Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences has been developing Finnish food tourism since 2012 in collaboration with Visit Finland. Food tourism is more than a meal: a food traveler may be interested in mushroom or berry picking, fishing, indoor markets, food stands, restaurants, home visits, distillery visits or picnics in the wild. For many, it is important to participate in activities and to learn. According to World Food Travel Association 2018, a food traveler travels to find local flavors and the spirit of the locality. This blog discusses a variety of trends in food-related traveling.
Conscious food tourism – traveling for a good cause!
Many individuals are interested in sustainability at home, and they often want to act in a sustainable manner also when travelling. Thus, countries, cities, towns and chefs want to offer locally sourced and ethically sustainable food. One example is Matt Orlando’s Aamass Restaurant in Copenhagen, which is well known for its sustainability values. At the same time, the restaurant emphasizes local tradition and local residents are well taken into account. A traveler still wishes to have the “live like a local” experience.
Growing trends: Authenticity and the significance off locality
The role of food in an authentic experience grows at the same time when the search for authenticity continues to increase. The quest for authenticity focuses strongly on localities, culture and history. Many destinations have thus switched from world cuisines to local offerings. They present local foods and especially food traditions instead of international sushi bars. The trend emerges when tourists learn to prepare local dishes, the number of street food vendors rises and local residents arrange walks featuring foods of the region.
Denmark, Copenhagen, The Reffen area
The role of food in festivals and events is on the rise
One of the highlights of food tourism is events where food plays a key role. Especially millennials, the generation born between the early 1980’s and mid-90’s, are searching for more memorable experiences. Well-made, ecological and ethical food has a significant role.
Children of the older millennials (1980–1995) are coming to the age where they begin to travel more independently. Their parents have already transferred their values to their offspring. This generation Z (born after 1996) is forecasted to be Super Foodie customers.
Food may well be the star of the festival. A good example is the Flow Festival in Helsinki: in addition to music, they offer great culinary experiences, which may well have a more important role than the music. Planning of the culinary experience is done meticulously for many festivals.
Food stories and storytelling is growing fast
Food is an important tool in storytelling. For example, the environmentally friendly, no emissions Nolla restaurant has its own, hyperlocal story. Many food tourism companies have turned into media companies producing a number of locality-oriented stories in a variety of channels. Newly, they have started to combine these stories into a greater whole. For years, travel and tourism brands have used stories to enhance their brands. A fast growing trend in destinations is a food travel strategy, where stories of the region are used to create new food experiences.
On micro vacations, the significance of food increases
Both information and people move faster than before, and the number of short or micro vacations is expanding faster as well. This may mean a trip a local takes from the outskirts of Kuopio to Satoa-harvesting festival in town, a day trip within a city (Fat Lizard, Espoo) or a visit during a stopover. On a short trip, the role of food is especially important: the highlight may be one meal or two. We need ready-made food travel attractions, which minimize the time spent and maximize the content.
Food tourism favors routes and localities which are off the beaten path, at least not yet known by everyone. Money is saved beforehand, because a food traveler always spends money on food regardless their income level. One focuses on enjoyment during the trip, and cuts some spending at home.
Solo traveling but eating together
According to ABTA, one in nine travelers has traveled alone during the past year (in six years, the increase is 100%). In 2018, Hotelscan reported growth in numbers: single room bookings increased by 170% during the previous 12 months. Although people travel alone, they still wish to learn about other cultures. The role of eating increases. Meal-sharing platforms where you can book a dinner at someone else’s home are expanding (eg. a group dinner at a home in Warzaw, Poland). Different cooking holidays for singles are also gaining in popularity. Another interesting feature is the rapid development of the GottaGoSolo microsegment where family members travel solo to gain more alone time.
Multigenerational trips built around eating together
This growing food tourism trend features travel where many generations travel together. For a restaurant or food tourism product, this means an expansion of the target group where the needs of consumers of different ages need to be taken into account (all in one place). The needs and wishes may be different for the grandmother, mother and daughter, but eating together during the trip may be a combining factor.
Technology-enhanced food experiences play a bigger role
The last trend is technology which obviously affects traveling, tourism, eating and food tourism as well. Social media is a powerful tool. A food tourism destination needs to consider how to increase its Instagram worthiness. What can a restaurant do to facilitate taking that perfect picture?
Top restaurants may enhance food travel with technologies affecting different sensory experiences, and new concepts are being created. These can combine a TeamLab exhibition in Amos Rex with a traditional restaurant. 3D projections are becoming more commonplace, and they can be used to create an illusion of a different location: archipelago in the archipelago or tasting local gin in a distillery. Haaga-Helia’s The BOX project won the innovation prize of Finnish Aromipro2018. The Box allows for creating mixed reality rooms (MRE).
The text is based on the food travel report Food Travel Trends by LAB8. The report analyzes the data of the largest trend houses.
LAB8 2019. Food Travel Trends. Accessed: 26.11.2019.
Stone, M. 26.11.2019. Professor & Food Tourism Researcher. California State University. Statement.
Wolf, E. 26.11.2019. Executive Director. World Food Travel Association. Statement.
Theme photo: Aleksandra Suzi / Shutterstock.com
Other pictures: Kristiina Havas and Miia Sundström