Everybody travels for a reason. Whether they’re chasing summer, looking to hit the slopes, or hoping to see a noteworthy landmark, tourists choose locations with purpose. Of course, that purpose can vary greatly depending on the person, but most tend to fit into general guest ‘types’ that hotels can then cater to. Many lodging operations have policies and amenities for business travelers, leisure travelers—even bleisure travelers—in order to win bookings. It’s a strategy that keeps hotels competitive as guest expectations continue to rise. And there’s an emerging guest type you’ll likely want to look out for: the gastro-tourist.
What is gastro-tourism?
Gastro-tourism—travel in the pursuit of unique food and beverage experiences—is a growing trend in the hospitality industry. Everybody has to eat and encounters with local fare help create a lasting impression of a destination. So it just makes sense that today’s travelers prioritize culinary experiences. And, as any successful hotelier knows, your guest’s priorities should be your priorities.
How can I be involved?
Any property, regardless of size, can cater to the gastro-tourist. It’s just a matter of finding the strategies that complement your hotel’s culture and facilities. Here are a few ideas to get the creative juices flowing:
Farm-to-table dinners >> A huge trend in food today is farm-to-table dining. This involves serving locally grown food typically sourced through direct acquisition. Find a local distributor or grow the fresh veg yourself in an on-site garden. You could even go a step further, location permitting, and host foraging parties that end with a home-cooked meal.
Chef’s table >> Incorporating a chef’s table (or chef’s counter, if that’s more fitting) can be a massive draw for the gastro-tourist. These travelers are seeking unique and authentic food experiences. And dining at a VIP table in the kitchen, engaging with the chef as their food is prepared, definitely fits that bill.
Cooking classes >> Travelers today are looking for immersive experiences. They don’t just want to see; they want to do. Hosting cooking classes is a great way to give those hands-on opportunities to your guests. Learning to prepare local dishes, and then sharing a meal afterward, allows travelers to really engage and appreciate the local culture.
Collaborations >> For properties that aren’t equipped with restaurants or commercial kitchens, consider collaborating with local businesses. You could offer packages that include a meal at a notable local diner or tours of a nearby winery. Perhaps there’s a local food truck that you could host on your property regularly. Or you could create a culinary tour of street-vendors in the area. Take advantage of your community connections and get creative.
Recommendations >>Even if everything else seems too unwieldy, prepare (and keep updated) a list of recommendations for your guest. You can include it on your website, feature it in your lobby and make regular posts on social media platforms.
What will it do for my business?
Catering to the desires of today’s guests is necessary to win bookings. But getting involved in gastro-tourism can reap more benefits than that. For one thing, it can help you make a mark on social media. People take pictures of food. A recent report suggests that culinary tourists share millions of food and beverage images across social media platforms every day. That’s a lot of quality user-generated content that you don’t want to miss out on.
Staying competitive in any industry means staying ahead of the trends. For hospitality and tourism, that continues to be a shift towards experiential and immersive travel. And food and beverage experiences are an important piece of that puzzle.