Food Tourism Networks - What is the point?
FOOD TOURISM NETWORKS – WHAT’S THE POINT?
This year, I’m working with a number of food tourism networks. Some are at the very beginning of their journey and coming together for the first time. Others have done some great groundwork and are now seeking to generate impact. Still others have already achieved quite a lot in food tourism terms and are seeking to push through to a brand new lelve.
No matter their stage of development, I’ve noticed that a challenge for all is getting clarity on their purpose and their shared objectives. Here’s how it might go.
When asked why they’re doing what they are doing, the answers are remarkably consistent. “We’ve great food here”, “We’ve wonderful producers and growers here”, “We’ve some of the best chefs”, and “it’s a great place for food”.
Given that, when asked again why they are dong what they do, the answers get a bit more gocuses. “We want to let visitors tates our great produce”, “We want to showcase the destinations”, “We want to share our food culture” and “We want to tap into the potential for food tourism.”
I often challenge still further as these, as yet, are not objectives that can really be measured. A question might be “What impact do you want to have from doing that?” and “what do you want to walk away with 12 or 18 months from now?”
This brings us to much more tangible objectives and we realise that what has already been mentioned is actually a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. The objectives (i.e. ‘the end) that get mentioned are a) to have visitors stay longer in the destination b) to have visitors spend more in teh destination c) to support small, local enterprises d) to raise awareness through advertising and public relations e) to preserve our food culture and heritage.
Yes, these are true objectives for a food tourism network. They are focused, measurable and tangible. I sometimes ask why these true objectives were not mentioned earlier. “They go without saying” is the common answer. Absolutely nothing goes without saying when people are trying to work together as a group. There must be absolute clarity on the objectives and they must be repeated often so that people remain on the sam page.
This is particularly true in the food area where there is so much momentum and opportunity right now that it can be difficult to maintain focus. It’s not food for food’s sake. It’s food for tourism’s sake. To be an effective food tourism network, the key thing is to realise that it’s actually about visitors. It’s about the experience around the food, rather than the food itself.