Towards a future of sustainable tourism development and local food

Earlier approaches to destination development and gastronomy were about providing consistency and standardized experiences to customers, because these can reduce travelers’ uncertainties, risk perceptions and anxiety (Mak et al. 2012). However, more recently, researchers understand the benefits of promoting local food to travelers in achieving sustainable tourism development, more studies have explored the risk-benefit perceptions of eating local food including street food (Choi, Lee, and Ok 2013).

From the case study on Houston, this chapter shows how a destination’s local cuisine can contribute to sustainable tourism development, from cultural, historical, educational, physical, ecological, economic, and social perspectives. First, in the analysis of cultural, historical, and educational aspects, this study could show the potential to develop more sustainable tourism by adding more stories to the food they serve locally. Providing food to travelers is not merely an act of reducing their feelings of hunger; rather the experience itself can be re-designed as a storytelling experience. According to Woodside (2010), a storytelling method can assist individuals in remembering their experience more vividly and help them to retrieve relevant information better. Therefore, cultural and historical stories travelers learned during their dining experiences can provide more meaningfulness and involvement to travelers and leave the destination with more memorable experiences (Kim 2014).

Second, in the analysis of physical and ecological perspectives, with changes to general consumer trends (e.g., natural, organic, healthy eating), many local foodservice operations have been adopting more local or hyperlocal sourcing options. Based on marketing research evidence on consumer cue processing, this chapter asserts that when local foodservice businesses consistently reinforce their green initiatives, it might remind travelers how much effort the residents put into the conserving of the destination. This way, travelers might become more participatory toward environmental conservation when they travel.

Lastly, this study examined economic and social aspects of promoting local gastronomy and its impact on sustainable destination development. Economically, travelers using more locally sourced local restaurants can improve revenue generation in all parties involved in the greater food system (e.g., farm to end users) because tourism revenue can be re-distributed to the local business entities. When the local economy gains its strengths, it promotes the younger generation’s entrepreneurial activities. Also, travelers spending more money on local foodservice businesses can improve business situations and create more local jobs - leading to a decrease in unemployment rate.

In terms of social aspects, not only developing countries but also developed countries such as the USA suffer from various societal issues. In the case of Houston, the major social issue can be found from food insecurity and the poverty rate. For travelers, local gastronomy can give them added experiential values by having more authentic dining options, but locals can achieve greater business success and return the favor to the local communities, especially to those who are socially and economically disadvantaged.

Although many of these contributions through local gastronomy seem easy to achieve, in many destinations the connection between sustainability and local gastronomy is not well- established. As mentioned in the study of Jamal and Getz (1995), sustainable destination development is not merely done by one entity. However, creating gastronomy experience in a destination involves many stakeholders (e.g., policy makers, suppliers, farmers, distributors, restaurateurs, customers, etc.) and without every party’s collaborative work, it is difficult to achieve the sustainability goals. Therefore, as suggested in Byrd (2007), a destination should consider involving all necessaiy stakeholders.

 
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