Culinary tourism is the new eco-tourism, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette informs us. That is to say, it’s hot right now. A recent survey by the Travel Industry Association of America (cosponsored by the National Restaurant Association, Gourmet, and the International Culinary Tourism Association) found that a quarter of all U.S. “leisure travelers” make food a central factor in their choice of destinations. And while on vay-kay in the States in the past three years, about 17 percent of Americans have taken cooking classes, gone to farmers’ markets, visited wineries or pigged out at food festivals.
Big whoop, right? Everybody’s a “foodie” now, so naturally they’d take their gourmandish tendencies on the road. But the study convinced the ICTA that culinary tourism has reached its tipping point—and that might have some sucky implications for chowhounds down the line. As the Post-Gazette explains:
Because culinary tourists also take eats home, where they might want to keep buying them, the potential for economic gain can extend beyond the trip, said [the ICTA’s president]. “Every community should be looking for ways to promote its unique food and drink experiences.”
It’s all well and good if great restaurants want to start overnighting their fare to faraway fans (it’s worked well for barbecue), but like its eco-counterpart, culinary tourism has the potential to ruin amazing places if not handled correctly.