food tourists

defining the profile of a food tourist

controversial definition of food tourists

Two weeks ago, we concluded that the definition of a foodie is controversial. Though, their influence on the food industry is huge. When foodies travel, they turn into food tourists. Especially holiday destinations should consider the role of food tourists closely. Knowing the profile of food tourists will help to develop tailored products and services to the visitors and to promote them accordingly.

facts about food tourists

Therefore, we collected various information about food tourists: According to Wolf (2014), food tourists are experienced travellers. They are aged between 30 and 60 years old and equally represented between men and women. They live in big cities, are employed but usually not working in the food industry (Mapes, 2015). It seems that they are higher educated and earn higher salaries compared to the average tourist. Moreover, they possess cultural capital (Johnston & Baumann, 2015). 

Food tourists from North America

Especially in the US and in Canada, young, cultivated and wealthy women are interested in food tourism (Robinson & Getz, 2013). Moreover, they put a considerable effort into satisfying the special needs of their family members (Cairns et al., 2010). Their childhood builds the basis for their food desire as they seem to revive memories and eating habits with their families (Mohd-Any et al., 2014). 

In contrast to that, the majority of tourists in Cordoba whose main motivation for travelling was for gastronomic reasons were men. They even had an extensive knowledge about local wines (López-Guzmán and Sánchez-Canizares, 2012).

In line with that, several researchers emphasized that various types of tourists are allured by local food (Henderson, 2009). These tourists do like food, however, they do not attach such a great importance as that it would influence their travel destination choice. Yet, they may want to experience the local food culture. It displays an enjoyable activity for them. However, since they are not as dedicated to food, they will not inform themselves before the holidays about the food products (Tikkanen, 2007). Food influences all tourists for several reasons and forms a central part of tourist behaviour (Björk & Kauppinen-Räisänen, 2016).

Hjalager (2004) defined four tourist types with a different degree of food interest. The existential travellers pay attention to the educational component of the holidays. In particular, they are interested in the local cuisine, like to eat out in local restaurants and are easily satisfied. They do not need to get a thrill out of it. They use internet and travel literature to research the food on site.

Second, the experimental travellers also like to educate themselves about the foreign cuisine. In contrast, they look for ambitious, peak experiences. They want to get a kick through their food experience. Additionally, they prefer advertisements, brochures and magazines to gather information about the destination’s food (Hjalager, 2004).

On the contrary, diversionary as well as recreational tourists are neither interested to educate themselves about the traditional food nor to consume it. Recreational travellers value familiarity which is why they like to eat familiar food in local restaurants, whereas diversionary travellers just do not care where, and what they eat. They only like the social aspect of eating (Hjalager, 2004).

Correspondingly, some tourists that are interested in foreign food such as the existential and the experimental traveler view food as an approach to discover a destination (Hjalager, 2004; Yurtseven & Kaya, 2011). This can certainly influence their travel destination choice (López-Guzmán et al., 2012). They are satisfied by making original and uncommon experiences even if they would not actually enjoy the experiences (Keinan & Kivetz, 2011). For them, looking up information about the destination’s food products before the trip is key (Björk & Kauppinen-Räisänen, 2016).

Talking about a study by Shenoy (2005), tourists were divided into culinary, experiential or general tourists according to their differences in food tourism related behaviour. For example, the experiential tourist’s cluster was characterised by participants who highly appreciate the local dining and familiarity aspect.

In contrast, the culinary tourists preferred local dining and local drinking. On the one side, the experiential tourist values local restaurants but on the other hand, he or she also visits chain and fast food restaurants. The average tourist did not have any preference (Shenoy, 2005).

This shows that different types of tourists, with a higher or lower interest in food, are somehow connected to food tourism to different extents. It rather proves that food tourism is not only something for foodies or food tourists but for each tourist, if the food tourism product is tailored according to the needs and wants of the different target groups. Some tourists may be attracted to fancy food locations such as restaurants rewarded with a Michelin star. Others may be drawn to a destination’s food specialties such as to tapas in Spain (Kauppinen-Räisänen et al., 2013).

Although not all tourists’ main motivation to travel is due to food, all must eat and then, some become incidental food tourists (Yun et al., 2011). Not only food tourists value a high food quality. Thus, considering those definitions almost everybody would be a foodie.


To sum it up, it is visible that the definition of a food tourist is also controversial. Nevertheless, it can be stated that food plays an important role during the holidays whether as a complementary element or as the main attraction. Since every tourist must eat, they are all somehow interested in food. Food influences the behaviour of tourists to different extents. Each tourist is differently involved in food tourism. One is already involved when looking up traditional food or entering a local food restaurant. Therefore, destination marketing organisations should not neglect the potential of food tourism at their destination.


Laureen Rashof, 24.05.2022


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