food tourismGone are the days when a food baby and stretchy pants were something to hide, as more tourists seek out food and wine as a highlight of their holiday – and tourism marketers around the world are making the most of it, as JASMINE O’DONOGHUE reports. 

For many, eating and drinking goes hand in hand with a holiday.

‘Great food and wine’ is now a defining factor in holiday decision making, with Tourism Australia finding it ranked in the top three priorities for travellers. In response the national tourism marketing body launched its ‘Restaurant Australia’ campaign last year.

TA managing director John O’Sullivan said drawing attention to the “people, produce and places that lie behind our country’s exceptional food and wine experiences has been a major focus…and pleasingly we’re seeing the benefits of this work clearly reflected in the latest tourism figures”.

O’Sullivan said one in five tourism dollars is now spent by international visitors to Australia on food and wine. One word which rapidly caught the attention of diners is “Noma,” with the foodie community stirred into action when the Copenhagen-based restaurant announced a ten week Sydney residency from January 2016. All 5,500 available seats were snapped up within minutes of the booking website going iive – despite a $485 per person price tag that excludes drinks. While the menu has yet to be revealed, chef Rene Redzepi is renowned for serving up indigenous flavours – such as live ants.

Tourism Ireland is also jumping on the food and drink campaign trail, with the organisation’s recently appointed manager for Australia and New Zealand, Sofia Hansson, declaring 2016 as “the year for food and drink in Northern Ireland”.

It doesn’t hurt that celebrity chef Colin Fassnidge, star of Channel 7 blockbuster My Kitchen Rules, happens to be Irish. He’s been enlisted to promote the Tourism Ireland culinary message, and recently told travelBulletin that the food movement in Ireland has “just got clever”.

“It’s not about how much food is on the plate, it’s ‘oh my god it tasted good’ and I think that’s what was missing for years,” he said. Before Fassnidge left his homeland a good meal was defined by its quantity, not where it came from or the quality. “Now there’s a new excitement about farming and cooking,” he said.

When it comes to food and wine the French certainly have a strong reputation – something that Atout France chief Patrick Benhamou isn’t shy about taking advantage of. Benhamou is well known across the industry for his lavish culinary presentations showcasing various regions in the country.

At a recent luncheon in Sydney industry guests were plied with Champagne, authentic foie gras and a tasting plate of imported mustard – from Dijon, of course.

Italy’s food and wine are also strong contributing factors to Australian visitation. Italy is consistently a top performing outbound market for Aussies, with a particularly high repeat factor as people explore the various regions of the country.

Trafalgar is one of the operators capitalising on this, offering a ‘Flavours of Italy’ guided holiday. The ten day “foodie trip” ventures from Rome to Venice.

A highlight is a ‘Be My Guest’ cooking class with a Florence chef where guests shop in the local market for ingredients they will need to provide lunch later in the day.

“Food is such an important part of a destination’s culture and is one of the key decision drivers for our guests,” said Trafalgar MD Matthew Cameron-Smith.

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