Culinary tourism is an exciting if not new concept in the food industry. According to the International Culinary Tourism Association, the term was first coined by researcher Lucy Long in 1998 and is defined as "the pursuit of unique and memorable culinary experiences of all kinds, often while traveling, but… also… at home."
Though people have been seeking these kinds of "unique and memorable" experiences for eons, there is a new awareness of the possible positive effects of culinary tourism, which includes community and economic development and cross-cultural insights. Culinary tourism is on the rise for a number of reasons:
- Eating engages all five of the senses
- Many travelers use cuisine as the number one reason for selecting a particular destination
- Most tourists eat their meals out
Culinary tourism could include the discovery of phenomenal falafel on a street corner in Brooklyn during a weekend visit to the City, driving across state lines to eat pancakes with fresh maple syrup while the sap is still running, or tasting melt-in-your-mouth roasted duck confit off of fine china in a five-star restaurant in Paris. There are many subsets within culinary tourism and those include: gourmet tourism, spa cuisine and wine and beer tourism.
Culinary tourism isn't just about eating. It can mean a visit to a kitchen, gadget or cookbook store; a tour of a winery, distillery or farm; or a weekend course at a culinary school. In fact, some culinary degree programs offer a variety of possible activities for food tourists such as intensive five-day foodie "boot camps," one-day continuing education classes, visits to on-campus student-run restaurants and public tours of the entire facility led by current students.
For some, culinary tourism is a delightful way to spend a Saturday morning, weekend getaway or yearly vacation. For others, it's a way of life that may eventually morph into a culinary arts career that revolves around food.