business travel experience.

Since officially launching in July 2015, over 12,000 Vizeat hosts have prepared meals for over 20,000 diners in more than 60 countries. Founder Jean-Michel Petit says the company is still in its early growth stages, or where “Airbnb was around 2009,” with the bulk of business in Europe to date.

The most popular U.S. cities on the Vizeat site at present are New York and Boston. He adds that the company is doing about 20-30% growth month-over-month, spurred in part by the continuing rollout of language-specific Vizeat portals in countries like Spain and Italy.

“We commissioned online market research across many different cultures in Europe, and we discovered that 72% of French people say they would like to share a meal with people,” Petit explains. “And 53%, and this was a surprise, said they would be willing occasionally to host a meal at their table, provided they could choose the time, the people, and the price, etc.”

Vizeat’s early adopter success, and that of others like San Francisco-based Feastly and EatWith, and Rome-based BonAppetour, is driven by the idea that the dining room table is the original social network. Petit says, “Now we’re seeing people taking control of the platform proposing all kinds of things like outdoor picnics, roof top parties, market tours, and cooking courses, etc.”

Key Takeaways

Define your destination’s unique food tourism product and segments — DMOs are defining their specific segments of food tourism where they’re strongest to begin developing aa destination brand identity for culinary travelers?

Define your different segments of culinary travelers — DMOs can only develop relevant food tourism packaging and promotions with an indepth understanding of what their culinary tourists are seeking.

Create networks of food tourism-related companies and organizations — Align similar food tourism companies and thought leaders together to develop special promotions aimed at specific culinary tourist psychographics.

Don’t underestimate the demand for casual food tourism — As our Skift survey shows, the greatest demand for culinary travel experiences is for more casual and creative venues and events, and food markets and food festivals.

Integrate local food tourism leaders in local music festivals and other cultural events — Culinary tourists tend to also gravitate toward music festivals and various cultural events. DMOs are integrating their local food and beverage leaders into these events to create more memorable travel experiences.

Develop an online content strategy targeting specific segments — The world’s leading DMOs are developing more and more content to engage culinary travelers across a wide range of digital platforms. Customize content to the different culinary traveler segments and networks that have been previously determined.

Develop conversational video content with food personalities — This is obvious. The volume of destination marketing videos higlighting culinary experiences is going to grow exponentially over the next few years. Focus should be on people and the experience as much as the culinary product.

Develop beverage-related travel experiences and specific beverage content — DMOs are looking at their beer, wine, spirits, and coffee suppliers to develop new beverage-themed travel experiences and gamification. This engages a different sub-set of foodie tourists, it offers great content opportunities, and it’s possible in most destinations.

Further Reading

World Travel Market: Are you Promoting the Right Kind of Food Tourism
http://news.wtmlondon.com/blog/food-tourism/are-you-promoting-the-right-kind-of-food-tourism/

Ontario Culinary Tourism Association’s Feast On Program
https://feaston.ontarioculinary.com/learn-more/