Culinary tourism combines food with experiences, which is a big pull for travel into Africa. However, tourist demands are constantly evolving, making it important for the industry to keep up to date with the latest trends. 

According to the 2016 Food Travel Monitor, culinary tourism has gone mainstream, with 95% of travellers saying they engage in a memorable food or beverage experience while travelling.

Collin Thaver, Managing Director of Southern Africa 360, says his company has started to include local food experiences into its itineraries. “We have realised this is a growing trend and is frequently requested.” Southern Africa 360 includes different experiences, from walking food tours in Stellenbosch to seafood and beach braais (barbecues) on the West Coast.

Thaver adds that top restaurants in the Winelands and Cape Town are frequently requested, such as the Test Kitchen. Food markets are also very popular, and he receives numerous requests to include the Neighbourgoods market at the Old Biscuit Mill into itineraries. He says there is also a high interest in Cape Malay cooking experiences and traditional Xhosa lunches in the townships, where cooking lessons/demonstrations are often incorporated into the programme. 

According to Thaver, culinary experiences are mostly requested by the UK and US markets, with the Dutch market leaning towards more interactive culinary experiences.

Ellie Brinklow, Reservations Manager – Private Journeys for Wilderness Safaris, says the company has recently put more focus on culinary experiences and offers new custom itineraries to specifically include food experiences.

She says operators can integrate food experiences into itineraries by tailor making new suggested itineraries. She suggests that operators go out and explore culinary tours and restaurants, as it will be difficult not to share findings with visitors.

Brinklow says operators should prepare a list of highly recommended lunch and dinner options for clients, as well as include details about the experience, location and food style. “In the last couple of years we have geared up the lunch options quite a bit, as it enhances the whole touring experience. In addition, food fusion tours seem to be the latest trend, based on the increased amount of enquiries we receive.”

She says almost every key source market seems to be interested in food tourism, especially those from the US, UK, Europe, Asia, Middle East and Australasia.

Julian Asher, Founder of Timeless Africa spoke to Tourism Update with a special focus on millennial travellers.

“Millennials are very into food and love getting recommendations for top local restaurants, as they see it as a great way to engage with local culture,” says Asher.

“When I gave my talk on the rise of culinary tourism in Africa at WTM Africa, one of the more interesting insights was the role food played in destination choice among millennials. Over 50% say they will not visit a destination seen as lacking good restaurants.”

At WTM Africa he said: “Food is one of the few travel trends that cannot be experienced virtually or online. It remains very authentic and real.”