Whatever your clients’ tastes, there’s a food and drink tour to suit them
We’ve got a lot to thank Jamie and Nigella for: 30 years ago, the thought of adding avocado to your sandwich or quinoa to your chicken would have elicited raised eyebrows from the average Brit.
Now, the popularity of TV cooking shows means we’re becoming more adventurous with what we eat and drink – even more so when we’re away.
Trying local cuisine has always been a big part of the travel experience, but it’s an increasingly important way for clients to get a real taste of a country’s culture.
No longer willing to settle for a tourist trap, travellers want authentic experiences, whether it’s seeking out Thailand’s best street food, cooking with top chefs in Italy, or wine tasting in the vineyards of Chile.
Here we offer the lowdown on the best food and drink escapes. And if they don’t tempt travellers to book a tour, then nothing will.
“Food isn’t just about eating; it’s about being with friends and sharing experiences,” says Erica Kritikides, food product manager at Intrepid Travel. The company’s Real Food Adventures let food take centre stage while celebrating the sociable aspect of eating, by bringing a group of foodies together to learn about local culture.
Since launching in 2013, the range has more than doubled to 20-plus itineraries. The most popular trips are to countries with a vibrant street-food scene such as Vietnam, India and Mexico. For a more under-the-radar destination, Kritikides recommends the Balkans for their intriguing mix of Mediterranean and eastern European flavours. Intrepid Travel’s 10-day Real Food Adventure to Macedonia and Montenegro offers clients the chance to master the art of perfect pastry with village women, enjoy a traditional barbecue, and dine on a home-made meal with a host family.
Italy remains a classic foodie hotspot, and Cosmos Tours & Cruises’ new eight-day Gourmet Tuscany trip comprises some of the destination’s most delicious elements, with highlights including olive oil and chocolate tastings in the Chianti area, a baking class, liquor tasting and a trip to the market to buy ingredients before a cooking lesson in a rural farmhouse (from £1,335).
Trafalgar’s nine-day Flavours of Italy trip also explores Tuscany. It features an excursion to a market followed by a pasta-making class with Chef Libero, plus a Be My Guest dinner with local people in a family-owned vineyard (from £1,912).
G Adventures’ Local Living tours are about getting under the skin of a destination, meeting the locals and soaking up the culture. Food and drink is integral to that experience, whether it’s making pasta in Umbria or preparing dinner with a family in Thailand. New for 2017 are its Limited Edition trips, including Naples’ Pizzafest, a five-day adventure that allows customers to sample the wares of some of the world’s greatest pizzaiolis.
Peru is enjoying a moment when it comes to food and drink, with its delicious recipes finally receiving worldwide recognition. Clients who want to better acquaint themselves with the country’s culinary delights should consider Journey Latin America’s 12-day Taste of Peru holiday, which includes a trip to the markets of Lima and Cusco, cookery lessons, pisco tasting and a visit to a chocolate museum (from £3,039).
Those seeking Latin flavours closer to home can head to the Med for some foodie indulgence on Contiki’s Limited Edition Munch trip, which takes travellers on a gastronomic journey through France, Spain and Italy.
Feast on tapas in Barcelona, taste bouillabaisse in Aix-En-Provence and tortellini in Bologna. Travellers also have the opportunity to hone their skills in the kitchen, with pasta-making in Tuscany and a Spanish cookery class in Barcelona (from £1,795).
Venturing farther afield, Wendy Wu Tours offers a chance to discover the secrets of Vietnamese cooking in Hanoi, Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City. Its Living Traditions Cooking Tour also explores food markets and features a cruise on the Mekong river, known as the ‘ricebasket of Vietnam’.
What’s food without wine? Oenophiles have plenty of trips dedicated to the good stuff, with delicious food served up as part of the package. For fans of malbec, merlot and sauvignon blanc, send them to the vineyards of Chile and Argentina.
On Journey Latin America’s tour,clients will stay in a luxury vineyard in the world-famous Mendoza wine region and at the ultra-modern Matetic winery in Chile, plus they’ll get to taste the smoky meats of a traditional asado lunch on an Argentine ranch. They’ll also visit Buenos Aires and Iguaçu Falls (from £6,434).
In France’s Loire Valley, Insight Vacations offers a nine-day holiday on which clients will visit various wineries for tastings and tours, while learning from sommelier Tom Leroy.
If bubbles are more their thing, offer an introduction to the favourite tipple on wine specialist Arblaster & Clarke’s tour of France’s Champagne region, which includes a visit to the home village of Dom Perignon, followed by a tasting.
For beer connoisseurs, it’s about much more than a hop to the local pub. G Adventures’ Limited Edition eight-day Belgian Beer Tour takes clients to the ancestral home of the Trappist breweries, six monasteries which just happen to brew some of the finest beers you’ll ever taste. Sustenance comes in the form of mussels, waffles, and chocolate galore.
Just a taste
While some escorted tours are wholly dedicated to eating and drinking, others will bring clients fantastic food and drink experiences as part of a wider trip – and unmissable foodie experiences can be a key selling point for an escorted tour.
Trafalgar’s Be My Guest dining experiences, for example, give guests the opportunity to get a real taste of local culture by dining with people from the region for a night. In Santa Barbara, as part of the Western Discoverer trip, this means meeting Laurence, the chef, farmer and host, who will create a traditional Californian meal in Stella Mare’s restaurant.
On Wendy Wu Tours’ Trails of Japan, clients will visit a sake brewery, where they’ll learn how the potent rice wine is made and enjoy some samples. Osaka is building a reputation as a street-food destination, and InsideJapan Tours’ evening street-food itinerary hops from roadside stall to snack bar to pub-like izakaya for the full array of Japanese culinary experiences.
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