Edible Experiences—Harnessing the Power of Niche Marketing Part 2

By Jim Leonard

Edible Experiences—Harnessing the Power of Niche Marketing Part 2

In the second installment of our Niche Marketing series, we take a look at how Food Tourism is gaining in popularity across the U.S. and offer insight into how destinations can take advantage of this niche market. Read time: under 4 minutes

Today, many DMOs are starting the process of marketing to niche audiences. In my first blog in this series, Harnessing the Power of Niche Marketing—Voluntourism, I covered tapping your local community to create voluntourism opportunities for visitors to experience your destination while providing benefits to unique assets of your community. So how about savoring the true essence of a destination through its food! In 2012, it was estimated that tourism expenditures on food services in the U.S. topped $201 billion—nearly a quarter of all travel expenditures. That makes food service the highest category of travel spend, according to a University of Florida report. The report further estimates that 39 million U.S. leisure travelers choose a destination based on the availability of culinary activities, while another 35 million seek out culinary activities after a destination is decided upon. Primary foodie favorites like San Francisco and New York have always been known for their selection of culinary experiences, from 5-star, white-tablecloth dining establishments to back-alley food carts. But more recently, destinations are discovering that celebrating their local cuisine helps attract more visitors. Even more encouraging, these destinations are finding out they don’t need Michelin-starred chefs to be successful. Travelers today have the ability to digitally share their edible adventures with friends and strangers around the world, fueling a race to determine who has the most unique culinary experiences and creating an incredible marketing vehicle for DMOs. Stephanie Forrer, is a freelance and social media food and travel influencer. Originally from Alabama, she relocated to the West Coast in 2013 and has been eating her way around the region ever since. Her blog, Eat, Drink, Travel, Y’all, is currently one of the most followed food blogs in Seattle. I recently asked her for advice for DMOs in terms of identifying and developing authentic culinary experiences for travelers. This is what she had to say:

“I’ve worked with a number of small DMOs, and I tell them—creating an authentic experience with food is one of the best ways to appeal to potential visitors. Package what you have, make it attractive and don’t try to make it what it’s not. Plan an itinerary around your offerings to encourage overnight stays, and along with food and drink, talk about the unique vibe of the destination as a whole. Union Gap, Washington is a great example of a tiny town in the middle of the state. I’ve worked with them on food influencer marketing to promote their asparagus farm tour, local wineries, an agricultural museum, and a tamale stand. What’s happening today—people are going places because of what influencers say, whether it’s someone like me or other trusted travel sources that are discovered online.”

The appeal—authentic local experiences that visitors can’t get anywhere else. Today, small towns are leveraging their unique offerings and attracting more visitors in the process. Bigger cities are highlighting their distinct neighborhoods (which are marketed very much like small towns). And the result for both is a new stream of tourism growth.

Ingredients for Food Tourism Success

DMOs looking to build their food tourism offerings should examine these criteria for developing a successful “taste of place” destination:

  1. Leadership—tap a champion within your organization that is passionate about food and what it can mean to your destination
  2. MAP—get your DMO team on the same page with a Marketing Action Plan
  3. Stakeholder Engagementdevelop partnerships and community-based collaboration
  4. Unique Offerings—identify market-ready or near-market-ready culinary products and resources distinctive to your region
  5. Local Foodies—leverage locals plugged into the food scene for initial and ongoing content and to monitor happenings
  6. Crowdsource—lift up shared, user-generated food tourism experiences
  7. Repeat steps 3. through 7.

Remember, the goal is to curate an authentic collection of culinary tourism products to build the credibility of the destination’s brand and expand the stream and lengthen the stay of visitors. Good luck with your efforts. And bon appetit!