Gastronomic tourism, now a global focus, has to do with food and drink as a topic and medium, a vehicle and a destination for tourism. It looks at people exploring foods and drinks new to them and a new culture and ways of life. Gastronomic tourism speaks to groups using food and drink to “sell” their histories and to create marketable and openly attractive identities. It is also about people satisfying their interest in food and beverages. It looks at extraordinary experiences of food and drink in a way that step outside the usual routine to notice dissimilarity and the power of food and drink to signify and convey that dissimilarity. This defines and constitutes exploratory eating and drinking as an appropriate one that depends on the perception and enthusiasms of the dinner.
Gastronomic tourism is the global, investigative involvement in the food-ways (the connection of food to history, tradition, and culture) of another—relationship. It includes the preparation, presentation, and consumption of food or beverage item, cuisine, meal structure or eating style considered to belong to a culinary scheme not belonging to one’s self. This definition points out the individual as an active mediator in creating meanings within a tourist experience, and it allows for an appealing response to food and drink as part of the experience.
Suitability for Jamaica
Gastronomic Tourism is surely suitable for Jamaica – Jamaica’s very fruitful eco system combined with rich food, drink, culture and culinary history has established itself as a Gastronomic Tourism destination in a unique way. Food and Beverage is one of eight subsectors that comprise the tourism sector and can be viewed either as a support industry or as a major attraction. (http://www.mona.uwi.edu/jct/aboutct/indexb.htm#top) Our local agricultural sector which along with tourism provides the platform to satisfy the palates of travellers in pursuit of these experiences (http://www.discoverjamaica.com/gleaner/discover/geography/agriculture.htm).
Gastronomic tourism in Jamaica is also a source of attraction, quite often it is experienced as part of a mainstream tour, e.g., a rum tour (Wolf E. 2002). Culinary tours offer guided walking, horseback riding and bus tours which take tourist on gastronomic adventures through various towns and villages of Jamaica. Visitors will experience local beverage and cuisine and visit local farms, architectural sites associated with a gastronomic background, many dating back to the plantation era that helped to shape Jamaica’s history and culture which have significantly influenced the Jamaican palate through creolization (http://jamaicaculinarytours.com/).
It can also provide relaxation, escapism, excitement, lifestyle, status, and education. Food plays a major role in attractiveness and choice of destination as more people now travel for gastronomical purposes. Jamaican cuisine represents a destination and heritage, through its consumption; tourist can gain an authentic Jamaican experience. More tourist now plan trips to Jamaica specifically to attend their choice of food festival based on the theme, stay at a particular lodging or region on the island mainly due to the Gastronomic experience had or desire. It is also a feather in the cap for All-inclusive hotels that offer authentic Jamaican cuisine to tourists who want to stay on property.
We also have local restaurants that offer a variety of attractive and rustic Jamaican food and drink with traditional methods of preparation and presentation that enthuse those participants.
An eater will participate specifically due to the perceived uniqueness of the food-ways, and that uniqueness provokes curiosity. Visiting the attractions is only a partial engagement with originality, whereas gastronomic tourism, utilizes the senses of smell, taste, sight, touch and yes, and even sound which offers a deeper, more combined level of experience. One’s physical existence is engaged, not only as an observer but also as a participant (Long L. 2004).
Tourism plays a vital role in economic growth worldwide. There is an extensive awareness that not only is tourism a strategic factor for economic growth, but in some countries, it is one of the most significant industries. This is really when geographical areas have assets that can be improved and the knowledge and experience to plan manage, design, safeguard and with much ability and clearness of vision, frequently update and recertify their tourism offerings. It is important to have clear development strategies in place and be aware of the importance expanding on existing tourism product that is particularly appropriate for those destinations that are going through maturity stage if they desire to stay in the market.
With the evolving demands, these destinations are required to implement new tactics and strategies to respond to new demand, requirements, and opportunities. The existing position in which there is global competition between countries, regions, and localities offering many different environmental features and tourist products, requires operators in the sector to be knowledgeable about the product they construct, as the role they play is vital to the on-going successes of a destination. They must also be knowledgeable on how to communicate a place by describing its unique identity and characteristics. Their task should be to construct quality tourist product in line with sustainable principles and to foster partnerships based on mutual respect between all providers, with the objective of building meaningful and memorable experiences for visitors.
Gastronomic tourism can present model opportunities for operators to create extraordinary vacation experiences; if carefully planned and managed, it can give visitors the chance to savour the distinctive flavour of the destination through all five senses.
Also, gastronomic tourism lessens the effects of an economic monoculture that results when activities related to tourism drive out other economic activity, which has happened in many destinations. Gastronomic tourism in fact, by its precise nature, complements and interacts with other economic sectors, such as agriculture (Croce E. & Giovanni P. 2010).
Tourists differ considerably in their movement, travel style, attitudes and behaviour and food consumption can also be applied to these practices. The allocentric tourist may rather the exploration of native food traditions, food research, and bring with them recipes and food-ways back to their homeland.
Contrary to the allocentric tourist, the Psyco centric tourist may prefer to consume the same food they consume at home while traveling (Anne-Mette Hjalager 2003).
As we know, tourism plays a vital role in Jamaica’s economic growth and development -revenue is hauled in from areas such as hotels, attractions, food and drink tours, agro tourism, restaurants, the food vendors on the street and food festivals just to name a few. Gastronomic tourism is a major part of the product, and we have been doing it for centuries whether we realized it or not as our minds frequently connect places with food, particularly when the destination is popular and most travel involves eating some of what is available locally (Charzan J. n.d.). More visitors are now going for the culinary experiences and those with other reasons; eating is a physical essential for every tourist. Hence destinations can create opportunities to deliver convincing gastronomic experiences to win palates, generating new and more gastronomic tourist. Travel also allows us to reconsider who we are through a search for our true selves and the environments that enable us to be whom we are and want to be (Henderson J.C. et al. 2012). According to the Proverb “we are what we eat, ” but it can be looked at as “we eat what we are” which is the other way around (Rahn M. 2006).
Tourism provides thousands of jobs for those who work directly or indirectly within the sector. Jamaica has approximately 30,000 rooms with strategies to develop just under 10, 000 more, making Jamaica one of the most competitive tourism destinations in the Caribbean (Martin N. 2013). It is important to understand that local produce and culinary resources provided to support the experience of the culinary tourism sector to be realized by the stakeholders. Any structure or issues associated with accessing those resources are rectified and geared towards broader understanding of the product and its linkage towards other sectors of the economy (Stephen L. J. Smith and Hoggen Xiao 2008). Agriculture has shown consistent growth as local farmers have been producing to meet demands. As this production growth continues, the quality of the outputs improves, and with greater abundance, we can realize a reduction in importation. The benefits of economic efficiency and quality local products delivered to tourist by tourism stakeholders in Jamaica enables the visitor to stay longer and or to return as they can provide more affordable accommodation with world class service and food (Hjalager A-M 2003).
The cuisine continues to grow locally and internationally and is earning its place in the global market as a culinary destination.
France which attracts over 75 million visitors per annum strives on the support of its producers, its suppliers, and entrepreneurs. The culinary tourism sector has been reinforced by its agricultural sector with their distinguished products being cheese and wine. They are the largest agricultural producer in Europe; the industry may be described as modern and competitive as the primary focus is high-quality products, the importance of land use and innovation. The agricultural sector was the leading sector in 2011, employing approximately five hundred thousand people who made it the leading employment industry. France’s agricultural industry supports its gastronomic tourism by contributing and producing organic fruits and vegetables. French cheese and butter are famous worldwide and known for their high quality. There are also external factors which guide the French Food Industry and are considered of great importance to the sustainability of this sector in France. These include research and development, environment appreciation, growing relationship between retail and food sector industries, nutritional values and foreign trade opportunities.
The emphasis on local Jamaican ingredients ties gastronomic tourism to a local culture with global food and beverage, music and art, attractions, warm hospitality of the people is world renowned for a combination of agriculture, nature, and welcoming accommodations. Jamaica’s tourism product is vitally lucrative and has earned Jamaica the enviable record of being the destination with the highest percentage of repeat travel in the region (Rose G.2011). It is good to see that Jamaica’s gastronomic tourism is now an increasing area of research among journalist, scholars and tourism stakeholders.
Randie Anderson Executive Chef, CEC, CCA,WCEC, MSc Gastronomic Tourism.
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