Food and Travel have gone hand in hand since before “tourism” was even a concept.  For those of us who love experiencing new destinations and different cultures, food becomes an integral part of the journey –  often before we leave home.  Through television, computers, and social media, we are familiar with ethnic dishes from around the world and can plan our next adventure based on the flavours and dining experiences that intrigue us.

While planning culinary travel in Italy, Greece, France or Asia might seem an obvious choice, food and wine also have an enormous impact on local tourism. Not limited to restaurants alone, farms, vineyards, and local markets are all places of interest for those looking to connect with local cultures. This can be seen by the growing list of terms within the tourism industry – hospitality tourism, culinary tourism, food tourism, foodie travel, and agri-tourism.

Tourism is travel for pleasure; the activities of people travelling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for leisure, business, or other purposes for not more than one consecutive year.

Hospitality tourism is actually a broad category of fields within the service industry that includes lodging, restaurants, event planning, theme parks, cruise lines, and additional fields within the tourism industry.

Culinary tourism is the pursuit of unique and memorable eating and drinking experiences, both near and far. While many cities, regions or countries are known for their food, culinary tourism is not limited by food culture. Every tourists eats at least three times a day, making food one of the fundamental economic drivers of tourism.  Culinary tourism is also not limited to gourmet food, and is often referred to simply as Food Tourism, so as not to sound quite so pretentious.

The term Foodie or Foodie Traveler takes this one step further, trying to simplify the language and make the world of culinary experiences open to all. A foodie is a defined very simply as a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food and alcoholic beverages. A foodie seeks new food experiences as a hobby rather than simply eating out of convenience or hunger. Credit for the actual term goes to Gael Greene, who in June 1980, wrote in New York Magazine about a character who “slips into the small Art Deco dining room of Restaurant d’Olympe … to graze cheeks with her devotees, serious foodies.”

The term “foodie” now elicits a variety of responses, from casual or proud acceptance to very clear disdain. Chris Onstad, author of the webcomic Achewood and the author of the The Achewood Cookbook, said “It’s like the infantile diminutive—you put a “y” on the end of everything to make it childlike. We don’t need it. It’s embarrassing. ‘I’m a foodie.’ Oh my God!”

With the resurgence of interest in local food, understanding where and how our food is produced, and a desire to support small business owners, Agri-tourism is now also growing at a rapid pace. Agri-tourism involves any agriculturally based operation or activity that brings visitors to a farm or ranch. It can refer to a wide variety of activities, including buying produce direct from a farm stand, navigating a corn maze, farm stays, dude ranches, picking fruit, feeding animals, dining at a café or staying at a bed and breakfast (B&B) on a farm.

People want to meet farmers and processors and talk with them about what goes into food production. For many people who visit farms, especially children, the visit marks the first time they see the source of their food, be it a dairy cow, an ear of corn growing in a field, or an apple they can pick right off a tree.

Agri-tourism differs from Culinary Tourism in that culinary tourism is considered a subset of  cultural tourism (cuisine is a manifestation of culture) whereas agri-tourism is considered a subset of rural tourism, but they are inextricably linked, as the seeds of cuisine can be found in agriculture.

In the end, does it really matter which term we use?   The bottom line is that we have a growing percentage of the population who like to experience the food and beverages that are locally produced in areas outside of their normal everyday environment.  That’s it.  Easy!  Whether they are in dining in 5 star restaurants, visiting farms, or collecting local ingredients at specialty food markets, the end result is the same.  We are introducing more people to more food products in more ways than ever before.