Let us take you back to a time where tourists could wander off the beaten path and onto the rugged cobblestones of a road-less-travelled neighbourhood, exploring the bustling local markets through a delight of aromas and friendly unfamiliar faces during an authentic food and walking tour. Tasting sauces with strangers, breaking bread with locals and learning about cultures through the eyes (and taste buds) of travelling gastronomes.
Now fast-forward to our current times of the pandemic, where the only thing we are breaking with strangers are personal boundaries and the foodies with wanderlust are now craving a cooking and cultural experience to be satisfied through digital means. It is no secret that the travel industry and its bread and butter, culinary tourism, has been greatly impacted by the extreme decline in international travel and shift in demand. As COVID-19 has transformed the gastronomic tourism industry globally, businesses are either pivoting, looking to pivot, or launching new offerings; and technology is featuring across these changes in different ways. From adapting food tourism experiences in line social distancing requirements to the anticipation of government support, there are a few ways the culinary tourism market can sow seeds in the consumer landscape of the future.
From the inside, out
As the cultural trend for destination brand identity is re-evaluated by businesses internationally, it is important for stakeholders in the gastronomic tourism industry to address technological transformation as a key pillar and extend their existing models to reflect this shift. New research shows that the impact of moving food tourism to digital space also calls for us to examine the current situation and explore research and practical consequences in the post-COVID future. As tourism has proven to be resilient through past events, it is predicted this is a key reflection of the future and there is also anticipation for government support to the sector; assisting in the rebuild and aligned with technology’s new role in the industry.
Navigating the change in direction
As we overcome the current and future restrictions through technology, there is a new spotlight on domestic tourism as a buffer against the fall in international culinary travel. Due to the limitations on travel, it is important for the gastronomic tourism industry to explore new domestic opportunities in line with social distancing requirements, safety and hygiene protocols, local access and adapting to social capacities to appeal to the responsible consumer behaviour. Domestic demand is rebounding faster than international demand and businesses are providing gastronomes with fulfilment through local food tourism, right in our own backyards. By offering a more local experience and targeted approach in line with the neighbouring market, it is building the foundation of a new pillar in offerings now and into the future.
With gastronomic tourism facing the challenge of remaining attractive to current and potential customers, technology is also providing opportunities in areas which address the need for tourists to access cultural information and create new home-based experiences. The pandemic has flourished the growth of innovative concepts in technology relating to culinary travel. Online cooking sessions and tutorials, live guided tastings, virtual reality tours, remote social eating and drinking are current and viable applications that have succeeded in supporting and temporarily replacing the traditional gastronomy tourism experience. Travelling Spoon is the perfect example of a food business who have pivoted successfully using technology, with a shift from primarily international experiences to now offer cooking classes with locals both in-person and online. The use of creativity with technology combined will allow businesses within the food tourism industry to continue appealing to gastronomes and keep the travelling flame alight, satisfying the current and evolving demands.
For food tourism, the limitations faced during the pandemic has been a journey of adaption and exploration of new opportunities in technology. From stakeholders addressing new strategies in line with tech to including offerings which appeal to the local market, these key methods of preparation are proving to be the most effective way forward. As we research and prepare for what the industry will look like post-COVID, it is more important now than ever to understand the history and future of gastronomic tourism to grow with the demand and stamp your potential on the technology passport of global food travel’s future.