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Gastronomy in Tourism: The Good the Bad and the Ugly

Gastronomy in Tourism: The Good the Bad and the Ugly
Author: Roxanne L. Cooper
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This paper emphasises how gastronomy has a negative and positive role to play in the tourism experience. Identifying, 'good', 'bad' and 'ugly' aspects of gastronomy and tourism; specifically focusing on motivation, marketing and culture.


Gastronomy, motivation, marketing, culture, authentic local cuisine

Discussion Paper:

Gastronomy in Tourism: The Good the Bad and the Ugly

When you think about gastronomy and tourism do you think of positive images of nice food, fine dining and rewards at a destination? How about the negative aspects and potential risks? This conference paper therefore fits within strand one, 'tragedies, risk and rewards: travelling in an uncertain world'. Uncertainty tends to focus on extreme, macro tourism issues such as safety and terrorism; however, uncertainty can also apply to a microenvironment like gastronomy, demonstrating that something as niche as gastronomic tourism or as mundane as food can have significant negative and positive impacts. This paper will look at the uncertainty, rewards, risks and tragedies within food that is produced and consumed at a destination.

The primary aim of the multidisciplinary gastronomic tourism is to "enhance the gastronomic life of communities with a view to environmental and social sustainability" (Boyne, Hall and Williams, 2003) by providing good food from local produce. It is a rapid growth area (Mintel, 2009) with many examples of positive consumption; however, it also brings negative effects and participation barriers. Literature has focused upon the affirmative elements and less on barriers, which in some cases cause major problems with food in the tourism industry (ugly); therefore this paper will make recommendations to help overcome these. Nevertheless, gastronomy is a relatively new field of research with a number of areas remaining to be explored. There are many cities emerging as gastronomic destinations, such as Tokyo and New York (Mintel, 2009), these need to be looked at to be able to decide how gastronomic tourism is being consumed within them, and whether it is successful, and if so to what extent? Therefore it is necessary to discuss both positive and negative sides using industry related examples within three key areas, motivation, marketing and culture.

Motivation is the driving force behind customer participation, therefore essential to consider for the niche gastronomic tourism. In particular status and prestige; this involves not only eating in the best restaurant but also being seen to eat there. It is not only chefs trying to achieve Michelin stars but also consumers that strive to eat at these top restaurants, resulting in positive effects on the industry. Or does it? While tourists are motivated to visit the gastro-tourism locations that have prestige, some rustic rural restaurants are not receiving the same treatment; gastronomy is about local produce and experiencing food, as well as fine dining (Povey, 2011) and Michelin stars.

Similar findings are found within marketing, where food plays a vital role in destination marketing, a mechanism that helps set customer expectations; if these are too high then the expectations are not reached which can result in dissatisfaction (Povey, 2011). Customer categorisation by Boyne, Hall and Williams (2003) shows a huge potential market, with three quarters of people being able to be persuaded to some extent to participate in gastronomic tourism. A good example of this is Hong Kong where they are considered the culinary capital of Asia, and in 2009 launched the 'Hong Kong food and wine year', this celebrated and promoted local produce and restaurants, reinventing many food cultures and traditions. However a rise in consumers means an increase in pressure on producers, if this is left to develop and put strain on the local providers the situation becomes 'ugly' and businesses cannot cope with the pressure, resulting in closure.

It is argued that food only exists if culturally accepted by local communities within a destination; people are becoming more adventurous when consuming food, moving away from mass tourism (Mintel, 2009). Gastronomy meets the requirement of a cultural tourism product and therefore offers many destinations the opportunity to develop a new, quality tourism experience that is currently experiencing high yield, such as short breaks to gourmet escapes. However, in regards to edibility as a barrier to consumption (Povey, 2011), traditions limit ingredients within some cultures such as Anglo-American not consuming dog meat. This can lead to an 'ugly' situation if tourists are offended by the food provided. For example the 'Breslin restaurant' in America opened opposite a mosque which led to a number of issues such as serving alcohol and pork; this did not suit the culture of those attending the mosque. It is identified that within individual culture there are recreational and experimental food tourists (Povey, 2011), similar to allocentric and psychocentric in Plog's tourist's typology; each have different preferences within gastronomy, whether that be safe, familiar ingredients or authenticity. It is therefore essential for destinations and businesses within the industry to attract and cater for a wide variety of customers in order to meet their needs successfully.

It is therefore possible to conclude that even though previous literature discussed gastronomy and tourism as having only positive concepts, there are also elements of negativity and 'ugly' issues affecting some customers and destinations, with excess pressure on producers and conflicting traditions. This is resulting in some uncertainty within the industry and issues surrounding gastronomy; so what can be done about this? Most of these issues could be alleviated through understanding the customer and creating specific marketing campaigns, ensuring that the focus remains within local produce and good quality food, rather than emphasising fine dining in order to develop future tourism strategies for destinations.


Boyne, S., Hall, D., and Williams, F. (2003) Policy, Support and Promotion for Food-Related Tourism Initiatives: A Marketing Approach to Regional Development in Hall, M., Wine, Food and Tourism Marketing, Binghampton: The Haworth Hospitality Press

Mintel (2009) Gastronomic Tourism - International [online] Mintel: London [Accessed 27 March 2012] Available at: < http://academic.mintel.com/sinatra/oxygen_academic/search_results/show&/display/id=417677/display/id=417677/display/id=417677/display/id=417677/display/id=455902?select_section=417677>

Povey, G., (2011) Gastronomy and Tourism in Robinson, P., Heitmann, S., and Dieke, P., Research Themes for Tourism. Oxfordshire: CABI International