It’s been a busy year for food tourism – we know this because our calendars have been packed with speaking engagements, consulting projects, awesome events and Feast ON related fun. Seems everyone has appetite for “taste of place” travel and are starting to catch on that food tourism is one of the biggest areas of growth in the tourism sector.
Here’s a quick run-down of some of our highlights for 2015:
1. The Rise of Food Tourism Report Released by Skift
Earlier in the year, we partnered with Skift, a travel intelligence company based in New York City, to sponsor The Rise of Food Tourism – a trend report looking at global case studies and Best Practices in food tourism. While Skift has published reports on a variety of topics, our sponsored report was the first one to look specifically at food tourism. We’re super proud of the content and were delighted when Skift informed us it had the highest number of downloads (1700!) in the first 24 hours of any report to date. If you missed it, good news – it’s available as a FREE download here.
2. Crowning the 2015 Ontario Culinary Tourism Award Winners
In November, we handed out this year’s Ontario Culinary Tourism Awards of Excellence to a worthy group of winners. We’re so fortunate to be able to honour the dedicated and passionate individuals working to make this province rich in food tourism experiences. Event of the Year went to the Taste Real Local Food Fest (you can read more about it here). Niagara Culinary Tours took home the Experience of the Year award, while Norfolk County snagged Leadership of the Year. See the round-up of finalists here.
3. Tasty Developments in Emerging Food Tourism Regions
Each year, we’re thrilled to see more and more regions identify food tourism development as an area of focus. We worked with a number of our member destinations and consulted on how to enhance their offerings through food and beverage, including Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island (TWEPI), Oxford County, Wellington-North (the Butter Tart Trail?), Wellington County (Taste Real), the Haliburton Highlands and Peterborough-Kawarthas (the Butter Tart Tour). There’s plenty of delicious food experiences in each of these regions. We’re looking forward to the kick off of the newly relaunched Cheese Trail in the former dairy capital of Canada in May, a new beverage trail in Windsor-Essex and expanded Taste Real programming in 2016, just to name a few.
4. OCTA Takes the National Stage
At the start of this month, we traveled to the nation’s capital to present at the Travel Industry Association of Canada’s 2015 Tourism Congress. Our panel, led by our always inspiring Executive Director Rebecca Mackenzie, was titled “The Rise of Food Tourism in Canada” and looked at Best Practices from across the country. We were thrilled to share the stage with Chef Michael Smith from the Inn at Bay Fortune (P.E.I.) and Food Network; Top Chef finalist Connie deSousa and Chef co-owner John Jackson from Charcut (Calgary); and Chef Paul Harber from Feast ON designated Ravine Vineyard in Niagara, who shared their passion for creating “taste of place” with the rapt audience. We didn’t stop there though! OCTA also hosted a sold out VIP reception the night before at Murray Street K/W/C, an awesome Feast ON designee in downtown Ottawa.
5. Shaking Up Ontario’s Beverage Industry
It’s been a big year for thirsty travellers. Just this month, it was announced that beer (including some great options from Ontario Craft Brewers) would be available to buy in select grocery stores across the province. Just as we celebrated the start of VQA wine being sold at farmers’ markets last year, we’re so excited to see new avenues open up for our craft brewers. We’re hoping it doesn’t end here – how awesome would it be to also cross off a great VQA option or Ontario craft cider from your shopping list?
Speaking of craft cider, huge news! New legislation will help grow the industry by offering cider producers similar rebate incentives currently available to brewers and winemakers (you can learn more about Bill 110 here). We’re in support of anything that will foster more beverage producers in Ontario – and make it easier for visitors to find them. On that note, we love the mobile app options from Wine Country Ontario and OCB. Here’s to more reasons to Cheers in 2016!