Food is an essential part of your travelling experience and when it comes to picking your food source while abroad, what the internet has to say about a potential choice can make or break your decision. It is becoming more and more clear that people/consumers are increasingly looking at social media for other consumers’ reviews about restaurants. These consumer-to-consumer reviews are often perceived more trustworthy than information given by companies.
Another established trend is the use of influentials, people that have a blog or vlog to provide information, sometimes paid by DMO’s (destination marketing organisations) about a specific destination or activity. Of course, traditional actors such as tourism entrepreneurs and DMOs also use social media to inform consumers and tourists about their products.
The extent to which choices for specific destinations depend on these different social media, however, is difficult to say. Research has shown that consumers at least partly rely on such sources when deciding on their next holiday destination. Of course, these choices involve more aspects to consider, such as dominant motivations, influence of other relevant people, time, and costs, but what others have to say about them is still a major factor.
For a group of tourists, it could be said that food becomes a possible reason and/or motivation for tourists to travel.
Research has also shown that food tourism can be seen as an important aspect in the marketing of a region or destination. Food and experiencing food are indeed often linked to local products and local culture, which can be great in increasing the attractiveness of a destination.
Food tourism could be described in line with what Hall and Mitchell refer to as: Visitation to primary and secondary food producers, food festivals, restaurants and specific locations for which food and tasting and/or experiencing the attributes of a specialist food production region are the primary motivating factors for travel (2001, p. 308). Very often this is linked to specific experiences at food fairs, events, farmers’ markets, cooking shows and demonstrations, tastings of quality food products or any tourism activity related to food.
Since food is an essential part of every holiday, it is quite important to think about ways to include it in marketing efforts and explore the ways in which food and food tourism can positively influence the attractiveness of a destination.
Local food can increase the attractiveness of a destination and can contribute positively to the touristic experience. In some cases, tourists might even stay longer in one place because of the availability of food-related activities. Locally produced food products contribute to local economies because food is a significant component of the overall tourist spend. Linking food to tourism might strengthen the destination, which means that food tourism can therefore bring numerous advantages to all of the stakeholders involved.
The fact that food is an essential part in every holiday also means that although some might have a less favorable position in terms of options and image, food tourism is possible in every country. Having said that, being a well-known producer of some products, such as wine in France and Parma ham in Italy, helps to market your destinations better. The link to local produced food seems to be the most vital element.
What can be interesting to note when it comes to food tourism in Malta is that research has shown how food can be a motivation to revisit food events and destinations. In this respect, although Malta might not be a well-known food tourism destination at the moment, it can definitely benefit if tourists will have experienced food during their visits. In the future, food tourism can become a potential competitive advantage in the branding of Malta. Repeat visits can be stimulated if destination marketing organisations, entrepreneurs and local governments come together to invest in food-related activities and in doing so, enhance the touristic experience.
Hotels and restaurants can respond to the increasing demand for local food by providing more information about their product and where it comes from to their customers.
Hotels and restaurants need to have information about their tourists. Research from Lee et al. (2014) showed that tourists often do similar activities at home and in the destination, especially in relation to food consumption. Also, they could invest in relations with local producers and explore the opportunities for more locally produced food.