DestinationsFood, food, glorious food. Just add nature, plus some events, and you’re on a winner.

Food for thought: Gastronomy is a destination’s best friend

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Gastronomy, more so than shopping, wellness or sustainability, is the biggest drawcard for those planning a holiday
Gastronomy, more so than shopping, wellness or sustainability, is the biggest drawcard for those planning a holiday Photo Credit: GettyImages/Brostock

A company that takes a deep dive into social media conversations and their impact on travel destinations has come up with a surprise finding.

More than shopping, more than culture, more than lodging, more than sustainability, gastronomy is the biggest drawcard for those planning a holiday.

Olivier Henry-Biabaud is chief executive of Brussels-based TCI Research, whose Travelsat research programme monitors social conversation tracks to discover what people are saying online about destinations and travel brands – both positive and negative.

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“It is essential for DMOs and marketers to map what travel and tourism themes are on the rise and driving positivity,” said Henry-Biabaud, who recently spoke at PATA’s webinar looking at ‘Key Drivers of Tourism Resilience and Recovery for Asia Pacific Travel’.

“Trust is fuelled massively by what is what is shared online, what is discussed, how destinations are portrayed, in all the social sources.”

He added: “Sentiment is not predictive alone of travellers’ planning, but a positive e-reputation is essential to generate favourability towards destinations and travel brands, particularly in a post-crisis management context.”

Food-related attractions are a big topic in social conversations. Here Singapore’s Museum of Ice Cream.
Food-related attractions are a big topic in social conversations. Here Singapore’s Museum of Ice Cream.

Positive social conversation tracks monitored by Travelsat centred around food diversity that encouraged tourists to book tours; celebrations around traditional ingredients; food and wine shows, and cooking schools.

“Anything DMOs can do to promote gastronomy will be a major benefit to the destination,” Henry-Biabaud added.

Travelsat’s monitoring of online chat showed that Asia Pacific destinations have outshone other parts of the world in travel recovery and much of that revival has been driven by social conversations.

Next to gastronomy, other positive social conversations were related to events — themed events and exhibitions, pop concerts, sports events and music awards. 

Also, a popular conversion topic post-pandemic was nature and outdoor experiences, particularly activities that allowed people to reconnect with wildlife.

“Nature and the outdoors are very much resonating with the concept of a country's responsible travel,” said Henry-Biabaud. “People are choosing a slow kind of tourism that is respectful to nature. 

“People are also sharing their classic road trips, or train trips, commenting on their slow travel connecting with nature.”

Culture, lodging, and shopping were less discussed on social media, with shopping favoured more by wealthy shoppers. Wellness and sustainability were barely discussed.

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