Food is the soul of a place

Food tourism is a trend that has developed strongly since the beginning of this century. Food tourism encompasses both the tourist looking for a unique luxury restaurant experience and the tourist who scours food markets and eats at a food truck. In addition, there is a growing and more recent trend in which agricultural companies show the origin and/or production of our food. There is increasing interest in the beginning of the food chain. Visitors can gain experiences such as milking a cow, see how cheese is made and pick fruit and vegetables in picking gardens. Tourists are looking for the story behind it, the soul of food & place.

Food connects

The Dutch newspaper NRC recently wrote (17th of June 2021) ‘Food connects us as humans, but also connects us with nature.’ If that disappears, ‘part of the meaning of our humanity disappears.’ So food connects just like stories. Stories about food, its origin and history are therefore of great importance for connecting with the tourist. Why is the story important and how do you tell the story of food? It is the people who tell the story and give it meaning. The story makes people feel connected to the product or the region.

Discover the story behind food

Well-known TV chefs recognise this trend. They are an important stimulator for bringing stories to the stage. Think of James Martin, the British (TV) chef who traveled to all corners of Great Britain for his program “Islands to Highlands”, telling the stories of the region and looking for the best ingredients. And Yvette van Boven, who is looking for the flavours of the unique regions of the Netherlands on NPO with her program “De streken van Boven”. A product is always central, from cheese to shrimp. However, the product is usually not unique, but the fact that you can buy it in more places. It is the connection with nature, man and origin and therefore the story that makes it unique.

Power of storytelling: local and personal

The challenge therefore lies in being able to tell the story well. The ingredients were already there. Similarity in the programs mentioned, but also in the strategic approach to food tourism, is that it starts small. Storytelling: local and personal. The viewer, visitor or reader wants to feel connected to the story. Governments and organisations regularly spend a lot of money on marketing activities to boost sales, where investing in product development and storytelling might be more appropriate. Which products or stories should be in the spotlight? And what barriers are there to achieve sales or to captivate and bind people from there? This can be money/subsidies, insufficient cooperation or coherence (everyone still does their own thing), but transport or logistics can also form a barrier. In our Wadden gastronomy project, we are going big. However, we are starting small with the entrepreneurs themselves and the visitors. With a focus on local, regional and national. Tell the story first to your own audience and only then to the general (international) audience. Only in this way there will be a lasting connection.

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