Everyone knows that food in Thailand is an essential part of Thai people’s sense of life. Anyone always knows where to eat the best of, or which restaurant to visit. Talk about food in Thailand and you make friends. Meanwhile, food is now turning into a true asset of Thai tourism as emphasized by UNWTO Gastronomy Forum in Bangkok.
This week in Bangkok is all about food: one of Asia’s largest food exhibition ‘Thaifex-World of Food Asia is welcoming during four days some 2000 exhibitors from 40 countries and over 55,000 visitors while in Bangkok Intercontinental Hotel in the heart of town, the UNWTO welcomed some 700 participants coming from 30 countries to its 4th Gastronomy Tourism Forum.The UNWTO event is hosted for the first time in Asia and Bangkok was seen as a natural choice as it is named as one of the top world’s culinary capital.
“Food is all around the world part of local culture but also a special chemistry where east meets west as locals have often taken influences from other cultures. Gastronomy is indeed one of the best way to known and learn from each other”, explained Thailand Minister of Tourism and Sports, H.E. Weerasak Kowsurat.
“Discovering and tasting food is one of the most popular tourism activities and Thailand is proud of its culinary heritage and by the fact that it has been well acknowledged by our visitors. In 2017, gastronomy and food contributed to 20% of our tourism revenues,” highlighted the Minister.
“Many of our holiday memories are linked to a culinary experience. Food brings cultural value to tourism with gastronomy having a positive impact as it turns into a key factor to promote destinations but also a way for communities to be empowered,” declared in his opening remark, UNWTO General Secretary Zurab Pololikashvili.
“Gastronomy used to be a privilege of a happy few. But in the last decade, there is a democratisation’s process of gastronomy with many more people know looking at culinary, including for long-known iconic dishes,” explained Joxe Mari Alzega, General Manager of the Basque Culinary Center in San Sebastian (Spain).
Not only food is turning into a tourism asset helping to promote a destination but is more and more used as a social element.
In Thailand and in many countries around the world, food has been perceived also as a way to provide an income and empower rural communities. “Food is indeed a way to promote sustainable tourism. Enjoying a dish is not just to go to a restaurant but also to learn what stands behind a dish. Then it takes a complete different value if our visitors go to the countryside, visit farmers or fishermen and listen to the stories behind a dish and even learn how to prepare it,” told during the conference Chattan Na Ayutthaya, Deputy Governor for communication.
“We are very keen to bring tourists to more areas around the Kingdom with food being an excellent motivation. On our side at the ministry, we look also to promote safety, hygiene and work also to reduce waste linked often to tourism and food activities”, said further Weerasak Kowsurat.
New tourism products linked to food is also now being studied. “We want to connect more heritage with food experience. We have seen a surge in ancient culinary art following a historical TV series covering Ayutthaya. They are now many Thais visiting again our old capital to enjoy a centuries-old cuisine. We also linked to Japan as a sake produced some 500 years ago was done with Siam rice,” said the Minister.
Technology is now turning into a strong tool to promote gastronomy on a larger scale. “Innovation will continue to turn gastronomy into a strong part of the tourism experience. And as it is often linked to heritage and culture, it brings a new dimension to a quality experience for travellers. We are working a lot with UNESCO to look at ways to integrate more culinary dishes into intangible world heritage assets”, concluded UNWTO General Secretary Zurab Pololikashvili.