Economic Development

How Food with a Story Can Drive Economic Development

Heritage tourism has become a multibillion-dollar industry in the U.S. as travelers seek out historic and cultural sites. Culinary tourism is an integral slice of this trend. Heritage travelers want to immerse themselves in the culture of the community and to experience and interact not only with vintage architecture but also with community activities and the lives of the people through stories, photos, and artifacts. And they especially want local food experiences.

Despite their aversion to risks, tourists still want their excursions to be memorable and not to be the product of public relations and marketing campaigns; they want unique, authentic, and interactive experiences. This is particularly reflected in the culinary habits of tourists. While some business travelers crave consistency—eating at the same chain restaurants throughout the country—many tourists are willing to be more adventurous. Cultural heritage tourists are much more likely to go out of their way to try a local restaurant that features locally grown products than to eat convenience food. In addition to enjoying unique food, most cultural heritage tourists realize that local culinary offerings are an indelible part of a region’s cultural fabric and that they need to sample the local fare to get the true “taste” of a community. Food with a Story helps identify potential culinary heritage stories that local restaurants can use to attract cultural heritage tourists.

Who Are Cultural Heritage Tourists?

They tend to

• be more educated and affluent,

• spend 1.46 time more per trip, and

• stay 1.4 times longer compared to other travelers, and

In addition, they are 1.33 times more likely to stay at a hotel or bed and breakfast.

The economic benefits of cultural heritage tourism are clear. In 2009, travel and tourism in the United States

• created 7.7 million jobs,

• generated $194 billion in personal income, and

• generated $117 billion in federal, state, and local taxes.

Of these travelers, 118 million (78%) participated in some form of cultural heritage experiences and spent, on average, $994 per trip, compared to $611 for all tourists.

(U.S. Travel Association, 2009)