Tourism is acknowledged as a major contributor to the overall economy in most countries. Yet scientists agree that there is no one definite tourism industry – rather it consists of several industries – transportation, food and beverage, accommodation, sights, marketing, promotion, guides, printing and entertainment.
There are different categories of tourists – sightseers, sun and sand worshippers, bargain and souvenir hunters, eco-tourists, discoverers, adventurers and gastronomic.
Culinary tourism, a term coined by an American anthropologists, caters to travelers who design their trips, excursions, and vacations with food and drink as their primary or secondary focal interests. They want to satisfy their appetite for regional experiences and culinary knowledge by attending cooking seminars or short courses, touring vineyards or breweries, tasting and sampling local artisanal foods and beverages, and dining in restaurants with imaginative menus.
can manifest itself in a variety of ways. Some will specifically travel to a region to experience outstanding food, select beverages, flawless service and pleasant ambience and plan their activities to fit between meals. This can be visiting wineries, breweries, and/or distilleries. Torontonians and inhabitants of Rochester and Buffalo frequently decide to travel to Niagara Falls or Niagara-on-the-Lake to taste fine wines, and eat well in one of the first class restaurants that have now established themselves in either town.
The newly opened casino in Niagara Falls operates a fine restaurant frequented by well-heeled gamblers.
Tourism generates $ 20.0 billion for the economy of Ontario, representing a significant percentage of the overall creating an estimated 200,000 jobs.
Culinary tourists spend more than regular tourists; have a better educational background, fewer dependants, and travel often seeking adventurous foods. The term “adventurous food” depends on the cultural and ethnic background of the tourist. While some will scoff at snail in garlic butter being too common, others may be hesitant and even refuse to try it because they cannot imagine that anyone may want to eat a snail.
Eating preferences and habits depend very much on the environment in which people are born and raised. Western governments encouraging tourism are aware of the culinary tourism segment, and help to the extent they can or know, but often funds spent could be more productive if targeted strategically.
The Niagara region produces a significant amount of fresh food. Often producers don’t have time to contact chefs; on the other hand chefs cannot find produce they are interested in featuring. A government set web site bringing producers and end users would largely eliminate this major distribution impediment, thus making it easier for all concerned.
Studies show that many Torontonians drive to the Niagara region and turn off QEW to reach the Niagara Bench to visit wineries. Several wineries operate restaurants, a few offer cheese plates, and one specializes in fine cheeses. Most of these establishments did not exist a decade ago.
Others drive to Niagara-on-the-Lake and spend their time tasting wine, buying a few bottles and visiting at least a fine restaurant (Peller Estates as does Hillebrand Winery operates a fine restaurant with impeccable service, and as a matter of policy uses local fresh foods when possible). In both cases all generate revenue for the local economy and create employment.
Ontario is a large province, in fact much larger than the whole of Europe, and contains several regions producing fine food ingredients, from trout, to grain fed beef, tender fruits, quails, mushrooms, fine cheeses, impeccable produce, and prosciutto, but fail to advertise them well enough for the public and create sufficient interest.
Gradually, very gradually attitudes seem to be changing and people are starting to realize that this province grows fine foods, and makes wines worthy of consideration.
Food festivals and entrepreneurs will hopefully be able to increase this welcome awareness.