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The role of gastronomy in tourism development

Greg Richards
Tilburg University, The Netherlands
President, International Institute for Gastronomy, Culture, Arts and Tourism (IGCAT)

Presentation to the Fourth International Congress on Noble Houses: A Heritage for the Future,
Arcos de Valdevez to be held on 27- 29 November 2014.

Heritage has long been a mainstay of tourism development in Europe. It is estimated that cultural
tourism, which is to a large extent centred on different forms of heritage, accounts for around 40%
of all international tourism (Richards, 2007). Not surprisingly, therefore, many destinations have put
heritage and cultural tourism at the centre of their development programmes. In recent years,
however, there has been a growing recognition that not only tangible heritage, but also intangible
heritage is crucial for successful tourism development. While tangible heritage may comprise many
of the iconic sites that drive tourism growth, intangible heritage, such as popular culture, traditional
and gastronomy, provide an essential support for tourism development, and can in themselves act
as distinguishing features for the destination (Du Cros, 2013). This paper particularly analyses the
role of gastronomy as an important factor in tourism development (Hjalager and Richards, 2002),
tracing the journey of food from tourist staple to one of the key actors in the tourism development
Changing drivers of tourism development
Richards and Wilson (2008) identify a number of major drivers for cultural tourism, relating both to
tourism demand and the growth of cultural supply for tourism:
Demand factors

Increased interest in culture

Rising levels of cultural capital

Aging populations in the developed world

Postmodern consumption styles (cultural omnivorousness, short breaks)

Increased mobility

Supply factors

Employment creation and income generation

Cultu al tou is

is see as a g o th

a ket a d good fo

of tourism

An increasing supply of cultural attractions

Growing problems of funding culture

Increased role for intangible culture, image and atmosphere

In particular, the rise of postmodern consumption styles and the breakdown of the formerly hard
divisio et ee high a d popula ultu e has ee i po ta t i ha gi g pe eptio s of the
nature of cultural heritage. Whereas previously the notion of cultural heritage was related mainly to
the physical remains of culture represented by museums and monuments, more recent views have
included a broader vision of cultural heritage which also includes the living culture. This has
propelled a major growth in living cultural heritage, and the rise of interpretation and animation of
historical sites.
As a result, interest has reawakened in traditional cultures among tourists coming from developed,
post ode so ieties (Richards, 2002). The question for the postmodern individual is increasingly
he e do I o e f o ? , the answer to which may be sought in travel. The postmodern concern
ith e-e ha ti g the o ld has also led to a eassess e t of t aditio al ultu e, hi h i the
view of many holds the key to enchantment, because it speaks to a forgotten aspect of our
relationship with the world. The search for meaning and enchantment is not just a feature of
modern cultural consumption, but it is also one of the major driving forces behind the growth of
tourism. Very often the enchantment of the tourism experience is derived from the culture of a
place, and particularly its traditions, customs and way of life. This realisation has changed the face of
cultural tourism significantly.
The creative turn in tourism
When we started researching the link between tourism and traditional crafts in the Minho region in
the 1990s, it was clear that tourism, culture, crafts and gastronomy operated as separate fields of
production and consumption. The first meeting of the ATLAS Tourism and Gastronomy Research
Group was held in the Minho region in 2000, just as interest in the links between tourism and
gastronomy were beginning to be developed in this region, but also in other areas of the world
(Hjalager and Richards, 2002). During the EUROTEX crafts tourism project we also surveyed tourists
in rural areas such as the Minho, a d fou d that t aditio s e e ot see as a i po ta t
motivator for tourists (Richards, 1999). Traditions were placed last on a list of potentially attractive
aspects of the destination, including landscape, accommodation, culture and sports facilities. This is
in spite of the fact that culture in general is a very important aspect of tourism motivation. A
Eu o a o ete su e o Eu opea holida s i
i di ated that ultu e i ludi g religion,
gastronomy, the arts, etc.) was a main reason for going on holiday in 2013 for a quarter of all
Europeans, although the level of cultural motivation varied:
In Estonia (41%) and Malta (39%), culture (e.g. religion, gastronomy, the arts, etc.) was the
main reason for going on holiday last year, and at least three in ten people mention culture
in eight countries. However, just 11% of people in Greece and 13% in Poland went on
holiday for cultural reasons.
Portuguese respondents were just below the EU average, with 24% citing culture as a main reason
for their holiday.

There are growing signs that the dividing lines between traditional and high culture, between
tourism and culture and between gastronomy and creativity are becoming increasingly thin. We
have seen the ad e t of the ultu al o i o e a modern cultural consumer who takes in all forms
of culture. Today the opera, tomorrow cabaret, next week football. The simple one-to-one
relationship between lifestyle and types of cultural consumption is beginning to break down. People
are no longer interested in one narrow form of culture, but are selecting elements from a wide
range of cultural forms to create their own identity.
A shift to creative tourism?
The changes taking place in cultural development in general are also beginning to have an effect in
the cultural tourism market. Destinations that previously relied on a fairly static offer of cultural
products are now turning to the creative process as a source of product innovation.
Creative tourism has the potential to draw on local skills, expertise and traditions from many areas.
For example, the creative tourist may wish to learn about:

Arts and crafts



Health and healing





Traditional games and pastimes

Music and dance

Film and other creative media

All of these creatively-based products are major growth areas in tourism at the moment, and are
likely to remain so in future. The major advantage of creative tourism for the destination is that it
provides a new means of distinguishing its cultural products from that of its competitors. Richards
and Raymond (2000: 18) define creative tourism as:
Tourism which offers visitors the opportunity to develop their creative potential through
active participation in courses and learning experiences which are characteristic of the
holiday destination where they are undertaken.
An interesting feature of creative tourism, as the list of potential products indicates, is that it
combines different forms of culture: traditional culture, historical culture, popular culture,
contemporary culture and mass culture. This is an important advantage for peripheral communities,

since preserving tradition alone is not sufficient to create a vibrant community. Given that cultural
tourism often relies on the preservation of heritage, it is important to re-think previous models. This
is also particularly relevant during the current economic downturn. The vast investment in
conservation and preservation of historic buildings and monuments that was possible during an
economic boom with insatiable demand for real estate can no longer be sustained. There is a need
to find ways of creating engaging experiences for tourists without having to rely on expensive and
inflexible capital projects.
There are a number of reasons why creative tourism can improve on cultural tourism (Richards,

Creativity can potentially create value more easily because of its scarcity. Creativity is an
attribute supposedly possessed by relatively few people, whereas thanks to the
broadening co ept of ultu e , ultu al p odu ts a e u i uitous. I the ultu al tou is
market cultural attractions of themselves no longer function as a means of distinction
every city has museums and monuments.
Creativity allows destinations to innovate new products relatively rapidly, giving them a
competitive advantage over other locations.
Creativity is a process, and creative resources are therefore more sustainable. Whereas
physical cultural resources, such as museums and monuments, may wear out over time
and become degraded, creative resources are arguably infinitely renewable. This rapid
growth of cultural and arts festivals in Europe in recent years underlines this fact.
Creativity is mobile. Where cultural consumption is dependent on a concentration of
cultural resources, creativity can become extremely mobile arts performances and
artworks can today be produced virtually anywhere, without the need for dedicated

We can see that many destinations are now turning to creative tourism as a potential alternative to,
or addition to, cultural tourism. The foundation of pioneer creative tourism projects in New Zealand
(2003) and Barcelona (2005) demonstrated the value of the principles that had been tested in the
Minho region many years before. In the Minho itself, the creative approach developed through the
EUROTEX project increased sales of craft products and strengthened local creative networks
(Richards 2005). The concept of creative tourism has now become globalised through the
establishment of the Creative Tourism Network in 2010, and the development of creative tourism
programmes in countries around the world. Such programmes are also now being found in the
Minho, where the idea first started (Fernandes and Racho, 2014).
This is important for traditional cultures, because creativity has always been a valued skill in
traditional societies. The last decade has seen a shift in the attitudes of international bodies towards
intangible culture and creative skills. For example UNESCO has begun to designate Intangible
Cultural Heritage alongside the familiar World Heritage designation for tangible culture. The UNWTO
has also recently published a report outlining the important links between intangible culture and
tourism (Du Cros, 2012) and the OECD has recently published a report on the Creative Economy and
Tourism (OECD, 2014).

These bodies have also recognised that gastronomy is an important part of intangible heritage, and
that it provides an essential link to tourism. UNESCO, for example, has already designated a number
of gastronomic elements of World Intangible Heritage:

The gastronomic meal of the French

Mediterranean diet
Traditional Mexican cuisine
Kimjang, making and sharing kimchi in the Republic of Korea
Washoku, traditional dietary cultures of the Japanese, notably for the celebration of New

A number of other countries and regions are now making efforts to have their culinary heritage
recognised as well. There is a strong campaign in Catalunya to have their gastronomy recognised,
and in Peru a campaign to collect signatures for Peruvian gastronomy as UNESCO intangible herniate
was organised in 2011 (so far without success).
Among the proposals submitted to UNESCO are:

Caf culture in the neighbourhoods of Buenos Aires

Lavash, the preparation, meaning and appearance of traditional Armenian bread as an
expression of culture
Beer culture in Belgium
Traditional Chinese Distilled Liquor-brewing Craftsmanship
Traditional knowledge of cooking bread among Iranian ethnic groups
The traditional art of Naples "Pizzaiuoli"
Munbaeju, Munbae liquor
Myeoncheon Dugyeonju, Dugyeonju liquor of Myeoncheon

Interestingly, there has been criticism of food nominations to the intangible heritage list, because
the e see s to e a di e t li k et ee ou t ies food-related nominations to the
Intangible Heritage lists and more general promotional campaigns around tourism and
a d
The Mexican nomination seems to be linked to tourism rather than the food trade. The
Conservatory of Mexican Gastronomic Culture and the Don Vasco Cultural and Tourism
Route project will work with traditionally-trained cooks to set up small enterprises and
provide training in business administration, hygiene and marketing in a project to create
uli a hu s a ou d the ou t , p o oti g lo al uisi es. (Deacon, 2011)
It is therefore likely that awareness of the link between gastronomy, intangible heritage and tourism
will increase in future, in the same way as the World Heritage designation has done for tangible
heritage sites.
The UNWTO recently released a report on the relationship between tourism and gastronomy. The
OECD also undertook a study (led by Korea, which is making a major push to have Korean cuisine

recognised on the world stage) examining the relationship between food experiences and tourism
(Richards, 2012). This report found that food provides a basis for tourism experiences by:

Linking culture and tourism

Developing the meal experience

Producing distinctive foods

Developing the critical infrastructure for food production and consumption

Supporting local culture

Food can also provide the basis of branding and marketing activities, including:

Partnerships between food producers, restaurants and the tourism industry

Setting standards for local foods

Lifestyle positioning, emphasizing the attractiveness of lifestyles related to gastronomy

Identifying niches

Theming and packaging

Developing specialty restaurants

Communicating the national or regional brand through gastronomy (such as the Prove
Portugal programme).
The numerous case studies in the OECD study indicate that the critical success factors for food
experiences in tourism include

Providing a good culinary offer at home, that stimulates appreciation of food and support
gastronomy that is also attractive to visitors.

Developing a network of good quality restaurants abroad that help to profile national and
regional cuisine.

Developing food and wine exportation.

Education and training and attracting talent

Positio i g hefs i

Linking food experiences to tourist needs

o ld a ki gs fo e a ple Gast osta s su h as Fe a Ad ia

P o idi g glo alised foods that link to tourist needs as well as showcasing authentic local
The volume also identifies a number of policy implications for national and regional authorities:

Ensure a solid base of local food culture

Start from the basics (Quality, authenticity, locality)

Build coalitions (Public, private partnership)

Spread the message (Build the brand, communicate clearly)

Develop a holistic approach (Tourism should be seen as one aspect of the entire food value
Gastronomy as creative industry
Gastronomy has long been ignored both by the cultural sector and by tourism as being a basic need
of cultural tourists, rather than forming one of the major attractions of different destinations.
However in the past decade this picture has changed substantially, as gastronomy has been raised to
the status of eati e a t
gast osta s su h as Fe a Ad ia, Joa o a a d Ca e us alle a.
In particular Ferran Adria sees gastronomy much more as a creative process than as the act of
preparing food. The most dramatic illustration of this attitude was his decision to close the world
famous elBulli restaurant in order to dedicate himself to exploring the creativity of gastronomy. His
elBulli Laboratory recently opened in Barcelona, and in 2016 a new gastronomy centre is due to
open in Roses, Catalunya, on the site of the original elBulli restaurant. This is set to cater for around
200,000 visitors a year, many times more than could obtain a table in the restaurant when it was
open. This is all part of taking gastronomy out of the kitchen and offering it as a creative process to
the world.
There is little doubt that gastronomy is just as creative as other areas that are already accepted as
pa t of the eati e i dust ies , su h as ad e tisi g, fashio o desig . I fa t, a ase ould e e e
ade that gast o o i ol es o e eati e ele e ts tha
a othe
eati e i dust ies , si e
it deals not just with abstract creative processes, but with the creative articulation between
landscapes, the peoples who inhabit them, the food they produce, the customs they have developed
and the staging of meals for residents and visitors alike.
The fact that gastronomy helps to underline and strengthen local and regional identity is also an
important point for tourism development. Tourists are often in search of some kind of regional
spe ifi it o authe ti it . A d as ou ph si al spa es e o e o e a d o e alike th ough
processes of serial reproduction (Richards and Wilson, 2006), it is often the intangible creativity
provided by gastronomy and all of the intangible culture that surrounds it that makes a place special.
There are many different dimensions to the role of gastronomy in creating a sense of place:

Because tourists have to eat at least two or three times a day, gastronomy is the part of
intangible culture that they come into contact with most often.
Gastronomy is also striking because it provokes a direct bodily confrontation with culture
we literally have to ingest the local culture
Eating habits are so ingrained in the culture that these are differences that immediately
become obvious: the time people eat, the way people eat and what they eat all become
immediate points of difference on entering a new culture.
Food provides a direct connection with landscape you can often literally see where your
food comes from, an experience not afforded many city-dwellers these days.

In addition to these cultural effects promoting a sense of difference, gastronomy also has important
economic effects. There are a number of ways in which tourism and gastronomy can stimulate the
local economy:

Increasing linkages because tourists are often keen to try local food, this can increase
demand for food production and hospitality services
Stimulating innovation because tourists often demand different ways of presenting or
preparing food, this can also stimulate innovation in the agricultural-food productionhospitality system
Increasing place attractiveness places that are attractive to tourists are often also
attractive as places to live, work and study. The development of a strong gastronomic
tourism market can help to add to the quality of life, helping to attract more visitors but at
the same time attracting more residents or preventing out-migration.
Strengthening image gastronomy can provide an important support for the image of
regions as tourism destinations

One of the important challenges in developing gastronomic tourism is overcoming the traditional
conservatism that is present in many regions that have a strong food culture. Very often the
preservation of tradition is coupled with a resistance to change, which on the one hand helps to
ensure that traditional practices are maintained, but at the same time this puts a brake on
innovation. Tradition and innovation are often seen as polar opposites, but my view is that
t aditio al ultu e a a t as a i po ta t ese oi of ultu al DNA tha a p o ide the asis fo
innovation. It is for this reason that the most recent meeting of the ATLAS Tourism and Gastronomy
Group (also held in the Minho region of Portugal!) focussed on issues of tradition and innovation in
gastronomy. The contributions to this meeting included not just papers analysing the importance of
regional gastronomy in regions such as the Minho and the Douro, but also a paper from the leading
Catalan chef Joan Roca on how he is creating new forms of traditional gastronomy.
The creative future of regional gastronomy
One of the partners in the ATLAS Tourism and Gastronomy meeting was the International Institute
for Gastronomy, Culture, Arts and Tourism (IGCAT), which is dedicated to supporting and
strengthening regional gastronomy around the world (www.igcat.org). IGCAT aims to:

increase the international flow of ideas, skills and knowledge about developments in
gastronomy, culture, arts and creative tourism
identify, analyse and disseminate best practices in the development of gastronomy, cultural
and creative tourism and, regional development
improve the quality of gastronomy and creative experiences
increase access to and interaction between experts in the fields of tourism, arts, culture and
economic development
support local and regional development agencies working to improve gastronomy and
creative experiences
advocate for local production and creativity

In doing so, it is working with a wide range of local, regional and international partners, including the
European Travel Commission, the European Committee of the Regions and a number of regions,

including the Minho. In particular the Minho is likely to be one of the first European Regions of
Gastronomy , which is a project being developed by IGCAT in conjunction with nine European
The main features of the European Region of Gastronomy award are:

A showcase for regional gastronomy at European level

Linking gastronomic innovation with traditional food cultures
Public and private sector funding potential
An independent European jury of gastronomic, cultural and development experts
Strong links with the tourism sector
A focus on innovation and learning
A link with wider issues of health, sustainability

The programme is designed to stimulate creative approaches to integrating tradition and creativity
in regional gastronomy, and using these as a stimulus for tourism. The Minho region is well placed to
be able to take advantage of this programme, because of the strong local networks that have been
constructed in recent years in the areas of tourism, culture, accommodation and local development
(Fernandes 2011;2013). Although the convergence of these different sectors has been relatively
slow, there are growing signs that these trends are beginning to bear fruit. One can now find the
manor houses in the region emphasising their local gastronomy, offering local products and even
supporting creative tourism experiences.
As Machado et al. (2014) also show, the increasing development of the creative sector in the Minho
region can have a significant effect on tourism. In the small town of .Vila Nova de Cerveira the
establishment of an art biennial event has brought tourists and art lovers to an apparently unlikely
destination. The 27,000 visitors to the last edition of the biennial were overwhelmingly well
edu ated a d elati el ealth , u de li ed the fa t that the esti ated spe d as .
a vast amount for a relatively small local economy. Interestingly, most of the impact was due to
spending on food.
There is little doubt that gastronomy is not just a form of intangible heritage that is important as a
support for tourism, but it is also becoming one of the leading attractors of tourism. In order to take
advantage of this new creative role for gastronomy, regions will have to engage in a process of
awareness-raising that reaches across the food, gastronomy, hospitality, cultural and tourism
sectors. New initiatives, such as the European Region of Gastronomy programme, provide a useful
basis for such collaboration.

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