by Maria Athanasopoulou
In recent years, gastronomy tourism has become increasingly popular among tourists from all over the world. When we speak about food travellers, we refer to visitors who travel with the aim of participating in food tourism activities. According to a recent survey, 93% of tourists from all over the world over the last two years, participated in at least one ‘food tourism’ experience during their trips (according to 2016 Food Travel Monitor, by world Food Travel Association).
This number is impressive and makes us realise that gastronomy tourism is likely to be Greece's great opportunity to stand out and become an even more popular destination in the coming years.
Greek gastronomy is an authentic, high- quality and long-lasting cuisine, which already has a good reputation abroad. Therefore, we have the guarantees to organise Greek gastronomy tourism on a solid basis.
But is Greek gastronomy enough? No, good local cuisine is not enough to attract more tourists, unless we create the right food tourism experiences that will attract them.
There are certainly important reasons that could make Greece the number one gastronomy tourism destination in the future. What are they?
The historical continuation of century-old Greek gastronomy
Greeks still preserve preparation methods, cooking techniques and local products used in ancient Greece. This proves the authenticity of Greek gastronomy, an authenticity that can attract tourists from all over the world.
The great variety of Greek gastronomy
Greece has a wide variety of local recipes from various regions, which coincide with the local products. For example, there are well-known Greek recipes all over Greece, but in every region, there are some dishes that are presented only in that area. So, we are talking about Epirus cuisine, Corfu cuisine, Cycladic cuisine, Cretan cuisine, and the list goes on.
Greek gastronomy belongs to the Mediterranean diet, which is known worldwide for its benefits on the human body.
From all the above it is easy to understand why Greece can become the leader of global gastronomy tourism.
What do we still need to do?
For Greece, in order to develop gastronomy tourism, it is simply not enough to have tasty local cuisine. Careful planning should be given to provide tourists with modern food tourism experiences which, once priced, can be offered to visitors all over the country.
An example: a dish of Spanakopita (spinach pie) is a gastronomy product. A lesson on how to make spinach pie, which will take place in a well-designed space with a participation fee, is a food tourism activity.
These types of activities are the right way to attract tourists in the future.
Therefore, this is the big step Greece should take in order to develop gastronomy tourism.
These food tourism activities should be very carefully described and when we do this, we have to promote these activities abroad in order to attract tourists from all over the world.
This process is not as difficult as it sounds as Greek gastronomy already is undoubtedly authentic, long-lasting and delicious.
Greek food tourism experiences offered should be of a high standard. They must attract visitors because of their quality, in order for people to speak highly of their experiences and to recommend it to others.
If you consider the Greeks' special relationship with food, you will understand that this bet is not hard to win. From antiquity to the present, Greeks have shown their guests wonderful hospitality, inviting them to eat together.
This act, which is still used by Greeks, is an act of supreme filoxenia. Welcoming our guests to a meal or to dinner has always been a way for the Greeks to show them that they are welcome in Greece.
These are our two strongest elements for the future development of Greek gastronomy tourism. Our good local cuisine and the strong sense of hospitality that the Greeks have. It is a combination that, if cultivated properly, is indestructible.
This means that the necessary link between gastronomy and tourism already exists. What we do not yet have is the development of those appropriate food tourism activities throughout the country, such as cooking lessons, food tours, visits to mills, dairies, wineries, wine tasting, etc.
Anyone who has been following international tourism developments is aware that in the coming year's gastronomy tourism is expected to rise to very high levels, in all countries that will be able to provide it.
The point is to include Greece in these countries as well. Greece, a country with a long gastronomy tradition and a strong sense of hospitality.
Greece has every guarantee of becoming the most popular food tourism destination in the world. We all hope that it will succeed!
Maria Athanasopoulou is Ambassador of the World Food Travel Association in Greece and Master Culinary Travel Professional. He is also the founder of Respond On Demand Ltd, a marketing company and co-founder of the non-profit company top Tourism.