Take a look at any traveler’s social media updates and I guarantee food and drink will factor heavily into that stream. Sure, the must-see tourist traps and sunset selfies make the cut too, but it’s the food and drink that make the memories people relive again and again.
Understanding this as you market your destination can have a powerful impact on results. In other words, what you find at the end of your fork or at the bottom of your glass can be a powerful marketing tool.
Cuisine as a Marketing Tool
Don’t underestimate the power that food and beverages have in swaying your audience to book a vacation at your destination. Travelers — and not just those who consider themselves foodies — are looking for unique dining, cooking, and tasting experiences that create a sense of place through food. Food and drink experiences are about discovery; with local and regional cuisines trending right now, tapping into your destination’s rich food culture can help you attract new visitors.
Using food as a branding mechanism can have serious impact on people’s perception of your destination. Just look at Australia. Never considered a foodie destination, in 2014, Tourism Australia put more focus on the luxury travel market, with special emphasis on dining experiences through its Restaurant Australia campaign. Efforts that included a corresponding cooking television series, as well as pop-up dining experiences, paid off: as a result of this campaign, international visitor spending on food and beverage in Australia is up 16.6%.
Cruise lines in particular have the opportunity to get creative by taking the gustatory experience far beyond the stuff-yourself-silly buffet. Take note from Celebrity Cruises, which offers a Top Chef at Sea experience that lets guests compete in culinary challenges. And Princess Cruises has partnered with celebrity chef Curtis Stone to launch two restaurants aboard its ships. Your cruise line could do something similar or launch a food or wine-themed specialty cruise. The possibilities are limitless.
And hotels can also benefit from amping up their efforts to put food and beverage at the forefront of their marketing. By reinforcing the excellence of your dining options, you can keep guests on your property, where they’ll spend more money for that exquisite dining experience that only your brand delivers.
How to Incorporate Food and Drink in Your Marketing
Take a look at the kinds of food and drink experiences you offer from a traveler’s perspective. Are they exciting and worth planning an entire trip around? If not, start creating fantastic experiences that will draw travelers from around the world.
The Ritz-Carlton in Cancun offers cooking classes to adults and children, which isn’t your typical activity for a beachy vacation in Mexico. In Halong Bay, Vietnam, you can dine in a cave. These are the kinds of food and drink experiences that beg to be front and center in your marketing.
Do you have a world-class chef on staff? Do you offer ‘round-the-clock gourmet room service? Do you carry an exclusive wine brand? Whatever food and beverage experience you offer, feature it prominently in your marketing materials. Share food porn on Instagram. Interview your chef on your blog. Integrate that dining experience in every aspect of your marketing so that people see that if they book your destination, they’ll come home with memories they can savor for life.
And don’t forget about tapping into local food culture. A hotel in Chicago could give guests a one-sheeter with the best hot dogs in the city. A Bermuda resort could greet guests with a classic Dark and Stormy, as well as offer guests the opportunity to tour the iconic rum factory that contributes the flavor for this well-known beverage. An Alaskan cruise could have an excursion to a salmon fishing facility, giving guests an inside look at the industry.
Creating events around cuisine, such as a food and wine festival, is an excellent strategy to drive reservations during typically slow periods. Highlight local cuisine and high-profile chefs to magnetize die-hard foodies to you, as well as appeal to the traveler who appreciates good food, even if she doesn’t consider herself a foodie.
Weave those local and regional institutions into the stories you use in your marketing. Talk about where the food comes from. Highlight the farmers and producers. Play up the farm-to-table movement that’s captivated the country. Show that food is more than nourishment; it’s comfort. It’s experience. It’s elevated.
Travelers just need a reason to choose your destination above all others. They want a connection, a relationship with the brands and destinations they choose. Nothing connects people better than food and drink, so leverage that to show travelers that you’re more than just a destination; you’re an experience.