Gastronomic tourism – Can Greece become a worldwide leader?
Although it tends to be open to many interpretations and is often equated with the experiences that focus on good food and drink, gastronomy tourism is much more than that. Indicatively, gastronomy as an overall tourist product may also include participating in cooking classes, buying typical local products, visiting food or beverage production sites, taking relevant tours to a specific destination participating in gastronomic festivals and many more.
Undoubtedly, most of the memories that tourists have from the countries they visit – especially when it comes to traveling within Greece – are inextricably linked to the gastronomic experiences and what exactly they tasted in each of them. It is also appropriate to specify that, according to data provided by the World Food Travel Association in 2019 about Greece, 4 billion euros out of the total 16 billion euros in tourism revenue per year, came from gastronomic tourism; at the same time, according to the same organization and relevant research conducted globally back in 2016 -under normal market conditions- it turns out that 25% of tourists “spend significant amounts” on food and drink in the countries they visit.
However, even though it is commonly accepted that food is an important incentive for travelers to visit Greece, gastronomic tourism does not yet seem to be highly developed. In an attempt to decode the ongoing overall trend observed in the domestic market, the CapsuleT team turned to 2 startups that have successfully completed the Acceleration Program and focus their services on the development of gastronomic tourism in Greece and beyond. Read below what Alios Tours and Dishcover had to say about this hot topic.
⇒ In your opinion, can Greece become a worldwide ‘leader’ in gastronomic tourism? Based on your insights, which is the current status of the relevant market in our country?
Alios Tours: It is a fact that the first gastronomic textbook is in Greek and dates to the end of the 2nd century AD. Wherever you travel in Greece, there is a wealth of local products, recipes, customs and cooking utensils. The food, or rather the table ritual, is rooted in Greek culture. Every feast has its own dish, every joy and sorrow are accompanied by specific recipes. In view of all the above, Greece can certainly become a worldwide leader in the field of gastronomic tourism. Unfortunately, to date, no serious efforts have been made to preserve the Greek gastronomic identity. The average traveler is looking for a piece of ‘moussaka’, a Greek salad, or a souvlaki. Therefore, there is an immediate need to connect local producers with restaurants or stores and promote the importance of authentic local recipes.
Dishcover: Greece must claim a leading role in this field by changing the mentality of the local population and launching relevant education initiatives. This aspect of tourism is often confused unilaterally with local products or foods and their promotion. However, we need documented research, a plan based on specific KPIs/metrics and actions within a common strategy. Moreover, we should look at the bigger picture: a Greek tavern does not actually compete with its neighbors in a Greek village, but with a canteen in Thailand or a tapas bar in Spain. Thus, technology as well as initiatives like ours with their fresh look, are able to play a key role in this field especially during times like this, which are both a threat and an opportunity. It is a hopeful sign that in recent years we have seen the emergence of high-quality domestic events and relevant initiatives for extroversion. Dishcover aspires to be an integral part of this emerging trend, not only by contributing to an upgraded and expanded tourism product, such as though the launch of the first coffee tour and dark tour (with exclusive thematic tasting), but also by promoting pioneering companies in this field and aspects of cultural heritage.
⇒ How did you adapt to the restrictions imposed during Covid-19 to meet the emerging needs?
Alios Tours: We launched online cooking lessons which are available to anyone who has missed Greece and its flavors/aromas. This is an attempt to keep alive the interest of the people who wish to visit our country once they are able to do so. Right now, they can enjoy an authentic experience even while staying at their home.
Dishcover: Covid-19 imposed a more substantial understanding of the market needs, new partnerships, a change in our business model and a shift to more holistic services. Indicatively, we should not omit to mention the current possibility of offering our platform and know-how to creative initiatives and providers, so that the latter can share their own inspiring experiences and expand their audience. Therefore, we have already collaborated with the important ‘Last Stop’ initiative in Istanbul, which focuses its activities on the promotion of the least visited areas, located in the stations of public transport (such as, train stations).
A few words about the 2 startups
Alios Tours is a platform that offers food experiences and activities in Greece. The team creates food activities in unique locations and off the beaten path travel destinations. It also handpicks the best food experiences in popular destinations.
Dishcover is an Augmented Reality mobile application, which allows the user to select and explore one of the tasting tours the team has designed, at their own pace. In other words, the app offers the personalization needed and a flavor journey, tailor-made to the visitor, in terms of flexibility, price and curation.