It’s all explained in Skift’s recent article, “The Bourdain Effect: Food is Now the Leading Hook in Travel,” which appeared in a larger piece about travel industry megatrends for 2016. Those who know and love food get it. Food provides a sense of place that’s tangible and innately satisfying. Besides generally tasting good, cuisine reflects the local heritage and culture. Food-loving explorer Anthony Bourdain isn’t the first to realize this, but he’s paired food, culture and travel in an unprecedented, large-scale way.
Many cities have been shaped by their food scene (like Las Vegas) or are well-known for their deep food culture (like Louisiana), and more and more destinations are aiming to make food a centerpiece of their brand identity. This calls for another helping of culinary content.
Here are some tips for creating strong, enticing food content:
Go beyond the menu to capture a unique experience
Dining engages all the senses and is, at heart, an experience. It can be educational, cultural and personal. In Bermuda, “catch-and-cooks” involve fishing with locals and then cooking your catch together. All over the world, food provides a direct route to cultural immersion. Dining can also be entertainment. You can taste the work of a celebrity chef in a new concept restaurant. You can dine on rooftops, on the waterfront or on the beach with your feet in the sand. You can feast on street food in an electrifying city, or grab a bite at a sidewalk café and watch the parade of people go by. Food broadens your perspective of a place and enriches your experience.
Connect to other destination drivers
Food is a great unifier, in real life and in content. In a new print piece for the Bermuda Tourism Authority, we managed to integrate the following topics in a short feature on food culture: culture, heritage, cuisine (from local seafood to traditional dishes to cocktails), local experiences (including catch-and-cooks), farms, gardens, markets, restaurants, inventive chefs, events and festivals. Food-focused pieces can be surprisingly well-rounded.
Don’t forget the drinks!
Whether it’s coffee, wine, beer, bubbly or cocktails, beverages are an important part of the culinary experience. They quench your thirst, complement the food, lift your spirits and happen to be very good at establishing a unique sense of place. Here are some of my favorite sense-of-place-imparting beverages:
•Cuban Coffee – I’ve haven’t been to Cuba yet, but this super sweet and potent shot of espresso always brings me back to Miami’s Little Havana and to the image of men playing dominos in their guayabera shirts.
•Mojito – Also from Cuba, this classic cocktail is refreshingly sweet and minty. Ernest Hemingway helped make the mojito a fixture in Key West. Add a sugar cane garnish and you’re there.
•Caipirinha – Brazil’s national drink (made with cachaça, sugar and lime) is a simple and tasty party-starter. I’d like to drink one in São Paulo, or maybe in Rio at Carnaval.
•Blue Lagoon – Before visiting the island of Curaçao, I avoided bright-colored drinks as a rule. But when I learned that blue curaçao liqueur is made from the aromatic peels of Valencia oranges (not just food coloring), I lifted the ban.
•Dark ‘n’ Stormy – One of Bermuda’s official beverages (the other being the Rum Swizzle), this drink’s combo of dark rum and ginger beer has a swirl of mystery and adventure that’s perfectly fitting.
•Champagne – If bubbly is a “party for your palate” (as a friend of mine likes to say), real French Champagne is my kind of fête. The story of the Veuve Clicquot brand is especially interesting: the brand name translates to “the widow Clicquot.” After her husband died in 1805, Madame Clicquot became the first woman to take over a Champagne house. (She did quite well, in case you were wondering.)
•Sake – Like sushi, I didn’t love sake the first time I tried it. But then I discovered the Nigori variety, which is unfiltered. It’s cloudy, fruity and delicate as a cherry blossom.
•Pálinka – A staple in Hungary, this fruit brandy is often made from locally grown apricots, pears, plums or cherries. It’s traditionally served in a tulip-shaped glass to intensify the sweet scent as you drink.
•Ouzo – I recently discovered this Greek aperitif at a wedding, where I sipped a little straight (after eating, thank you very much). Its flavor comes from the herbaceous plant anise, which to me tastes like licorice. Delicious. Opa!