Today’s travelers don’t just want to go sightseeing when visiting a destination, they want immersion, and one of the best ways to do just that is via food—eating like a local, partaking in cooking workshops, visiting markets….

“Many of my clients,” says Yvonne Corder, owner of Bucket List Travel Company and part of the Travel Leaders network, “want to experience more than the gorgeous views on their vacations. They want to have their adventures touch all of their senses and to be fully immersed in the culture.” Adds Rhonda Macier, an independent agent in the Avoya Network, “Culinary-focused clients love the idea of destination immersive vacation. This could be a river cruise, small luxury boats, or land tours. Right now the river cruises promoting their dining experiences based on the local cuisine, food from fresh markets, and fresh herbs grown right on the boat are very popular.” Lynn Ciccarelli, owner of Bella Vacations, and a Virtuoso agent, notes that for her group of clients the trend is “eat local with locals.”

So how can you differentiate if someone wants a completely food-focused trip or if they simply want one cool food tour or cooking experience? Ciccarelli says that in the “initial planning stage of the trip I listen to see if food and wine are important,” and Corder says that she likes to learn “about prior experiences in life and on vacation. What do they want to take away from their next adventure? Depending on the clients, there are specific tour companies for their most desired itineraries…often they look for a little adventure in taste along the way.” Macier, too, notes that it’s important to know what questions to ask. “If it’s a chef, they usually like to try foods in new destinations as well as be part of the entertainment for their friends and followers. Other clients rely on my recommendations and expertise or just want to know that I’ve done my research and will be sending them on a land tour or cruise that offers Michelin-trained chefs.” Macier also points out that she works with luxury cruise lines known for “their culinary experiences, and I curate trips that are custom-made based on the desires of the ‘pied piper’ of the group. It’s a mix of eating, cooking, drinking, and maybe riding a camel or kayaking a stream. After all, they need to burn calories so they can keep trying the amazing food put before them.”

Culinary Travel
Food market in Israel (credit: Paloma Villaverde de Rico)

Popular Destinations for Food Tourism
Macier points to Europe as “a favorite destination for food aficionados. Mostly Mediterranean and anywhere from Spain and France to Greece and Italy. I feel the mix of wines and fine food pairings allures all types of foodies.” Ciccarellai also points to Europe, specifically Portugal, Italy and France, and notes, too, that Thailand and New Zealand are quite popular for food tourism. Corder makes an interesting note, adding that she’s recently received requests for the lands of the traveler’s ancestors, and with “more interest in ancestry, people feel the need to connect deeper…with interest in Italy and Spain.” She also says that the U.S. wine country is quite popular with her clients.

Who’s Your Target Client
“All ages want culinary experiences,” says Macier. “No matter what the budget is, each individual, couple or family is asking about great options for their dining pleasure. I’ve worked with 30-year-olds who want the hippest most popular restaurant experience, to luxury clients that are 50 years and older and are more interested in the history and culture of each meal being made. Almost like they are searching for their roots through food.” Corder points to “foodie Millennials with children. They love the adventure activities of a new area during the day and to be immersed in the food in the evening.”

And clients, these three travel advisors say, are spending anywhere between $2,500 to $10,000 per person on these gastronomy trips.