Cultivating the Food-Focused Culinary Traveler
By Robert Habeeb President & Chief Executive Officer, First Hospitality Group, Inc. | July 30, 2017
As so many hotel owners and operators can attest, food-focused travel is on the rise. The trend is unmistakable: more and more hotel guests are selecting destinations and planning itineraries around regional, local, or even restaurant-specific food and beverage options. These guests, referred to as culinary travelers, not only make food and drink experiences a priority during their travels, they are often willing to go well out of their way to make those experiences happen.
Experience is the key word here. We are in an experience economy and consumers are placing a great deal of value on the F&B experience. Look at the trend in roof top bars for example. Ten years ago they were very rare, now they are an increasingly popular feature that owners and developers, including First Hospitality Group (FHG), are looking to include in a large percentage of new developments.
A pair of recent studies provides additional detail about the culinary traveler trend-and about the central role that food and dining plays in the travel planning process for growing numbers of families and individuals. AAA's latest travel survey revealed that "an estimated 22 million Americans expect to take a culinary-focused vacation in the next 12 months." Additionally, three out of four Americans "feel that food and dining are an important part of their travel experiences" and four out of five Americans report participating in the kind of memory-making culinary experiences that extend well beyond the standard restaurant visit.
The AAA report cites things like winery and distillery tours, dining with local families, and participating in hands-on experiences such as cooking classes taught by local chefs. Another study by the World Food and Travel Association unveiled more data to support the culinary traveler trend. It found that culinary travelers make up approximately half of all trip takers, and a remarkable 93 percent of those surveyed "participated in a unique food or beverage activity while traveling in the past two years." Both of those numbers are trending up.
With those figures in mind, it's clear that responsible hotel owners and operators need to be taking steps to make sure that they understand what the priorities and preferences of culinary travelers are, and to keep those insights in mind as they create and promote new culinary experiences in their hotels:
A New and Influential Demographic