As the world begins to reopen and restrictions lifted, or at least normalized, people are beginning to travel again. With increasing frequency, their travel plans are centered around food.
Not just deciding where they’re going to eat while they’re away or doing an online search for the destination’s best restaurants, which, by the way, can be quite unreliable. (A quick search for “best restaurants Orlando” brought up one list that included a fast-food chain and a now-defunct restaurant that served what was arguably the worst Cuban food in town.)
The new travel trend makes food the main focus rather than ancillary. And travel agencies have started to take note of this growing segment of food-centric travelers and are curating tours and journeys especially for them.
“People not only love to travel but like to experience the culture through foods,” said Karolina Guilcapi, left, owner of Sated Ventures, a Palm Coast tour operator specializing in putting together journeys that focus on local foods and culinary customs. (Sated Ventures is a new sponsor on SJO.) “Anyone can book a trip to Machu Picchu,” said Guilcapi. But when you take a culinary tour, you not only see the famous site but also learn about Peruvian foods, cooking styles, local produce. “It’s bringing history to life because you’re tasting it along the way,” she said.
Peru is one of the “set destinations,” or group tours, that Sated Ventures offers, with the next departure next May. Others include Argentina, which will also feature private tango lessons, in March, and an October trip to Egypt and Jordan. A February trip to Ecuador and Galapagos is already sold out.
But the majority of her clients are individuals or couples who don’t want to be a part of a group but still want to focus on the culinary aspects of a destination. Guilcapi said clients might tell her they want to go to Chile, saying, “These are my dates, and I like wine.” So she’ll put together an itinerary that would include visiting Chilean wineries but might also feature a stay at a wine lodge.
Other agencies, such as Art In Voyage – Beyond Travel and Authentic Explorations, operate in much the same way. Mikael Audebert, who started Art In Voyage in Orlando and now has offices here and in South Africa, said, “Everybody loves to eat and everybody loves to discover what other people eat.”
New York’s Authentic Explorations began to focus on food-centric journeys when the owner of De Gustibus, a cooking school located at Macy’s in Herald Square, contacted AE’s owner, Gary Portuesi, top right, to put together a food tour of Sicily. Portuesi estimated that ninety-five percent of his company’s business is arranging travel for individual clients with most group tours being on demand.
Art in Voyage was founded in 2011 and started doing food-focused tours a few years later, first with well known Orlando chef Kevin Fonzo. Audebert said that first trip was so successful he started adding more.
And he has even tapped a certain restaurant critic to serve as a host. Sated’s Guilcapi said that she enjoys putting together new food destinations. “I love that I can work on something new everyday.” And she sees the food journeys as a growing sector. “There’s such a huge market of people who love to eat and drink.”