Future of culinary tourism bright in India
Hospitality industry experts share insights on the growth, challenges and future of culinary tourism in India
India is an ideal setting for culinary tourism wherein tourists get to explore a destination through its food and flavours. This land of 1.3 billion-plus offers one of the widest possible spreads to the discerning traveller, given the fact that food habits and tastes change every few kilometers, just as the dialects do. What’s more: even different communities living in a particular region have starkly different ways of making a dish from that place. This, in turn, offers a wide variety to tourists, also letting them indulge in a range of activities like food trails, cooking classes, restaurant visits and food festivals. Given that travellers spend almost 40 per cent of their budget on food, according to a recent report, it directly implies that culinary tourism is a vital part of modern-day tourism and plays a major contributory role in the hospitality industry and economy of a country. In 2019, before the pandemic hit us, culinary tourism was valued at around Rs 83 lakh crore globally – it is expected to grow with a CAGR of 16.8 per cent by 2027. The prospects indeed seem bright.
FOOD TRAILS & EXPLORATIONS
Food trails and cooking sessions are imperative to culinary tourism as these provide tourists a first-hand experience of local fragrance and flavours. As Chef Davinder Kumar, President, Indian Culinary Forum, says, “Food trails have even compensated for the lack of sightseeing options at tourist destinations, creating a food identity for these places. Be it a wine trail in France or a tea trail in the hills of India, it is a unique experience that the tourists wish to take away as a memento or a souvenir. Earthy, rustic, organic and local are the buzzwords that can put any place on the world map.”
Resonating similar thoughts is Chef Praveen Shetty, Director, Culinary Conrad, Bengaluru. “Travel and culinary experience go hand-in-hand. We travel to experience the richness in the culture of a country and enjoy the authenticity of the local cuisine. Food exploration has been a trend since its inception as people migrated from one place to another impacting their new surroundings with their culture and lifestyle,” he shares.
MEASURES FOR FORTHCOMING CHANGES
Change is inevitable and learning to change as per the new needs is important. Chef Parul Kapoor of ITC Rajputana says it is important to focus on domestic flavours and palates to attract local travellers, especially in the absence of inbound travellers. “I would say that when the world was normal, we used to cater to both the segments – domestic and international. Depending on the ratio of the domestic traveller vis-à-vis international traveller, we decide the menu. The spice levels of the dishes we now prepare have all changed. It is more on the lines where it suits the Indian palate more,” she says, adding that things will change when the inflow of foreign tourists is more.
Sunday Roasted Chicken
Sharing picture-perfect food is another way to draw tourists, especially the social media-savvy ones, opines Chef Shetty. “Mouth-watering dishes served at stunning locations, paired with sharable experiences is a culinary tourism trend that continues to influence travellers. Culinary tours, hands-on meals and cooking classes are a great way to get tourists closer to food at any destination. Hands-on meals introduce local ingredients and regional techniques to the traveller which he won’t know of if dining in a restaurant,” he informs.
Now that there is widespread anticipation of a recovery in the travel and tourism industry after suffering from two mighty waves of the pandemic, it has become important to evaluate the opportunities and risks of culinary tourism in India so that the market is ready for the tourists. Sharing his perspective, Nicholas Dumbell, General Manager, The St Regis Mumbai, says that with people always wanting to socialise, be it with friends or family, the future of culinary tourism is bright in India. “They are all the more excited about getting out to discover new destinations and experimenting different cuisines. Good food always pushes through and what we need to have is a mix of amazing ingredients and delicious delicacies,” he says.
Chef Shetty agrees and holds the present time as a ‘desire creating phase’ where setting the foundation for future will be possible through motivating people. “The future of culinary tourism in India is absolutely bright and welcoming! When you can’t go places, you come home! You uncover, discover or maybe even recover. With the present inbound foreign travel restrictions, this is more of an educating phase of displaying possibilities. It is like an investment that will pay later. This is the time to motivate the traveller to embark on the next journey and into the world of culinary tourism,” he concludes.
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