Eating and drinking interests: Study shows promoting culinary can pay off


PORTLAND, Ore. — A study released today shows the way to United States’ travelers’ wallets may be through their stomachs.

Almost a third of travelers choose destinations based on access to activities focused on food and drink, including beer and wine festivals, farmers’ markets and farm-to-table experiences, according to the study for the Oregon-based World Food Travel Association and other tourism organizations conducted by travel market research firm Mandala Research, LLC.

Carnegie Deli is a New York landmark, a Midtown Manhattan destination dating to 1937 known for its sandwiches and cheesecakes. A just-released study showed New York to be the top U.S. foodie destination.
Photo: Jen Davis/NYC & Company

“For deliberate culinary travelers, the availability culinary activities is a primary reason for taking a trip,” said Laura Mandala, managing director of Alexandria, Va.-based Mandala Research.  “In fact, authenticity and local flavors are the greatest drivers of destination choice for these travelers.”

More than half (51 percent) of respondents said they travel to learn about or enjoy unique and memorable eating and drinking experiences.

Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) said they interested in taking a trip to a destination within the U.S. to engage in culinary activities within the next year.

Asked what U.S. destinations come to mind when thinking of food tourism, the top five responses included New York (46 percent), New Orleans (38 percent), San Francisco (21 percent), Chicago (21 percent) and California’s Napa Valley (12 percent).

“While the results are not unexpected as classic foodie destinations, there is a tremendous opportunity for secondary and tertiary destinations to invest more effort in luring the foodie traveler,” said Erik Wolf, executive director of the World Food Travel Association.

Mandala has worked extensively with the U.S. Department of Commerce and has conducted national studies for resorts, hotels, shopping malls and destinations.

She said: “This study goes beyond just eating and drinking, and identifies travelers who are seeking out unique and memorable experiences that are authentic to the destination they are visiting.”

Food from great New Orleans restaurants is served up at The New Orleans Wine & Food Experience's Royal Street Stroll. 
Photo: Courtesy of New Orleans Wine & Food Experience

Among the implications of the study’s findings are:

  • Travelers are most interested in local and authentic foods and culinary experiences that are different from those they can get at home. 
  • Most travelers combine culinary activities with other activities, also participating in cultural, heritage and nature-based activities.
  • Increasing reliance on reviews and recommendations of friends and acquaintances makes getting the word out through social media and other user-content sources critical for destinations.
  • Festivals motivate culinary travelers, so destination marketing organizations should consider hosting a beer, wine or culinary festival to feature local fare, products and unique food activities such as chef demonstrations and samplings.
  • Foodies want to be educated when traveling, with 83 percent saying they like to learn about the local culture and cuisine of destinations they visit; and 83 percent saying they will spend more money on food and drinks while traveling.

Additional sponsors for the study included California Travel & Tourism CommissionVirginia Tourism CorporationDelaware TourismU.S. Cultural and Heritage Tourism Marketing Council and Shop America Alliance.

The survey included 2,113 interviews conducted in May via an online panel. 

To qualify for the survey, respondents had to have taken at least one trip in the previous year for pleasure, vacation or personal purposes within the U.S. that included an overnight stay.


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