On Message: Get your teeth into food tourism

On Message: PR Week editor Danny Rogers on marketing and branding

World-class, social media-savvy restaurant Noma should give destination marketers food for thought, says Danny Rogers

The world’s tourism marketers are gathered in London this week for World Travel Market with all sorts of initiatives up their sleeves to differentiate their destination from the rest.

But you can’t help thinking that one increasingly important motivation for tourism is being seriously underestimated – the power of the top restaurant and celebrity chef.

Copenhagen, not usually top of travellers’ ‘must visit’ lists, is current enjoying a tourism renaissance thanks to the success of Noma, a small restaurant that was judged Best Restaurant in the World at the San Pellegrino Awards earlier this year.

But Copenhagen is not the first destination to gain a massive boost from ‘restaurant tourism’.

In recent years Spain’s San Sebastian has become a food mecca, generating a significant uplift in tourism for northern Spain. And even glitzy Las Vegas has relied on superchefs such as Joel Robuchon to provide huge casinos with fresh, upmarket appeal.

On the domestic front Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen at Watergate Bay and Rick Stein at Padstow have given West Country tourism a major fillip, while Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck has put the small Berkshire village of Bray on the world map. 

Quite often, as in these last few examples, the marketing power of such eateries is provided by the promotional savvy of the chefs themselves.

In the case of Noma, the head chef Rene Redzepi is the perfect example of a modern brand ambassador for a destination. Not only is the 32-year-old a brilliant self-publicist – this week he has been doing dozens of media interviews, book tours and speaking events in the UK – but he is also a social media advocate.

We learn for example that he uses his iPhone and Google Maps to direct his colleagues to the best foraging sites, from which he gleans the freshest produce for Noma.

There is much more that destinations could do to harness restaurant tourism, not only in terms of identifying up-and-coming venues, but in packaging together tours, hotels and restaurants to create themed experiences within destinations.

Social media can also aid tourism marketers in spotting these hot new eateries. This means both monitoring Twitter to gauge the buzz around certain venues and identifying the opinion formers in this field.

For example, if you talk to restaurant PRs, the traditional media are often now tardy in identifying the most appealing restaurants, with certain bloggers – such as Bloomberg’s @richardvines – now the most influential early adopters.

The lesson is that destination marketers must work much more closely with the new-paradigm food media – and the celebrity chefs themselves – if they are to tap into this lucrative tourism trend.  

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