Today's New Food Traveler

By Erik Wolf Executive Director, World Food Travel Association | August 07, 2016

Food is always an important consideration for travelers, for some more so than others. The food tourism industry is almost 15 years old and in this time, we’ve been able to identify changes in consumer behavior when it comes to food and travel. Some of these changes are driven by health concerns or religion, while others are driven by consumers’ obsession with food and drink. Still, there are some basic tenets of behavior when it comes to foodies and their purchasing decisions. There are actually 13 different types of foodies, and knowing which foodie( s ) you’re targeting can make or break your marketing plan – and your bottom line.

Food tourism is all the rage, and you will find the topic on the agenda of conferences all around the world. Many destinations now include food and drink in their marketing mix. Convention centers and hotels regularly focus on locally sourced ingredients that will help to provide delegates a memory and not just a meal. Who doesn’t like a tasty meal? Yet ask yourself, “what are we really eating with each mouthful?” The answer is as simple as, a taste of the area’s culture and history.

Not all food lovers are the same. This is a fundamental issue in promoting traveler experiences such as lodging, dining, attractions, meetings/conventions, and many more. Combine this fact with the range of available cuisines, dozens of restaurant rating systems, and service inconsistency, and it is easy to see that satisfying a traveling food lover can be like playing the slot machine. Getting to know the specifics of your customers’ interests is easier now with available technology and research tools.

Food-loving travelers are in a difficult position too. They like to experience other cuisines, but many times, they do not know much more about them, apart from the iconic brands or dishes that are universally recognized, or the “dumbed-down” versions of the cuisine found in other countries. An example would be the difference in food culture between neighboring US states like Georgia and Tennessee, or neighboring countries like Australia and New Zealand. These differences are not easily apparent to outsiders. This can confuse potential visitors, and confused ( or uninformed ) visitors means fewer sales. Georgia is known for peach pie, boiled peanuts, Brunswick stew and of course Coca-Cola. Tennessee is known for barbeque and whisky. The differences between the cuisines of Georgia and Tennessee will be readily apparent to food travelers who look for, and appreciate, these differences.

Travelers seek stories and experiences more than just a meal, and your marketing efforts should reflect that. Promoting only high-end dining experiences will attract a certain kind of foodie, namely those who are gourmet-oriented. Promoting a wide range of experiences is like casting a net wide. It can be effective if you want to attract a wide variety of foodies. However, if your area has not yet identified its food tourism positioning, you should make a modest investment in research to find out what kind of foodie would resonate most with your destination. There are as many as 13 different kinds of PsychoCulinary profiles for foodies.

PsychoCulinary profiling is the newest way to finely segment marketing to foodies. Remember what we said about casting the net too wide? Doing so can yield unintended, and even undesirable, results. By promoting to a person with a “gourmet” PsychoCulinary profile, you’ll attract gourmet guests. If your food and drink truly are not gourmet, then you run the very real risk of fostering bad word of mouth with those customers, which you definitely do not want. However, if you promote to people with “authentic” PsychoCulinary profiles, and your offering is truly authentic, then you should score very close to 100% satisfaction. Why? Because these travelers seek the authentic kinds of food and beverage experiences. Other PsychoCulinary traveler types include: innovative, social, trendy, vegetarian, adventurer, ambiance, novice, localist, eclectic, organic and budget. Consumers typically exhibit high scores in up to three primary PsychoCulinary profiles, so even if someone’s first choice is “social”, they very well may also like “gourmet” or “innovative”.

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