Sustainable supply chains in gastronomic tourism

Jane Eastham


This chapter explores gastronomic tourism as a sustainable supply chain issue as articulated in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN 2015). Gastronomy and tourism in economic terms is presumed to valorize regions particularly through indigenous integrated supply chains (Dwyer, et al. 2000). This chapter extends the concept of sustainability to consider not only economic externalities but also the social and environmental benefits of food/ gastronomic tourism.

Initially, we define the nature of ‘gastronomic tourism’ and the growing interest of consumers in the authenticity of provenance of food. The chapter, then, suggests that although in principle there is a demand for a gastronomic tourism, the sustainability of such ventures is dependent on the economic and social value delivered and its environmental impact. Thus, the focus of the discussion revolves around the idea that even where economic value is generated by gastronomic tourism, there may be negative consequences for the environment and the community; an aspect particularly apparent where destinations fail to attract the low-volume high-spending gastronomic tourists.

Gastronomic tourism

Hall and Sharpies (2003) make the distinction between the gastronomic tourist where the primary motive is to visit an area for the purpose of experiencing the local culinary wares, and culinary tourism where the consumers shows a moderate interest once arrived; these have been conflated under the term ‘food tourism’. Cliff Wolf from the world food tourism association has made a similar distinction in characteristics of consumer of ‘deliberate’ and ‘opportunistic’.

The gastronomic tourist is essentially the modern tourist interested in more overarching experiential sensual mix of which food forms an inseparable element. The so-called ‘Alternative Hedonism’ to which Soper refers (2007), is said to reflect consumers’ backlash against the superficiality or inauthentic nature of modern lifestyles and consumption trends (Soper 2007; Frisvoll 2013). Fulfilling the needs of the tourist thus entails provision of consumption opportunities that convincingly embody a link between the food specialties, the social, cultural, geographical, and cultural facets of place and the community. Tourists may also seek to consume more ethically, as can be seen in the growth of such initiatives as Slow Food events and Fair Trade towns (Barnett et al. 2005).

Whether hedonistic or ethical consumption, there are a series of factors that can influence the emergence of a sustainable gastronomic tourism product/destination. The development of a sustainable offering requires the recognition of intrinsic relationships between the thr ee pillars of sustainability: economic, environmental, and social. It has been long recognized that tourism can have economic benefits but may be accompanied by negative environmental and social externalities. Whilst gastronomic tourism is held to be of greater economic value due to higher levels of expenditure per visitor, and of environmental value due to lower visitor numbers (Tikkanen 2007), positive economic and social externalities are contingent upon the nature and governance of the supply chain. It is possible that the delivery of an ‘authentic’ gastronomic experience within a food system is challenged by complex often contradictory interrelations between economic, environmental, and social benefits.

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