Australians are eating their way around the world with travel now led by their stomachs. Our love of food is now a driving motivator for travel as we connect with local cultures and communities.

However we travel, from tours to cruising, cuisine and top food experiences are now leading the way in why we choose a destination.

According to Luxury Escapes, food tourism is the most popular trend in 2023, with 63.59 per cent of the online travel agency’s survey respondents saying their holidays revolve around cuisine.

A survey by the World Food Travel Association last year showed 81 per cent of people believe that trying local food helps them appreciate local culture. Expedia Brands’ managing director Daniel Finch says food-themed holidays are incredibly important for Australian travellers, and one of the largest influencers on where Australians choose to travel.

“Street food and ‘hole in the wall’ experiences are of most appeal to Australian travellers, followed by local markets, tours and hidden gem experiences,” he says.

“When thinking about food tourism and where they’d most like to visit, the vast majority (86 per cent) of Australians want to travel overseas, with Italy top of the list, followed by Japan, France, Greece and Thailand.”

food tourism
Fine food is a common feature among lines such as Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

Cruise ships like those of the Oceania Cruises and Regent fleets come with kitchens, and a trip to the market followed by a lecture on how to cook local ingredients is one of the most popular experiences. For instance, on board the Marina and Riviera ships, Oceania Cruises offers culinary discovery tours in the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, Mexico and the Caribbean as well as South America.

Walking tours of Tuscany – which offer fine dining every night and wine visits during the day – and barging with a French chef through the lavish French countryside are topping travel lists.

Michelin guidebooks, which feature chefs with their famous stars, are now an essential packing item as guests to eat their way through Europe, South America, Asia and the Americas.

“We’re noticing that members love to combine fine dining with other activities like cooking classes and wine tours,” says Adam Schwab, CEO and co-founder of Luxury Escapes.

“Even though it’s been running for almost 15 years, the MasterChef effect still has a massive impact on the popularity of culinary classes, while gourmet food and wine tours are also increasingly popular with people who want to get a more in-depth taste of the region.”

food tourism is a driving force for travel
Produce for the Glyde Inn, County Louth.

Koper in Slovenia is emerging as a premier culinary destination and is one of the ports Oceania Cruises visits. The chefs on board its ships will take guests to tour the Fonda fish farm in Piran Bay, which is known for its beautiful sea bream. Guests will meet the family and learn about the aquaculture of the region. They will prepare their special Fonda branzino accompanied by local wine that highlights the fish.

The next stop on the food tourism trail is to the rolling hillsides of Slovenia where guests will visit a local restaurant to learn about the creation of artisanal olive oil and salt from the experts.

Scenic, on its river ships, has dedicated voyages celebrating the local cultures of southern France where guests can explore the vineyards of Sauternes on e-bikes and taste the Grand Cru Classe wines of Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey. Discover Lillet, the classic aperitif and delight in a truffle dinner. Fancy a Cognac? Where better to indulge than the legendary Rémy Martin estate.

And Cellar Tours, an American-based luxury travel company, offers a private Fish Lovers Tour of Ireland, where the castles are vast and salmon is king. To kick off the adventure, the tour starts with a dinner in Dublin before a scenic drive into the countryside to fly-fish at Delphi Lodge. Later on the tour, guests can sample the mussels and oysters in Connemara and smoked salmon and gravlax at a local smokehouse in Cork.

The package also includes a two Michelin-starred dinner as well as a visit to Howth, the charming village home to actress Saoirse Ronan, U2 drummer Larry Mullen Jr and TV chef Donal Skehan.

A Scenic spokesperson says, “We find any time we focus on foodie experiences like cook with a chef, foraging in France or tasting your wine through the Rhine valley, these sell out the most. With Scenic Eclipse we certainly focus on our dining experiences and the ability to dine in up to 10 restaurants and drink in nine bars but also see the world.”

Food tourism
Enjoying the offerings of Cinque Terre. ©RSSC