In the build-up to holidays abroad, a lot of people start to cut back on desserts and snacking between meals to look their best in their bikinis and trunks. Once you’re there however, all bets are off. An essential part of travelling to other countries is experiencing all the wonderful food you can’t get at home – holidays are not the time to deny yourself.

Food has always gone hand in hand with travel; you’re unlikely to find a single guide or travel blog that doesn’t mention what the dining options are like in that particular region. The stats back this up as, “according to the World Food Travel Association, 75% of leisure travellers visit destinations because of local food-based activities.” 

Why is food so important to travel?

Food can provide a doorway into culture. Everyone has to eat, it’s a universal activity – no matter how inaccessible the customs or language of a foreign land are, people can communicate through food. As one writer puts it, “However we tell it, what we eat wherever we are is an anchor, a common human thread… A dish can travel anywhere, but there’s always a reason it began where it did, a reason it ended up where it did. There’s always a story, and it starts with the first bite.”

Certain countries, such as Italy and Japan, top lists of best foodie destinations time and time again. However, one of the best things about food tourism is it is literally about taste. While some may be seeking out the finest paella in the world, others dream of steaming tagines of spiced lamb. Sometimes the story behind the dish is almost as important as the dish itself.

What is the future of food tourism?

This aspect of local cuisine, the mythology and history of it, seems to be the driving force behind recent food tourism trends. Fewer and fewer people want to travel to Singapore to eat in a Michelin-starred French restaurant – they can now actually visit a local hawker stall that has its own Michelin star and sells chicken rice and noodles. They want to learn the preparation process, see where the food has come from and experience it as part of the culture of the country they’re visiting.

Tourism has the ability to stimulate the growth of economies in the communities it takes root in – but it can also homogenise those communities. In recent years, travellers have reacted against this and, using sites like EatWith and Meal Sharing, seek to participate in the culture, rather than drive it out. These sites allow you to choose by dish or country and to find locals willing to invite you into their homes for a meal. This kind of authenticity is what a lot of people are searching for.

What are the top destinations?

Food may be subjective, but quality is less so. Here are some of the cities around the world constantly topping lists for their culinary offering:

  • Paris, France
  • Bangkok, Thailand
  • New Orleans, United States
  • Tokyo, Japan
  • Cairo, Egypt
  • Marrakech, Morocco
  • Mumbai, India
  • Rome, Italy
  • Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • Beijing, China

So, when booking your next holiday, follow the advice of the great Orson Welles: “Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.”   

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