Forget five-star restaurants. Food-loving tourists are getting their kicks in other ways, from cooking up a hotpot with a Mauritian grandmother to market shopping with a Venetian countess.
More than just fine dining, well-heeled travelers in search of gourmet luxury are seeking out “experiences,” sparking a shift in the tourist industry, according to experts at an upmarket travel fair in Cannes this week.
“Gourmet travel as a niche market is huge everywhere,” Jennifer Campbell, a member of the bespoke travel specialist Virtuoso network, told AFP at the annual International Luxury Travel Market.
“The trend is growing strongly,” said Campbell, whose firm will shortly fly a small group of epicureans on a truffle-hunting expedition to Italy.
“Travelers now want to go out and about to see for themselves, for example, how truffles grow, where to find them and how to cook them.”
The movement kicked off three to five years ago, boosted in the United States, Britain and elsewhere by rising interest in organic produce and local food, as well as global television hits such as “Masterchef.”
Frank Farneti, regional head of France’s luxury Relais et Chateaux hotel network, told a conference on gastronomic travel that success rests on creating an impression of authenticity.
One example is “Grandma’s Kitchen” at the Shanti Maurice Nira beachside resort in Mauritius, an alternative to the resort’s high-end restaurants – run by the real grandmother of one of the staff.
Grandma rustles up traditional Creole fare that might include honey lamb or fish curry at her home while sharing stories with her guests, before sending them off with a selection of handwritten recipes.
The simple experience has proved a hit with the resort’s well-heeled guests, along with a fish and rum shack set up on the beach.
“It’s all about taking people out of a cosseted, gated community and giving them an experience that they can’t get by themselves,” said the owner and chief executive of Nira Hotels and Resorts, MPS Puri.
The new Philippe Starck-designed boutique Hotel Palazzina Grassi, in the heart of historic Venice, is tapping into the culinary-driven market.
Guests can accompany one of the city’s best-known aristocrats, Countess Enrica Rocca, to the city’s famous Rialto market to learn how to select fresh, locally caught fish.
The countess leads them and their shopping baskets back home to prepare Venetian specialties, while regaling them with stories about her family.
Guests come from around Europe as well as Australia to enjoy a day out with the countess, at a cost of around $1,300, said a hotel spokeswoman.
© 2011 The Daily Star
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