Monday, April 22, 2024

THE ISSUE: Drawn by culinary delights

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It was an endorsement that should have pleased Barbadian officials and their partners who have been giving increased attention to the food aspect of the tourism industry.
The validation came from Michel Roux Jr, one of the world’s best known chefs.
In a recent interview with BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY he spoke of the worth of culinary or gastronomic tourism and the potentially huge benefits for Barbados.
“That is definitely something that you have to look out for, the food tourism, because if you can draw people into your island or draw people to your destination through food that’s great. If you take London, for example, London 20 years ago was a tourism destination to go and see the changing of the guard, to go to the theatre, go and see the museums, all of that. Now, people are coming to London to still do all of that, but also to come and eat in a good restaurant,” he reasoned.
“I believe, and maybe I am in the minority, that when you go to a destination to visit you should eat the local produce, what the local people eat and that’s part of the adventure as well of tourism. The last thing I would want to eat here is a bowl of spaghetti bolognaise, I want to eat local produce and I want to discover local food, that should be part of the experience.”
His view is not new and, based on the growing focus entities like the Ministry of Tourism, Barbados Tourism Authority and Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association (BHTA) have been paying this area, including hosting food festivals and participating in regional culinary competitions, he was probably preaching to the converted.
In an August 20, 2010 report published in the WEEKEND NATION, BHTA assistant executive vice president Michelle Smith-Mayers highlighted Barbados’ focus on this area.
“We have decided as a tourism industry that culinary tourism is a niche market that Barbados can actively go after and tap because not only do we have a large number of restaurants offering all types of cuisines, but Barbados’ culinary heritage is very rich,” she said as Barbados’ culinary team prepared for overseas competition.
“The Barbados culinary team is very important therefore in helping Barbados to tap into the niche market possibilities of epicurean and culinary tourism.”
Four years later, this view is still being expressed, including by Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy, who said this was an important niche that had helped to differentiate Barbados from other destinations.
“The aim is for you to enhance that niche offering. You really can’t go wrong with choosing to specialise in culinary tourism. I sincerely hope you are encouraged to go to the next level. There is no reason why you can’t see yourself as a future leader, so it is incumbent you see yourself as a stakeholder in the sector,” he said recently while addressing the launch of the sixth Barbados Community College’s Hospitality
Institute and Banks Holdings Limited calendar.
    The Caribbean Tourism Organisation defined gastronomic tourism as “trips made to destinations where the local food and beverages are the main motivating factors for travel”.
    “Culinary tourism is a growth segment, and typically gastronomic tours are increasingly being combined with other activities such as cultural tours, cycling, walking, etc. Consequently, this is a segment that appeals to a broad range of consumers,” it said.
“With consumers being increasingly aware of the benefits (economic, environmental and health related) of local produce, there is an increased desire to sample local dishes, foodstuffs and drink. This has led to the emergence of local food and drink festivals, as well as increased interest in local markets.”
In its analysis the CTO said “gastronomic consumers tend to be couples that have above-average income, are usually professionals and are aged 30 to 50”.
“This correlates closely to the demographics of the cultural tourist. The International Culinary Tourism Association states that on average, food travellers spend around US$1 200 per trip, with over one-third (36 per cent or US$425) of their travel budget going towards food-related activities.”
Culinary accolades have become an important part of the annual World Travel Awards. Peru won the top award in 2012 and last year. Others nominated last year were Australia, China, France, India, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Spain, Thailand, and the United States.

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