Food Tourism as Sustainable Tourism: 3 Advertising Success Stories

Wendy Olson Killion, Vice President, Business Development, Expedia Group Media Solutions
June 12, 2019
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As awareness around the economic, environmental, and social impact of overtourism increases, we’re exploring the significance of sustainable tourism in a blog series. This post examines how travel marketers can harness the power of culinary tourism to help increase visitors to their region and subsequently contribute to sustainable growth for themselves and their neighbors.

It's no secret that excellent food can rival landmarks, museums, climate, and nightlife as a draw for tourists. In recent years, culinary tourism, also known as gastronomy tourism and food tourism, has gained popularity with increasing speed: cuisine often takes center stage as the primary, and even sole reason many travelers select their destination. Few things are more basic or universal than food yet simultaneously capture the unique character of a place.

While traveling to experience cuisine is nothing new, culinary tourism has become more popular than ever, due largely to the digital age and social media. According to the World Food Travel Association’s 2016 survey, the Food Travel Monitor, 81 percent of respondents “learn about food and drink when they visit a destination,” and “believe eating and drinking help in understanding the local culture," while 59 percent "believe that food and beverage is more important when they travel than it was five years ago.”

In our Multi-National Travel Trends research, we discovered food ranks within the top five most important considerations for travelers when booking a trip. While food tourism is marketing table stakes, it can also be a differentiator; if a destination can promote their local cuisine in an authentic way, they can win travelers via food tourism.

food experience image (1)

As culinary tourism has gained more visibility in recent years, so has sustainable tourism. Defined as travel that avoids “the depletion of resources – whether environmental, economic, or cultural,” sustainable tourism is a response to overtourism – when the number of visitors a destination receives exceeds its resources.

There are many ways travelers can contribute to sustainable tourism. One way is to consciously choose destinations that are not overcrowded, or whose resources are at risk of being depleted. More and more, travelers are looking beyond conventional tourist attractions and supporting sustainability by visiting lesser-known but equally enriching locations.

How food tourism can attract travelers and contribute to sustainability simultaneously 

The concurrent rise of both food tourism and sustainable tourism presents an interesting opportunity for marketers, particularly those representing places that are not conventional tourist destinations. By leveraging the growing appeal of food tourism to draw in more visitors, travel marketers can increase bookings while contributing to a more balanced distribution of visitors.

“A commonly held theory in many research fields is that F&G [food and gastronomy] can contribute to the economic, social and environmental sustainability of places while potentially representing elements that increase those places’ attractiveness and competitiveness.” - Sustainability

Below are three examples of how tourism boards worked with us to develop campaigns that leverage the appeal of regional cuisine while simultaneously supporting sustainability.


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Singapore: Passion Made Possible

Singapore Tourism Board worked with us to produce a creative campaign that would shift British and German travelers’ perceptions of Singapore from a stopover location to a destination in its own right.


The multifaceted digital campaign leveraged a custom microsite with an interactive trip builder that generated customized, bookable itineraries for users.

The microsite provided a number of pathways, including Foodie. As the videos played, users toggled between the contrasting experiences to change the video’s content, then selected the experience that best aligned with their preferences. After selecting elements of their ideal Singapore trip, users were provided custom itineraries based on their selections.

In total, the campaign helped contribute to a 20% increase in passenger demand, a 25% YOY increase in room night demand.

Discover More Texas

The Texas Tourism office worked with us on Discover More Texas, a campaign designed to encourage U.S. travelers to uncover and experience the unexpected side of Texas – including its cuisine.

Discover More Texas engaged users through rich content and exclusive video clips revealed along a 4-week digital journey through four distinct travel themes: family fun, food, outdoors, and city experiences.

By leveraging Twitter’s ‘Instant Unlock Card’ format, users could tweet the campaign hashtag, #DiscoverMoreTexas, to reveal exclusive video clips of unexpected Texas experiences and unveil the diversity of the region. New content, including imagery, mini-articles showcasing the unexpected sides of Texas, and activity recommendations, were revealed as the users engaged more. 

The Food experience featured imagery and mini-articles featuring recommendations for a variety of themes:



To empower potential visitors book a trip to Texas, the microsite also featured links to travel deals and packages on Expedia. In total, the campaign drew in 2.3 million impressions and over 40,000 tweet engagements.

Puglia Travel Flavors 

Rome, Milan, and Venice are the most-visited cities in Italy. Puglia wanted to increase bookings by highlighting the region’s natural beauty, stunning architecture, and wholesome, natural cuisine. The Puglia Region Tourism Portal opted to collaborate with Media Solutions on the Puglia Travel Flavours campaign.

The campaign also supported sustainable tourism by encouraging travelers to look beyond the more conventional Italian tourist destinations and explore the region of Puglia through cuisine.

Food was centerstage for this campaign: The campaign focused on Puglia’s simple, local, and delicious dining options. The microsite provided users with:

  • A “pairing menu” of dishes from different Puglia locations
  • A short video of the preparation of each dish and the regional location in which it is served
  • An Antipasti, Primo, and Dolce menu, which once completed, generated a custom itinerary based on each dish’s region
  • Additional pathways to explore further – from an “Experience More,” page to Expedia.com booking pages, and the Puglia Region Tourism Portal’s Instagram page


The result? A campaign that inspired users to explore beyond the beaten path and experience a Puglia travel journey finely-tuned to their tastes. As we write this, the campaign is still running and has experienced strong engagement.

Learn more about creating an effective food tourism campaign by reading our Creative Partnerships Guide.

 

Picture of Wendy Olson Killion, Vice President, Business Development, Expedia Group Media Solutions
Wendy Olson Killion
Vice President, Business Development, Expedia Group Media Solutions
Wendy Olson Killion is a vice president of business development at Expedia Group Media Solutions, where she oversees marketing partner relations globally, leading teams around the world in the creation and implementation of innovative digital media campaigns across the portfolio of Expedia Group travel brands. She previously directed global product development and marketing for the entire suite of advertising products, including display, email, social and mobile solutions. Before joining Expedia Group, Wendy led product management of the emerging channels and brands at Cars.com, including their mobile offerings. Wendy also previously spent five years at J.D. Power and Associates where she managed a suite of publications aimed at defining automotive marketing online for OEMs and automotive dealers, and co-founded the Automotive Marketing Roundtable conference. Wendy is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound and lives in Seattle with her family.
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