Culinary Tourism and How it Adds Value to the Tourism Product

The entire tourist experience is centred around consumption – whether it is taking in the sights and sounds or the experiences by interacting with other travellers and locals. The emerging trend in consumption by travellers in more recent times has extended to the flavours of the destination, in every sense of the word.

When carefully considered, all tourists dine out – away from home and their usual haunts. This means that dining becomes an integral component of elevating the tourist experience to a sensory level where local food becomes a key attraction. The growth of exploring destinations through cuisine, coupled with globalisation have literally brought the world to the traveller’s tables, giving rise to numerous media materials centred around food.

Some examples of popular television channels focusing on food include Master Chef, Chef’s Table, Hell’s Kitchen, Jamie’s Kitchen and Bizarre Food. Popular travel magazines themed entirely on food and travel include Food and Travel, Gourmet Traveller, Spenser, Alimentum and The Cultureist. The integration of food and travel in mainstream media sometimes makes it difficult to differentiate whether you’re exploring food or travel through the various presentations.

These advances in showcasing a destination through rich media, have taken on a new form compared to years before when journeys were made across oceans in search of spices and preserved food, then published in scientific or gastronomic journals. With media now dedicated to food and travel, destinations are able to appeal to a different type of traveller, who’s motivation to travel is spurred by the cuisine of a destination.

Although a new player in this game, Fiji has gotten off to a good start. According to the New Zealand Herald who has a readership of more than 583,000 - five generations of Indian Fijians have added to the diverse food choices in Fiji. Angela Casley, an established food critique who received culinary training in Britain in the 80s, where she specialised in private dinner parties for famous clients and events such as a banquet for 500 parliamentarians, visited Fiji and shared her favourite recipes which she discovered through her sojourn in publications such as the New Zealand Herald and Viva, another major publication which has a weekly readership of over 280,000.

Yahoo Travel believes that Fiji’s sense of luxury extends to our food, where courses include the likes of smoke buffalo boconcini, sesame crusted fresh yellow fin tuna, kind salmon tartar, cauliflower veloute, braised wagyu beef short rib and goat cheese sorbet, later followed by a hazlenut and milk chocolate mousse prepared by well-travelled and experienced chefs can be found.

Menus in Fiji include distinct local touches like the inclusion of fresh mud crabs and crunchy sea grapes, more commonly known to locals as nama. Delicacies which are a real luxury and considered ‘special occasion’ food by travellers.

Unknown to many travellers to Fiji, is the emergence of a richer culinary experience which extends beyond degustation dining and market food stalls, which offers cooking classes. Flavours of Fiji, Fiji’s first cooking school, specialises in catering for food travellers.  The school allows travellers to immerse themselves in the destination where the experience begins in the Nadi Market where the students get to choose from a selection of fresh produce which lays the platform for the class they will be taught.

The cooking school offers travellers the ability to not just taste local cuisine, but take home a more meaningful memoir – tested recipes with skills that were imparted by locals. The preparation of a Fijian dish and an Indo-Fijian dish are featured prominently in the class, which always results in bursts of giggles throughout the class and exclamations of delight at the end product.

Kia Ora Travel recently shared their many good reasons to holiday in Fiji, which focused on cuisine, which has never been a feature of motivators when choosing Fiji as a destination. They found it strange because they believed that the raw materials for an amazing culinary experience are all here: fresh, seasonal produce and sustainable seafood, which have been at the heart of Fijian cuisine forever.

Publications such as Yahoo Travel, New Zealand Herald and Kia Ora Travel share that good food is all over the place – in the markets, straight off the fishing boats, at the local Indian restaurants, on roadside stalls and in private homes. In not so many words, they also believe that the good food found outside most resorts needs to find a way onto the table, as sometimes what is served up isn’t a genuine reflection of local cuisine – a challenge which has spurred on a promising movement within Fiji’s tourism industry.

Published in the Fiji Times -  Saturday 1st August, 2015
Author: Patricia Mallam - Global Public Relations Manager at Tourism Fiji, experienced digital nomad and foodie, with a passion for environmental conservation.