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Exploring culinary tourism in the Philippines

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — In 2020, the Department of Tourism (DOT) expressed its aim for domestic tourism to return. One of their solutions is to reimagine food tourism in the country.

Based on the 2020 Food Travel Monitor, 7.2 out of 10 travelers select their destination based on its food and drinks. In the Philippines, nearly 30% of the total expenses of international tourists are allocated to culinary experiences, as per the Department of Tourism’s statistics.

Fast forward to 2024, see how culinary tourism in the Philippines fared with tourists now that COVID-19 restrictions are less strict.


How culinary tourism has worked in the past for other countries

In 2023, food emerged as the top financial motivator for travelers. Recognizing this trend, tourism boards globally have customized their offerings and schedules to cater to the burgeoning demographic of culinary enthusiasts known as “foodies.”

Even before recent years, certain countries have been capitalizing on local food tourism to attract visitors.

France and Italy stand at the forefront

Italy and France are recognized leaders in global gastronomy, celebrated for their distinctive cuisines, wines, and prestigious dining venues. 

They’re known for enriching culinary tours, from Tuscany’s fresh pasta to Bordeaux’s wine explorations. Italy ranks as the top choice among travelers, followed by France, with areas like Tuscany, Piedmont, and Umbria favored for their exceptional value, particularly among families seeking culinary adventures.

The trend in culinary tourism leans towards unique, boutique experiences, such as olive oil tastings, offering travelers deep dives into the essence of local gastronomy and enriching their understanding of regional culinary arts.

Southeast Asia boasts authentic flavors

The Singaporean hawker culture is a draw for those looking to savor authentic South Asian flavors, offering a wide array of dishes such as Hainanese chicken rice, laksa, and chili crab from numerous stalls. 

There’s also a growing interest among Bangkok visitors to explore beyond well-known dishes like pad Thai, seeking out lesser-known culinary delights. This shift in gastronomic curiosity has significantly increased the popularity of food tours now that COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, with an increase in guests looking for these unique dining experiences. 

Japan emphasizes delicateness and artistry in food

Japan’s local food tourism spotlights fresh ingredients, nuanced flavors, and visual appeal, offering a unique gastronomic journey for their tourists. 

With an array of dishes such as sushi, sashimi, tempura, ramen, and yakitori, Japan’s culinary landscape is diverse. The country also boasts the highest number of Michelin-starred restaurants globally, with cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka being key destinations for those pursuing culinary excellence. This distinction makes Japan an ultimate destination for culinary enthusiasts.

Now, gastronomic tourism in the Philippines is a booming industry

Food tourism has long existed in the country, with thousands of visitors flocking not just to the pristine beaches but also to sample the local delicacies. The increasing interest in unique and exotic vacations is fueling culinary tourism’s popularity in the Philippines, such as the growing food tourism in Western Visayas

Gastronomic tourism in the Philippines may have slowed during the height of the pandemic. Still, former Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat worked on recommendations for health and safety guidelines for restaurants, cafes, and other dining establishments, in the hopes that food will help fuel the return of tourism.

According to her, by actively seeking out and indulging in local cuisine or delicacies, travelers forge profound connections with a region and its inhabitants, creating unforgettable experiences.

Additionally, a report by Future Market Insights stated that the Philippines is expected to experience a significant surge in the popularity of culinary tourism. The demand is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.7% from 2022 to 2032. Sales in the culinary tourism market of the Philippines account for 3% to 7% of the global culinary tourism market.

Here are some insights into the local food tourism:

  • Travelers are drawn to the diverse and flavorful Filipino cuisine, seeking immersive experiences that include dining in local homes and participating in culinary tours to deepen their understanding of the region’s food and culture. 
  • Localism in culinary tourism emphasizes authentic local experiences, with cooking classes gaining popularity as a way to engage visitors more intimately with Filipino gastronomy. This trend towards hands-on culinary experiences is expected to boost the Philippines’ position in the gastronomic tourism market, appealing especially to younger travelers and those looking to connect with local communities and international visitors alike.
  • Cities in the Philippines are also getting recognized for their culinary capabilities. In fact, Iloilo is the Philippines’ first UNESCO City for Gastronomy. This title showcases Iloilo’s abundant culinary legacy, underscoring its commitment to safeguarding and enhancing Philippine food culture.
  • Food vloggers in the country are also on the rise. With the increasing accessibility of social media and online platforms, many Filipinos are now turning to food vlogging as a way to showcase their love for Filipino cuisine and promote local restaurants and dishes. This has not only given rise to a new generation of food influencers but also helped in promoting the Philippines’ diverse and unique culinary landscape.
  • Digitalization is set to significantly enhance the culinary tourism market in the Philippines. Hotels and other hospitality providers are increasingly leveraging apps to manage and improve the services offered to tourists. This trend towards digital and contactless interactions, which has surged since 2020, is poised to drive remarkable growth in the culinary tourism sector throughout the forecast period.

Local food tourism will grow in the coming years

As culinary tourism expands globally, the Philippines is poised to carve its niche, fueled by a rich food culture and a surge in gastronomic curiosity. 

The country’s gastronomic landscape has evolved. It is particularly highlighted by unique experiences like the rising food tourism in Western Visayas. This evolution is underpinned by digital advancements and a shift towards local, immersive dining experiences. 

With cities like Iloilo gaining international recognition and an increased interest in Filipino cuisine through social media, the Philippines’ culinary tourism is expected to flourish. It will offer authentic encounters that resonate deeply with both local and international food enthusiasts.

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