The cuisine as cultural heritage, a weapon in the face of tourism banalization
The cuisine is part of the cultural heritage of a place and as such should be protected and taken care of when promoting a tourist destination because, otherwise, it may succumb to the banalization that homogenizes the gastronomic offer to the point of not distinguishing a city or other.
This is one of the recommendations included in the "Guide for the development of gastronomic tourism" prepared by the World Tourism Organization (WTO) and the Basque Culinary Center (BCC) of San Sebastian, which offered an "advance" in the V World Forum of Gastronomic Tourism, held on May 2 in that city in northern Spain.
Prepared by BCC teachers Amaia López de Heredia and Iñaki Gaztelumendi, the guide is a "road map" to help countries or regions that want to promote themselves as a gastronomic destination and provides a series of tips to improve management in that area.
"It is the result of a process of four world forums of Gastronomic Tourism" in addition to the knowledge accumulated in the master's degree dedicated to this subject taught at the BCC, says Gaztelumendi in an interview with Efe.
One of the first questions it raises is the need to expand the information since there are few statistics that specify the impact of gastronomy when choosing a tourist destination.
"It is known that a traveler spends on average about 30% of their budget and that for 12% of those who choose Spain, the main motivation is to taste the local dishes and wines".
It is also an "evidence" that the cultural tourist knows "very well what he/she wants" and wants to "taste the authentic" of a country, to which he goes with more and more information in a "hyperconnected" world.
"It's not just about sitting in restaurants with Michelin stars, since that type of tourist seeks to know the whole value chain of gastronomy", which includes, for example, going to a town to learn about the process of making cheese from Idiazabal or to know a market of supplies.
For Gaztelumendi, "almost all countries" have culinary potential, although in recent years destinations that have hitherto been unnoticed have emerged. In Latin America, Ecuador, Uruguay or Chile have begun their breakthrough to join the "kings" of the cuisine of the continent: Peru, which has made its food a hallmark, and Mexico, whose cuisine was the first in the world in to be declared Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2010.
Southeast Asia is emerging as another spotlight that travelers from all over the world who will opt not only for China and Japan but for countries such as Thailand or Cambodia will put their eyes on. They can all serve the guide prepared by López de Heredia and Gaztelumendi, whose next stage is the disclosure through conferences or seminars that provide specific indications for each case.
For the moment, Brazil, Ecuador, Argentina, Indonesia, and Lithuania have requested information, a place so far irrelevant as a culinary destination but that, like others, could change following the formula of the Nordic countries, says Gaztelumendi.
"Ten years ago nobody knew anything about the gastronomy of Norway, Denmark or Sweden except that they were salmon producers, but they decided that food could play an important role as an element of attraction and created the concept of Nordic cuisine which is now one of the most influential in the world."
This experience constitutes an "example of cooperation" because it was not each country on their own side, but they opted to find "elements of cohesion" in the culinary art and configure the concept of Nordic cuisine.
Those responsible for the guide have also received a request from Murcia, a region with "extraordinary" gastronomy and some "wonderful wines", but that has not played a role in the tourist offer that has focused on the "sun and beach".