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‘Culinary Experience’ Trend Can Grow Agritourism
By Jane Eckert
By necessity, the tourism industry is constantly evolving, always moving on to “what’s new” to promote in their region, state or province. They dare not be satisfied with their existing attraction products, and the best marketers are always doing research as to what people will want next when they travel.
So, where does this leave “agritourism?” Are we still a buzzword? Well, yes and no. Agritourism is still very popular, and now, the new catch phrase seems to be “culinary experiences.” With a little creativity, we can still be very hot on the travel industry radar. After all, nothing is more crucial to a great culinary experience than local farm fresh fruits, vegetables and meat.
If you’ve been an agritourism farm for long, you already know that we can never be satisfied with what we did last year. We must continue to improve and look for new products and activities to excite our customers—so let’s see what the tourism industry has come up with to expand our offerings.
According to The International Culinary Tourism Association, www.culinarytourism.org, “culinary tourism is about how to best develop and market a new kind of visitor attraction--with unique and memorable food and drink experience.” About 17 percent of American leisure travelers say they want to include culinary experiences when they travel. Research shows these travelers typically are younger, more affluent and better educated than non-culinary travelers, and that’s a nice group to attract to the farm.
Types of culinary activities, as listed by the Travel Industry Association, include: “cooking classes, dining out for a unique and memorable experience, visiting farmers markets, gourmet food shopping and attending food festivals which include participating in winery tours, driving a farm or wine trail, and tasting locally grown foods and wines.”
Sure, we already participate in many of these categories--festivals, wine tours, markets, and classes—but the take home point is what we learn from the tourism industry. A new name, a few tweaks here and there, and our business can continue to grow and expand. We need to be making the “culinary connection,” and getting the word out to customers and our local tourism organizations.
There are now a variety of Web sites that are popping up in different states to make this traveler/food connection. California has recently launched a new website, www.landofwineandfood.com, used to promote the state wine and food offerings and touted internationally by Governor Schwarzenegger. Conde Nast Traveler magazine just did a recent article on “top farm tables” for unique dining experiences. We can be sure that the media will continue to promote these farm stops as more become available.
While most of us are not ready to launch into full culinary meals, it is important that we keep this trend in mind as we develop new products and activities. For example, as you expand your bakery offerings, develop signature products that use your fresh fruits in order to set your item apart from your neighbor or grocery bakery. Cooking classes and demonstrations with your products are another way to participate in the new travel trend.
Make the connection today with the culinary experience. The public is ready and anxious to “eat locally grown,” and whether you encourage them at the market, or you are one of the many farms and ranches expanding your food experiences with cafes and restaurants, think “culinary” to grow your business. This trend is going to leave a great taste in your mouth.
Jane Eckert is the founder of Eckert AgriMarketing (www.eckertagrimarketing.com), a full-service marketing and public relations firm that helps farmers to sell directly to consumers, diversify operations and become tourist destinations. She is also CEO of www.RuralBounty.com, a search directory for agritourism farms and ranches in North America. Jane can be reached at 314-862-6288 or you may email her directly.