There is no greater disappointment than being at a great destination and not getting the right food to eat. There is no greater fun than getting some great food at places you don’t expect to. Idea of a good holiday may vary but all travellers and tourists alike agree that Food plays major role in how they perceive their success of the trip.
Well-heeled experiential travellers may often plan travel with food as one of the many experiences to actively pursue on the trip, instead of leaving food as one of the surprises or something that happens along the way.
Take example of Kerala, ethnic Kerala cuisine is such a big hit there that guests come specifically just to enjoy it. However Kerala is just an example. India is a treasure trove of culinary diversity with recipes changing with every district and there is more to enjoy and experience that a lifetime can ever take.
When I was traveling to Tamilnadu, every small town we stopped for lunch had some most wonderful meals at very average looking local restaurants at an unbelievable price point. Kerala is a haven for foodies, both Vegetarian and Non Vegetarian. North-Kerala and Coorg (Malabar circuit) is another culinary experience all together with the clear influence of home grown spices on the cuisine.
I happen to visit Gujarat and Ahmedabad and they both seem to be the snacking paradise with so many local dishes celebrated everyday by locals who seem to have some kind of fetish for the stuff.
Experience says that having a local meal for Lunch (“Thali”) is almost a sure thing for an authentic experience. Recently I had a “Kumaoni Thali”, “Lucknowi Thali” and “Malnad Thali” and all offered local flavors and a definitive experience.
Then there are stories of some Dhaba in North India. The stories are endless. Lets visit a few things tour operators can do to promote whats termed as gastro tourism.
Research – Guests love something ethnic and authentic. So tour operators needs to undertake original research to unearth genuine experiences and stay away from manicured experiences that lack in authenticity and charm. At Nivalink we try to keep Lunch / Dinners open for guests to explore. We also recommend local restaurants which they can explore while on the move.
Innovation – Gastro Tourism for Indian guests could be combined with Shopping tourism. (To put it bluntly.. “Men hog while the women shop”). Further innovations can revolve around genuine experiences and options where guests can choose as per their tastes and not stick to stereotypical itineraries.
Food Walks – Old City Heritage walks are a sure way to explore history and character of a city. A variant of these walks are the Food walks that take you to some lip-smacking areas. Chandni Chowk Parathewali Galli (Old Delhi) is now a legendary and so are the Tunde Kabab of Lucknow. While on travel, Food walks are sure to make your evenings interesting and something of a must do with friends / family groups.
Serious extensions – Like Kerala and to some extent Rajasthan, other hoteliers can promote cookery tourism where guests stay to learn cuisine. It’s a serious value add for hotels which don’t have to really invest too much in the infrastructure.
Larger Picture – Gastro tourism is just a means to an end, i.e. to get guests hooked to a larger cultural experience. Crafts, culture, heritage all go well with the cuisine.
My Wishful Thinking (Khayaali Pulao) – Few years down the line when I am “been there done that” with everything, I hope to visit some destination with a sole purpose of enjoying its cuisine without being bothered about touristy sightseeing and experiences. I can see Goa as my first choice destination where I can take a self drive vehicle, a villa by the beach and then keep hopping around exploring ethnic cuisine. Some day Hopefully my “Khayaali Pulao” will see light of the day :-).
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