Culinary Tourism: Savoring Flavors from Around the World

Did you know that over 70% of travelers consider food an essential part of their travel experience? Most of us eagerly seek out local dishes when exploring a new destination. Culinary adventures, whether it’s a food tour, a wine tasting, or simply dining at a local eatery, are now integral to our travel plans. In other words, food travel is the new way to explore the world.

If you’re tired of predictable meals in your hometown and if your taste buds are craving something different, exotic, or authentic, perhaps it’s time for you to dive into the world of culinary tourism!

Culinary tourism is gaining momentum as more travelers seek out distinctive culinary escapades abroad, whether it’s learning the secrets of Italian cuisine from a Nona or embarking on a tapas bar tour along Spain’s cobblestone streets. Food is a universal language that opens your senses to delectable flavors and great food worldwide.

As the late Anthony Bourdain, the inspiration behind “Around the World in 80 Flavors,” used to say, “Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It’s inseparable.”

What Is Culinary Tourism?

a family eating food on a street restaurant

Some argue that you can’t fully grasp a country or region without savoring its cuisine, and they might have a point. Food often weaves its way through cultural heritage, cherished family recipes passed down through generations, and one-of-a-kind ingredients found only in specific locales. Exploring local dishes lets you connect with the people and history behind it all. That’s what culinary tourism is about.

Food tourism is a rising trend for those with a taste for adventure and a love of global cuisine. Culinary tourism, often referred to as food tourism, is an exciting and specialized form of travel. It involves travel, so you’ll be visiting foreign places, but your main goal is to savor authentic dishes and fully immerse yourself in the local culture through food. It’s basically about making food the heart of your travel adventure. Whether it’s indulging in street food in Thailand or savoring dishes at Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris, culinary tourism promises a never-ending array of mouthwatering delights to satisfy every palate.

The core aim of culinary tourism is to give travelers the opportunity to explore the local area, uncover regional food trends, discover cooking techniques, and delve into the history of the local cuisine. It’s not just about delicious bites; it’s an educational adventure, too. Food ignites curiosity and encourages tourists to learn about the culture of a particular cuisine and the people behind its production and preparation.

Culinary tourism offers a variety of engaging activities related to cooking and dining. It can involve things like:

  • Restaurant explorations
  • Dining events
  • Food tours
  • Winery and brewery tours
  • Cooking classes
  • Cooking contests
  • Visits to food production facilities
  • Visits to farmer’s markets
  • Tasting sessions
  • Local fairs
  • Cultural festivals

However, keep in mind that different destinations may have their unique spin on culinary tourism, offering activities beyond this list. You can also embark on culinary tourism on your own without getting help from a tour guide. You can dine out or try out a restaurant in a foreign land on your own or simply try out the food they sell on the streets. These are all part of the culinary tourism experience. Plus, in the post-COVID world, many people have embraced culinary tourism by cooking and savoring foods from around the world right in their own homes. Who says you can’t be a culinary tourist in your own backyard?

Origins of Culinary Tourism and Wine Culture

Gastronomic voyages aren’t a new concept. Ancient civilizations like the Greeks and Romans were known for their epicurean delights and extravagant feasts. Nevertheless, the modern idea of culinary tourism didn’t take off until the 19th century when easier and more affordable travel options, like the railway, made people hungry for novel and captivating gastronomic experiences.

Similarly, wine culture boasts a storied history stretching back thousands of years. From the Greeks and Romans to the French and Italians, wine has been a cornerstone of numerous societies. The Middle Ages witnessed a surge in wine production and enjoyment, turning wine into a symbol of sophistication and opulence.

Today, culinary tourism has just become more popular due to the Internet. People post their culinary experiences on their blogs and websites. And, of course, the rise of social media made it all possible for anyone to have an idea about the kinds of food that are staple and popular in other nations, making more people curious to taste them.

The Significance of Food Tourism

three people doing a wine tasting

We all know that some countries often evoke a picture of particular foods, like how you think of pizza and pasta when you hear Italy or ramen and sushi when you think of Japan. Each country and culture presents an opportunity to explore diverse gastronomies. Culinary tourists are eager to deepen their understanding of various cultures through their culinary traditions.

Food tourism is a vital element within the broader travel and tourism industry. When planning a trip, people weigh various factors, and food often tops the list of priorities. According to the World Food Travel Association, expenditures on food and beverages during travel account for a significant 15-35% of all tourism spending.

Nowadays, culinary tourism stands as a cornerstone of modern travel. It directly contributes to the hospitality industry and the overall economy. The evolution of food culture can lure new visitors to a tourist destination, as food often mirrors an entire nation’s culinary customs, offering visitors invaluable cultural insights.

Furthermore, it serves as a driving force for local businesses and illuminates diverse cuisines. For many cultures, their culinary heritage is an integral part of their identity, and culinary tourism celebrates this by attracting curious tourists eager to explore new flavors and share their discoveries with the world. In doing so, it fosters community pride and exemplifies cultural tourism.

This type of tourism isn’t just crucial for the destinations; it’s equally important for the travelers themselves. It offers an opportunity to savor new tastes and discover fresh cultures through the palate. Visitors who engage in food tourism depart with not only new recipes to try but also fond memories that forever connect to their sense of taste.

It’s because, in the contemporary travel landscape, there is a growing emphasis on authentic experiences. Travelers are more inclined than ever to connect with the authentic essence of the places they visit. Food remains a significant aspect of any journey, and no matter how weary one may be, a meal is a must.

Furthermore, food becomes a social occasion during travel. Dining provides an opportunity for families to savor their meals and discuss their experiences. The desire for authentic dining aligns with the increasing quest for new encounters. Authenticity often lies in simple, farm-to-table ingredients. The more rooted in a region, the more likely the food will capture visitors’ attention.

Moreover, understanding the cultural significance of various foods allows us to appreciate them beyond their flavors. Take sushi, for example; it’s not just raw fish and rice but a profound representation of harmony and balance within Japanese culture.

By delving into the origins of global cuisine, we broaden our horizons and gain insight into different cultures in a meaningful way. The surge in food tourism makes this exploration more accessible than ever before.

Benefits of Culinary Tourism

Food tourism, also known as culinary tourism or gastronomy tourism, has taken the globe-trotting scene by storm. It’s all about journeying to different destinations to dive into the local cuisine, food culture, and traditions. Food tourists are on a quest for much more than a mere meal; they crave the complete experience, a chance to uncover the history, culture, and people behind the food. This trend opens up business opportunities to entice travelers by showcasing local culinary specialties and unique experiences.

Culinary tourism brings a slew of benefits for both travelers and the places they visit.

It allows travelers to immerse themselves in a new culture through its food. Savoring local dishes and beverages becomes a gateway to connect with the locals and gain a deeper understanding of a destination’s rich history, traditions, and way of life.

It contributes to local economies and promotes sustainable travel. By supporting local eateries and food producers, travelers can give a boost to the local economy and help preserve culinary traditions.

By opting for locally sourced and seasonal ingredients, restaurants can champion sustainable agriculture and reduce their environmental footprint.

What Made Culinary Tourism Popular

The surge in food tourism can be attributed to several factors.

One key driver is the growing fascination with food and cooking. With the proliferation of food blogs, cooking shows, and the influence of social media, people are more captivated by food than ever before. They’re eager to delve into various cuisines, ingredients, and cooking techniques, and food tourism provides the perfect platform for this hands-on exploration.

Another driving force is the yearning for authentic experiences. Travelers seek unique and genuine encounters, aiming to step off the well-trodden path and engage with the local culture in a meaningful way. Food tourism offers precisely that by granting access to local food producers, markets, and restaurants.

The popularity of food tourism has spurred the creation of innovative food-related travel offerings and services. These include food tours, cooking classes, wine tastings, and food festivals. Food tours are a favorite way to delve into a destination’s food culture, whether guided or self-guided, often featuring visits to local markets, food producers, and restaurants. Cooking classes offer an opportunity to learn about local ingredients and culinary techniques, allowing travelers to prepare and savor a meal alongside locals. Wine tastings are particularly sought after in wine-producing regions. Food festivals present yet another avenue to immerse oneself in a destination’s food culture, with the chance to sample local delicacies and beverages, and partake in cultural celebrations.

Current Trends in Culinary Tourism

a couple of friends taking selfie with street food in Thailand

Food tourism is on the rise, providing businesses with the chance to attract tourists by showcasing unique local flavors and experiences. It offers travelers a way to truly understand a new culture through its food, all while supporting local economies and promoting sustainable travel. As the popularity of food tourism continues to climb, businesses that embrace this trend will be well-positioned to captivate food enthusiasts and play a part in its ongoing growth.

2020 industry analysis from Allied Market Research revealed that in 2019, the global culinary tourism market was valued at $1,116.7 billion. Projections suggest that by 2027, this figure will soar to more than $1,796.5 billion. It’s a lucrative sector within the travel industry, given that people always need to eat, even on vacation.

What’s contributing to the surge in gastronomic tourism and wine culture? Several notable trends are at play. The rise of the foodie culture, the increasing allure of farm-to-table dining, and the growing interest in eco-friendly and sustainable travel are all propelling these industries forward. These trends have not only put places like Peru, Japan, and Mexico on the culinary map but have also given rise to exciting culinary experiences like food tours, cooking classes, and wine tastings.

A recent study conducted by the World Food Travel Association revealed some telling insights. Eighty-one percent of surveyed tourists believe that local food aids in their understanding of a travel destination’s culture. Moreover, 82 percent are willing to splurge more on food while on vacation than they would at home, and 83 percent say that food leaves a lasting impression on a country.

The ways in which people engage with culinary tourism are equally revealing. An overwhelming 93 percent of survey respondents have participated in at least one authentic culinary experience over the past two years. A whopping 70 percent have the habit of bringing back food or drinks as souvenirs from their travels. Furthermore, 47 percent enjoy grocery shopping at local stores while on vacation, and 45 percent have engaged in a minimum of five culinary activities during their last trip.

Current Challenges in the Culinary Tourism Industry

Despite the remarkable expansion of wine tourism and gastronomy travel, the industry faces some substantial challenges. One pressing concern is sustainability, as the production and consumption of food and wine can significantly impact the environment. There’s also unease about how culinary tourism can affect local communities, potentially leading to the commercialization of culture and the displacement of traditional food and drink vendors.

Additionally, there’s the issue of elitism and cultural appropriation within the sector. While gourmet travel and wine culture offer a wonderful chance to connect with local people and explore their culinary and drinking traditions, there’s a risk of reinforcing stereotypes and exploiting cultural heritage along the way.

The Future of Culinary Tourism

The future of wine culture and gastronomy tourism is filled with promise, even in the face of existing challenges. The industry is poised for growth and evolution, continually introducing new destinations and distinctive experiences. A wave of technological enhancements aimed at enhancing the dining adventure, the ongoing development of sustainable and responsible tourism practices, and the deepening integration of food and drink into broader cultural and historical contexts are among the significant trends that will likely shape the industry in the years ahead. In the quest for culinary delights across the globe, sustainable and responsible travel is the path forward. As we celebrate the diverse tapestry of international cuisine, it’s essential to acknowledge that our choices have consequences for the environment and the well-being of local communities. So, what does this vision entail, and how can we ensure that our culinary adventures are both enjoyable and ethical?

One practical step is to seek out tour operators who prioritize sustainability and responsibility. From farm-to-table experiences to community-led food tours, there are plenty of options for travelers eager to support local businesses and minimize their environmental footprint.

However, it’s not solely about the tour operator; it’s also about our conduct as responsible travelers. This means showing respect for local cultures, minimizing waste, and championing small-scale farmers and producers whenever feasible.

A particularly intriguing area of growth lies in the fusion of wine culture and culinary tourism with other spheres of interest, such as adventure tourism and wellness tourism. Imagine pairing a wine-tasting journey with a scenic hike or combining a cooking class with a soothing spa day.

To ensure the bright future of these industries, it’s imperative to address the challenges they face as they expand, including sustainability and cultural appropriation. Encouraging ethical tourist practices, forging partnerships with local communities, and placing a stronger emphasis on education and cultural exchange can all contribute to this effort.


If you’re looking for a new adventure, why not set out on a global gastronomic adventure? There’s something to delight every palate, from relishing street food in Bangkok to savoring fine dining in Paris. Not only will you have the opportunity to sample extraordinary flavors and dishes, but you’ll also establish connections with local communities and forge lifelong memories.

The culinary tourism industry is brimming with potential, and its popularity around the world ensures that you will have something new and exciting to try on your next travel!