More than 25% of the world population is part of the millennial generation and if there’s one thing we know from scrolling their social media content, it’s that they’re seriously into food. More millennials identify as foodies than any other current generation, but the trend is spreading to other age ranges, especially when it comes to travel.
According to Roi Correa, president of FIBEGA Miami 2019, 40% of tourism spending is on gastronomy, but it’s no longer just about where to eat out of necessity while traveling; today, it’s more about how to eat.
FIBEGA began two years ago in Mérida, Spain as an Ibero-American gastrotourism fair bringing together leaders in the industry from destinations and airlines to hotels and tour operators. Last year it took Buenos Aires, Argentina by storm with more than 800 exhibitors and 22,000 attendees before moving to its new home at the Miami Beach Convention Center this year, expanding its original scope to include a wider, more fully international range of destinations. FIBEGA hopes to make Miami its permanent home, capitalizing on its central location between many culinary tourism markets and its own reputation as a foodie haven.
Yesterday, FIBEGA Miami 2019 wrapped its third and final day of seminars, presentations, demonstrations and meetings during its inaugural run in the United States, and several culinary travel trends emerged as the desires and demands of travelers continue to evolve. Check out these top five foodie travel trends for the coming year, and where you can head to experience them yourself.
Sustainability is a buzzword across multiple industries today, but it’s particularly relevant to gastrotourism, and conscientious travelers know it. As the demand for authentic experiences continues to skyrocket, with travelers looking to uncover traditional dishes made from hyperlocal ingredients, the need to preserve those ingredients for posterity grows, and this means that both consumers and providers need to learn more sustainable practices.
Chef Arlette Eulert, recently awarded the honor of “best female chef in Peru” by Summum, explains that her country is so well known for producing a wide variety of agricultural products (thanks to its varied climates and terrains in close proximity to each other) that visitors have come to expect all of them to be available all the time, and locals have been feeding this demand. In order to preserve the lands and their harvests as travelers flock to Peru for its bounty, it’s important for farmers, chefs, and other food tourism providers to honor seasonality, provide more intimately local offerings (and less from other nearby regions) and educate themselves on sustainable growing practices.
Foodies love restaurants, and foodie travelers are always looking for the hottest (or most under-the-radar spots in town) but a rapidly increasing trend among gastrotourists is the home visit. In less traditionally explored destinations, particularly in Central and South America and Africa, where local cuisine may be more of an unknown to a visitor than something like Italian or French cuisine, the new traveler is looking for a home cooked meal, and not just at the best street cart around, but in the chef’s home.
Here, travelers can make a direct connection with a local chef, often preparing the most traditional dishes of the region, and catch a glimpse of life in a village or neighborhood by spending time within a real home, away from tourist attractions. It’s part of the need for authenticity and humanity that drives today’s traveler. Tour operators are beginning to work with locals willing to open their homes, and some entrepreneurial chefs are taking business into the own hands by reaching out directly to travelers on social platforms, like Delven Adams of Guyana who converted his tropical Georgetown property into Backyard Café and offers custom experiences from market visits to cooking classes, or just simply hanging out with a meal and drinks in the relaxed barbecue atmosphere of his welcoming café and bar.
Many current food travelers are looking for more than just a bite of a region’s top dishes; they want to learn to make them. And not on Pinterest. Wineries are moving away from simple tours and tastings are now offering blending courses, like Bahama Barrels by Graycliff on Nassau in the The Bahamas, where guests create their own unique wine blends, bottle it and label it themselves using authentic tools and equipment.
In Guatemala, ancient center of the Maya culture, Director of Tourism Product Development Ericka Guillermo says there has been a growing interest in the ancestral dishes of the region, but now travelers want to visit villages and learn the traditional preparation themselves. It’s an example of the enormously popular trend of experiential travel that provides an hands-on experience to the traveler, but it also provides a direct economic gain for locals who otherwise don’t often see firsthand the positive impact tourism can have on their communities, and helps to keep ancient customs, traditions and food preparation techniques alive for future generations.
Gone are the days when “food hall” conjured notions of the high school cafeteria or the military mess hall. Today, food halls are popping up in cities across the world as upscale venues featuring high-end cuisine in innovative environments, often featuring live entertainment on nights and weekends. Miguel Angel Pérez, brand manager of Valencia Tourism, says the food hall trend in Valencia is helping to preserve architectural and cultural heritage in the region by restoring historic buildings to house these large collections of vendors.
For the foodie traveler, food halls provide several advantages compared to a standalone restaurant: there’s a communal aspect with an energetic vibe that helps travelers connect to locals and each other; foodies can indulge in traditional dishes while still enjoying updated spaces that often include cultural bonuses like art and music; vendors are often local and food halls offer the chance to sample a variety of dishes (or cuisines) in a single meal. They’re also particularly popular among younger travelers who are more sensitive to each other’s dietary restrictions and may be looking for a single venue that caters to everyone in the group.
To address several of these top trends in foodie travel simultaneously, destinations are turning to highly marketable special events throughout the year. These festivals give travelers an added reason to visit at a specific time (often scheduled during off-peak tourist seasons to build a more balanced stream of visitors) and can typically check several goal boxes at once: authentic experiences, hands-on learning, local connections and more.
Macao, this year’s invited spotlight destination at FIBEGA, is a recent winner of UNESCO’s Creative City of Gastronomy title, and showcases its unique offerings with a massive food festival for two and a half weeks each November. Capitalizing on the popularity of festivals, cities like Valencia host their own annual extravaganzas, but also organize smaller festivals to scatter throughout the year, providing a constant calendar of festivity that assures there’s always a special event to experience and provides a steady draw for culinary tourists in every season.