Digeset May Foodtourism

thoughts on food tourism

With F.A.W.C! winter series approaching in June, Greig Buckley has some thoughts on the importance of food tourism – and our role as food writers in it. It’s November 2015 and we crest the Titiokura Saddle at 708 metres on the Napier-Taupo road and there ahead is the bountiful Hawke’s Bay, spread out before us.

Our mouths are watering in anticipation of fine food and wine over the weekend at the fourth Summer F.A.W.C! event – 10 days of hedonistic, belt-loosening indulgence. Sixty-five events, from fancy exclusive dinner parties in posh Hawke’s Bay homes and wineries, to Burgers with Boz (Martin Bosley, one of the Bay’s favourite sons) in the AdVintage carpark, or even a canine feast for dog lovers… F.A.W.C! caters for all budgets and tastes. (Though judging by the pearls and the carpark, most guests are not short of a dollar.)

The event continues to grow in reputation, and more than 40 events had sold out before the first bottle was even opened.

Is this the best food tourism event in New Zealand? Quite possibly. It has grown from strength to strength each year, and the organisers have not rested on their laurels, continually improving and adding new events each year. They use research and listen to feedback.

F.A.W.C! is a favourite with locals, but a growing proportion of sales are to visitors – from around New Zealand, and increasingly overseas. Many come for the wine first, but food is a natural partner and they benefit from being promoted together.

For the first time Tourism New Zealand was there, hosting international food and travel writers from Asia, the United States and Europe. But sadly, food is still not seen as a key dish on our tourism buffet.

And how many other regions in NZ could match this? This is the challenge: how to create quality food experiences across the country, and across the year.

Events are by their nature localised and very short: these 10 days in November, or the upcoming Winter F.A.W.C! with 55 events over four weekends in June. But what about the other 150 or so days of our peak seasons? Can we rely on small, local food and wine businesses to maintain and deliver quality experiences through the year?

Even more importantly, we need infrastructure around the food attractions – including quality lodgings for discerning visitors. We should not shy away from charging good prices – top-quality lodgings to match the food, priced at a premium and with a great story.

As food writers, we have a critical part to play, beyond just eating and drinking: •Get along to the growing number of food events around the country and cover them – spread the stories.
•Tell these New Zealand food stories – capture the characters behind the food or wine. Portray the all-important provenance of the food. And you won’t even need to include a recipe.
•Encourage New Zealanders to visit and enjoy food experiences around our beautiful country, then encourage them to spread the word and get more friends from here and abroad to join them.
•Take a global perspective: don’t just write for the local market, but international publications in markets that our visitors call home.

Food writers have the skill and knowledge – and, I believe, responsibility – to talk about the fabulous food experiences and provenance in New Zealand, and the importance of food tourism to the NZ economy.

The more discussion and awareness, the more attractive it will be for food makers to invest more in developing memorable food experiences, and promoting their products. The more that these activities grow, the more potential there is for food writers to get work in a tight market.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of stories being told at F.A.W.C! – by the artisan growers, the winemakers and the chefs. And by the thousands of revellers enjoying the fruits of their talents and labours. And, not least, by the growing number of international visitors, sharing their stories with friends back home. Let’s hope they come back with them next year.