Are You Prepared for the Future of Food Tourism?

Here are 5 Tips You Can Use to Get Ready

Looking into the crystal ball to predict the future is harder than ever these days. The world’s tourism landscape has changed. Cities like Venice, Barcelona and Amsterdam are oversold and new visitors to these destinations complain about the crowds, traffic and high prices. Europe is in disarray now, with hundreds of thousands of immigrants altering European cultures, perhaps forever. Brexit puts the UK in a category all its own, although a weak pound may bode well for now for inbound tourism there. A super strong U.S. dollar and a xenophobic tourism strategy don’t bode well for inbound travelers into the USA anytime soon. This will likely mean that the USA’s tourism growth, at least in the short term, will have to come more from domestic travelers. China’s overheated economy is cooling off and while the Chinese are still traveling, right now they’re not spending like they used to.

That’s a lot to take in. It’s a rocky road for tourism for the next few years as the world sorts itself out. How well are you and your business, organization or destination prepared for the short- and medium term food travelers? We’d like to offer you some suggestions.

1. DON’T THINK OF FOOD TOURISM AS NICHE

Food tourism has become mainstream, with 95% of travelers saying that they engage in a unique and memorable food or beverage experience while traveling. (Source: 2016 Food Travel Monitor). In other words, almost all travelers seek a great foodie experience on their trip. Some destinations may experience that foodies travel there just for the food and drink, while other destinations may find visitors arriving for other reasons, but demanding quality food and drink while there. A list of area restaurants or stating that your areas boasts 150+ cuisines isn’t what travelers want. What exactly will compel a food enthusiast to choose one destination over another? You need to hear from Gabi Logan, an award-winning author who will help you understand how to develop and promote your sense of place. Gabi will be speaking at FoodTrekking World, taking place in Portland April 2–4.

2. USE FANTASTIC TECHNOLOGY

As a small business owner, it’s hard to know which technologies are worth your time and money. Sometimes it all sounds so frustrating. Techno babble that you don’t fully understand along with fees you’d rather not have to pay. Is there a workaround? Many times, yes. Smart business owners have always leveraged technology to some extent. What can you do to save time and money? First, you can cut down on your bookkeeper’s hours by 90% by using Xero. It’s an online software that works like QuickBooks but it’s a lot better and easier to use. The nominal US$30 monthly fee can save you hundreds of dollars of your bookkeeper’s time each month. Receipts driving you crazy? Try Shoeboxed. Next, build relationships like a pro. MailChimp is so year 2000. You need a customer relationship management tool with muscle. There are a lot of underperformers with great looking websites. It’s hard not to be fooled by the slick marketing. The best we’ve found is Zoho CRM Plus. At a mere US$50 per month to manage 5000 contacts, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it. It handles your email marketing campaigns, social media posts and monitoring, online chat, help desk and a lot more.

3. CHERISH PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS

We’re all really busy, but ignoring your long-term business partners and contacts isn’t going to bring you business referrals. Invite out your best contacts who you haven’t spoken to in a while for coffee or lunch. Make it informal with no agenda. Ask about their families, their own travel plans and their recent restaurant discoveries. This is called nurturing relationships. You also need to continue to grow your network. In the past year alone, I’ve seen 3 industry colleagues die and 3 others retire. If this has happened to you, who are you finding to replace these holes in your personal network? And electronic relationships aren’t a replacement for face-to-face. Feeling a little overwhelmed and unfulfilled by Facebook? Try meeting a friend out for a meal instead (but don’t forget to post a mouthwatering picture of what you’re eating so you’ll be the envy of all your friends)!

4. EMBRACE SMART CONTENT

It’s been said that content is the new spam. To some extent, that’s true. I love hearing about a friend’s experience at a new restaurant, but when 25 friends post about their experiences at 25 different restaurants and cafes, it can be overwhelming and time consuming. You don’t want to turn off your inbound information flow completely, but you do need to be smart about what content you take in, as well as which content you send out. One of the places where I find interesting quality content is Medium. Think of Medium as a central global blog for thought leaders, creative types, entrepreneurs and really interesting people. You’ll get a lot more out of 30 minutes on Medium than you will scrolling posts on Facebook. And the types of articles you find on Medium are the kinds of articles you should be posting on your blog or website. Short, clever, and with a point to make.

5. ADJUST YOUR TARGET MARKET

So many times when working with our Certified Culinary Travel Professional and Business Readiness Training students, I hear students say that their market is wealthy travelers and consumers. They only want to the high-end of the market. After pointing out to these students that there are very, very few rich people, they start to understand there will be a lot of competition for the tiny sliver of wealthy clients. Many of them begin to adjust their expectations. Still, we are conditioned to seek perhaps slightly older, and perhaps slightly wealthier customers. This is certainly a respectable target market, but it’s probably not the one that is going to make you a lot of money in the long term. Millennials is where the action is. While most of them may not be super rich right now, they still have money to spend and they are the wealthy customers of tomorrow. Perhaps most importantly, there are a lot of them.

We discovered this fact in our 2016 Food Travel Monitor, which caused us to adjust our own marketing strategy. We’re sharing this message with our industry as well. Don’t ignore middle-aged and older travelers, but invest the time and effort to appeal to today’s millennials — your future customers. This topic was also addressed by Risa Meynarez at FoodTrekking World, which took place in Portland April 2–4, 2017. Risa is a CNN alumnus from Atlanta and an expert on millennials.

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