Skyscanner's 2024 Travel Trends report shows 86% of travelers are interested in eating the local and regional cuisines at their destinations. In other words, they're not too interested in chain restaurants or sticking with only what's familiar.
As travelers budget for trips, half of them will focus on culinary experiences, and that's determining their vacation destinations. Almost half of those polled picked a place because of the food or to dine at a specific restaurant.
Once on vacation, they'll focus on good food and drinks, exploration, adventure, and connecting with the people and local culture.
Sampling a Slice of Paradise
Forty percent of people worldwide said their top reason for traveling in 2024 is to learn about different cultures. Tourists in Hawaii can get to know The Aloha State better through its cuisine. Hawaii is a place where food is culture, and history and love combine. It’s a melting pot of cultures and culinary influences, and native food can be found in grab-and-go spots, food trucks, casual cafes, and upscale restaurants.
Chef Peter Merriman, the pioneer of Hawaii Regional Cuisine, noticed this shift in his restaurants on Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island. “More guests are focused on food. Americans, in general, have gained more and more knowledge about eating. We really love this trend because we are proud of our culinary skills, and the better educated our guests, the better they appreciate their experience at Merriman's,” he says.
“Not only does Hawaii's agriculture and climate allow for top produce, I believe in supporting local first whenever possible,” Merriman explains. “We utilize Hawaii farmers, purveyors, and ranchers, telling them, ‘If you grow it, we'll buy it.' Popular highlights across our restaurants that showcase the flavors of the Islands include the Hawaiian ahi poke with homemade Molokai sweet potato chips, the kalua pig quesadilla with house-made kimchee and mango chili sauce, macadamia nut crusted fresh fish, and of course our famous Merriman's Mai Tai with honey-lilikoi foam,” he adds.
Food Festivals Are Flying High
A YouGov Surveys poll found that 43% of people worldwide are likely to attend a food festival in the next year. Caribbean visitors have their choice from over 20 events throughout the year, such as the Taste of Cayman Food and Drink Festival. The Cayman Islands are world-renowned for their idyllic beaches and diving, but is also the culinary capital of the Caribbean.
For 35 years, the Taste of Cayman festival has showcased all the flavors of their islands — a reflection of the 142 nationalities of its residents. The next festival is April 13, 2024, and Cayman visitors and residents can sample more than 30 island delights, from traditional dishes like heavy cake to inventive offerings from the Caymans’ best restaurants, plus entertainment, in one place.
One of those travelers to the islands is Emmy-nominated Food Network Star, the Sandwich King, Chef Jeff Mauro, who said at 2023's Taste of Cayman, “I want to go to places with great food. And Cayman never ceases to amaze me. The Cayman Islands holds such a special place in my heart. There is nowhere I'd rather be than in Cayman with my toes in the sand and a delicious jerk chicken sandwich in my hand.”
American travelers place culture, historical tours, and sampling local food at the top of their “to-do” lists while on vacation. That helps explain the growth of food tours, which allow visitors to explore and experience all three in one activity.
“At Devour Tours, we are seeing a big increase in foodie-specific tours and culinary experiences, particularly in Europe,” says Lauren Aloise, Founder of Devour Tours by City Experiences. “In response to increased demand in Rome, we recently launched a cooking school in collaboration with Walks, offering Pasta and Pizza Making Classes. We have found that travelers want the experience of an authentic cooking class, but they prefer a commercial kitchen to an apartment. We offer one of the few opportunities in Rome to learn from a local chef in a professional kitchen.
“We are also seeing demand in destinations not typically associated with food tours, such as Dublin, Amsterdam, and London, and have introduced new experiences in each of these cities in the past year,” she continues. “Travelers are interested in exploring the history of these cities, and a big part of that is the food.”
Explorers looking to dive deep into a destination's culinary scene can book a multi-day luxury trip with travel companies like The Red Savannah. Those wanting to experience central Scotland can book their 8-day tour to indulge in the best ingredients from land and sea. Travelers will sample the country's iconic dishes and learn how to recreate them at home from Scotland's leading experts.
For travelers who prefer a self-guided tour, look at France's La Vallée de la Gastronomie (Gastronomy Valley), comprising three of the top Michelin-starred regions in France. For the first time, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, and Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur have joined together to create a new destination showcasing the UNESCO status of the French meal.
This road trip route from Dijon through Lyon to Marseille combines the land's history, its iconic restaurants from famous chefs, and immersive culinary experiences. Visitors can pick from activities including truffle hunting, wine tasting in caves, pastry courses, or the 55-stall Les Halles de Lyon-Paul Bocuse food market, to name a few.
Topping Off Their Travels
Hilton's 2024 Trends Report shows that, while Gen X and baby boomers budget more for culinary experiences, 75% of Gen Z and millennials are more interested in immersing themselves in the local bar scene, including unique hotel bars. This heightened interest has led resorts to up their drink game way beyond the typical hotel bar.
“We foresee a mindful shift emerging; drinking isn't about more, but about better, with a focus on premium and spirit forward serves. And it's not just a sip; it's a sensorial experience. Much like the theatrical elements in the culinary world, the presentation of cocktails will incorporate heightened drama and flair,” explains Paul Broadbent, CEO of Proof & Company, which partnered with Hilton to reimagine the experience at Waldorf Astoria Peacock Alley locations globally.