The act of travelling for a taste of place in order to get a sense of place has nothing to do with dialectical materialism or existentialism. It is just food tourism, as defined by Erik Wolf, Executive Director of World Food Travel Association.
What motivates the new generation of travellers is the destination, no doubt, but the culinary culture of the place also features prominently in influencing the destination, studies suggest. Food experience is increasingly becoming a definitive aspect of the travel experience, and travellers are happy to splash on authentic local food and beverage experiences.
Cashing in on this growing trend are tour companies specialised in food tourism, and allied firms. Culinary events targeting tourists are mushrooming across the world. No wonder, the cuisine of the destination holds high potential, and many destinations are only waking up to this exciting opportunity.
Studies show that more than 50 per cent of Generation X and Millennial and over 40 per cent of Boomers are already ‘qualified’ food tourists, and their numbers are only expected grow exponentially in the coming years.
Food tourism, one of the most dynamic segments of the tourism market, could be any destination’s darling due to multiple factors: it promotes sustainability as it is environment-friendly, enhances local economy, popularises local food culture, and generates great pride among locals in their own culinary culture and heritage. The extent of food tourism’s contribution to local destination development depends only on how prepared the destination is in exploiting the same.
The best part is, food tourism has overgrown itself over the last few years, and is much more than just savouring local cuisines. It now embraces diverse cultural practices that link to the social, historical, cultural and ethical values of the destination along with its landscape.
We also see the emergence of specialised organisations tasked with safeguarding and promoting the authentic food culture of the region. Euro-Toques is an example. Recognised by the European Union as an organisation that defends quality European food, Euro-Toques acts as a lobby group in Europe. Established in Brussels in 1986, the international organisation represents more than 3500 chefs and cooks from 18 countries.
The main objectives of Euro-Toques include promoting the good practices of artisan food producers, protecting the culinary heritage of Europe in all its diversity and with its different origins. In addition to safeguarding the healthiness of food products and encouraging natural combinations and demanding proper labelling in order to provide consumers with clear information allowing them to make choices based on solid criteria. It also works to ensure value to seasonal products and support regional artisan production.
Isn’t it high time that the Sultanate, which is as renowned for its natural beauty as it is for its rich, delicious culinary culture, had a food advocacy group to promote its sublime cuisine? Be it the national dish of Oman: Shuwa—generously spiced rice and meat wrapped in a banana leaf and cooked in an underground oven for a couple of days, Majboos— a dish of spicy rice, Kahwa—a host of dishes made of dates, the Omani coffee infused with spices and Omani halwa, Meshkak—meat marinated with spices, or Harees—wheat mixed with meat, Omani cuisines are awesome, and need to be highlighted at international tourism festivals.
Meanwhile, reports say that among the GCC countries, food consumption in Oman is expected to grow the fastest at a CAGR of 4.6 per cent, from 3.2 million ton in 2018 to 4.0 million tonne in 2023, driven by a growth of 2.5 per cent in GDP and 3.2 per cent in population, along with a 5.5 per cent CAGR in tourist arrivals during the period. To
meet this food demand and strengthen the food industry, Oman Food Investment Holding Co. is working on three major projects: An integrated fruit and vegetable marketing company, an improved logistics programme and a food techno-park.
Welcome international tourists! Come to Oman and have a never-before foodie tourism experience!