What is a ‘foodie’? Do you consider yourself to be very interested in food? When you travel do you enjoy eating cultural food that the destination has to offer? If yes, then you are most likely a ‘foodie’. These particular people consider food to be a form of art and travel to the most pristine food destinations to experience these dishes. Gastronomic tourism (also known as food or culinary tourism) today is now more popular than ever before. People are travelling far and wide to experience first hand, countries fine-cuisine. And it is now considered a crucial part of the tourist experience.
As Vietnam now ranks among the top most attractive destinations for fine dining, foodies and other tourists have plenty of opportunities to tantalise their taste buds throughout the Asian country. As well as this, tour companies are also cashing in on this evolving trend, as there are now many more tour packages that cater for the cultural foodies, to a friendly family cooking classes.
Food tourism is based on a its territory, landscape, local culture, local produce and authenticity (UNWTO, 2012a). In recent years, the new emerging trend of culinary tourism is now extremely popular among many tourists. Current research undertaken by UNWTO (2012b), have discovered that the cuisine of a destination is an ‘aspect of upmost importance in the quality of the holiday experience’. Food tourism is a great way for tourists to get involved with the local culture of a destination, through their cuisine and local products and produce.
Bun Cha. Source: http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/bun-cha
With over 54 ethnicities, and a diverse culture, Vietnam is quickly becoming a hub for most foodies. As the country was greatly impacted by China and France during the colonial period, makes this destination full of rich culinary heritage, making it even more appealing to foodies (Vietnam Online, 2015).
Vietnamese cuisine is packed full of heat, sweetness, sourness and rounded off with a well-balanced aromatic smell. The cuisine in the northern regions are commonly stir-fries an noodle soups, which is mainly influenced by China. The central region of the country is best known for its fresh-seafood. Whilst the southern region is greatly influenced by Thai food, which has resulted in the food being a lot sweeter than the rest of the countries cuisine, as there is more palm sugar and coconut used their dishes. This diverse cuisine throughout the country is very appealing for foodies.
Throughout all of Vietnam there is one main central hub for foodies, this being Hanoi. Not only is this the capital of Vietnam, but also has one of the most diverse areas for cuisine and native foods. The destination is well-known for its cultural performances, rich history and beautiful scenery, but it also provides some iconic dishes such as Pho, Banh Cuon, Bun Cha or Cha Ca.
Caramel Trout. Source: https://www.bbc.goodfood.com/sites/default/files/caramel-trout.jpg
As mentioned previously, tour companies are cashing in on this tourism sector. Tour companies such as Intrepid, Vietnam Food Tour and Rickshaw Travel, all provide a wide range of food experiences, throughout the S-shaped country. With these tours ranging from 9 to 13 days, all of different price points, there is a tour for any budget and time frame.
However, with this high demand of tourists travelling through the country, and the demand for innovation and creativity. Culinary tourism has had to adapt to cater for these changes. Some of these changes include (Hotel and Resort Insider, 2010):
- The increase demand of health conscious products and dishes – this resulting in a more personalised food experience for those people who are health conscious
- Fine-dinning whilst on vacation has become more of a social event with friends and family – this creating a demand for high quality restaurants that provide an experience for their customers
- The demand for cultural dishes are higher than ever before, resulting in countries providing more cultural authentic restaurants. This is create for Vietnam as they already provide a cultural authentic cuisine experience for its visitors.
With Vietnam receiving over 10 million tourists last year alone (Vietnam Tourism, 2017). It is important that the country to capitalises on the increase in demand for these tourists products (being their authentic cuisine). As the countries three largest visitation groups coming from China, Korea and Japan, it is important for Vietnam to know the consumer profiles for the following groups. Food and wine is is ranked in the top three important factors that are considered when choosing a travel destination among these groups.
A study undertaken by the United Nations Tourism Organisation (2012c), addressed the current situation and opinion of food tourism among majority of the organisations members based on their current travel experiences. The table below demonstrates the gastronomic activities that were under-taken by UNWTO members during their own travel experiences. Interestingly enough, all members had taken some form of gastronomic tourism during their international travels. With food events (79%), cookery workshops (62%) and foodtours (62%) accounting for the three most popular activities to be undertaken whilst travelling internationally (UNWTO, 2012c).
Gastronomic tourism is also great for the economy within Vietnam. As the country is an emerging economy, and rely heavily on travel and tourism to provide majority of its GDP, the food sector has plenty of room to grow and develop into a mega tourist draw card.
Vietnam have a large number of food markets throughout its country. This is a great opportunity for the local community, by providing them with the opportunity of employment and income, whilst also letting the community to engage with travellers and tourists.
On that note, food markets are what Vietnam are known for around the world. Many locals are able to show off and sell their local produce to the broader community and tourists. Markets can be found throughout majority of the country, however, the larger cities are were you will find some interesting authentic cuisine and products. This market experience is quite unique and different for most tourists, as they break the stereotypical markets. They are not full of hustle and bustle, but rather they are more a inviting and warm experience. The street filled with rich aromatic smells and sound of noise of the chatty locals set the scene of a Vietnamese market. Some of the most popular food markets can be found in the heart of Hanoi, a hub for foodies travelling to Vietnam. The destination provides a unique experience for its visitors, and enables them to be involved in authentic cultural foods, which are highly sourced by most travellers nowadays.
The main driver of this food tourism travel trend has mainly come due to the increase in technology and the internet. There are 6 million views on Facebook every minute and over 2 million google searches each and every minute. This large usage of the internet and social media, used by all individuals around the world, enables travellers to use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on to share their travel experiences quickly and easily – all they need is some form of internet access.
This type of global exposure is fantastic for the tourism industry within Vietnam. It promotes the gastronomic tourism without Vietnam having to do any marketing campaign or promotion. Ultimately, social media is a great platform for Vietnam’s tourism.
The impacts of foodies on Vietnam have only boosted its economic growth. The gastronomic tourism within Vietnam is booming so this is the best opportunity and time to travel too Vietnam, and taste your way through the scenic country. So why not travel to Vietnam? Become a foodie for a week and experience first hand fresh local produce and cultural authentic cuisine. Share your experiences, posts and images with your friends and family. And soak up as much cultural heritage as you can, cause it will be an experience of a lifetime.
United Nations World Tourism Oraganisation. (2012a). UNWTO: Global Report on Food Tourism Vol. 4: Introduction. Retrieved from http://cf.cdn.unwto.org/sites/all/files/docpdf/amreports4-foodtourism.pdf
United Nations World Tourism Oraganisation. (2012b). UNWTO: Global Report on Food Tourism Vol. 4: Gastronomy’s importance in the development of tourism destinations in the world. Retrieved from http://cf.cdn.unwto.org/sites/all/files/docpdf/amreports4-foodtourism.pdf
United Nations World Tourism Oraganisation. (2012c). UNWTO: Global Report on Food Tourism Vol. 4: What our Members say?. Retrieved from http://cf.cdn.unwto.org/sites/all/files/docpdf/amreports4-foodtourism.pdf
Vietnam Online. (2015). Gastronomic Tourism. Retrieved from https://www.vietnamonline.com/overview/gastronomic-tourism.html
Vietnam Tourism. (2017). Events: International Visitors. Retrieved from http://www.vietnamtourism.com/en/index.php/news/items/11897