Having written much about “culinary tourism” as a freelance food writer for the past 20 years, it’s no surprise to me that more and more consumers are traveling to, well, eat.
Seeking out great local restaurants and unique food experiences has become an integral part of the travel-planning process, with an increasing number of consumers now planning vacations specifically for the culinary experiences they offer. Eating is no longer just considered something they “have” to do while on vacation, but something they “get” to do.
Food often serves as a gateway to a destination’s people, culture and history, so today’s travelers seek out local, authentic cuisine as a way to immerse themselves in a new place they are exploring. And, it seems, more are now willing to break the bank to do so.
According to a fun new survey by MissTravel.com (a travel-dating website with more than 600,000 members in 135 countries), an estimated 35 million people have not only traveled just for a culinary experience, but nearly half (46%) are willing to spend more on food than anything else while on vacation. Way more than they spend on activities (29%), accommodations (17%), even airfare (8%).
I’m living proof. When planning a trip, I know where I’m going to eat and what I’m going to order long before I decide where to stay and what else to do while I’m there. And my food expenditures almost always trump all others. To me, having an unforgettable meal in a special place is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Like travel itself, it’s an experience that will stay with you forever – and I don’t know how you put a price on that.
MissTravel.com founder and CEO Brandon Wade agrees: “People travel to experience a new destination for all it’s worth. They don’t want to spend their precious vacation time in a hotel room, they’re seeking out distinctive experiences that offer unique insights into a new culture. Airports and hotel rooms blend together after time, but the memories of a delectable dish or the experience of trying something new never fades.”