Gastronomy Used as a Promotional Tool by Flanders in Thailand

The VisitFlanders team and the Kitchen Rebels at the Blue Elephant in Bangkok.

While Thai cuisine has long been used across the world as a tool to promote not only Thai culture but also the country, an common initiative between the Tourism Authority of Thailand and VisitFlanders has brought young chefs from this Belgium region into Bangkok. A way to lure Thai travellers to come to enjoy the region beyond its culinary art…

The Blue Elephant restaurant is a kind of embassy of Thailand in the heart of Brussels. The place is famed for its exquisite royal cuisine but few will know that Blue Elephant founders are actually half- Thai and half-Belgian. It became then a natural choice that Flanders gastronomy would then been presented in the beautiful 100-year old mansion of the Blue Elephant Bangkok.

Flanders tourism took the theme of gastronomy to promote the entire region during the recently hosted UNWTO Gastronomy Tourism Forum in Bangkok. “Gastronomy is a strong common emotional factor in both Thailand and Flanders region. Both of Thai and Belgians share the same passion for food and for high quality, creative cuisine. And for Thai travellers, they can discover excellent products and the creativity of our chefs by visiting Flanders. Good restaurants are plentiful and not necessarily expensive”, explained Sofie Van Den Bossche, Team coordinator Flanders Food Faculty with VisitFlanders.

Flanders has a long tradition in gastronomy which dates back from the renaissance time. “We have some 1,000 breweries and hundreds of chocolate makers. We have also some 150 restaurants rated a Michelin star. I believe we have the densest number of Michelin star-rated restaurants in the world with one star for 360 inhabitants!” joked Mrs Van Den Bossche.

Flanders cuisine presentation is a first initiative to see more Thai discovering this part of Belgium with famous cities to visit such as Bruges, Antwerp or Ghent. “Gastronomy is considered as a very important element of identification of our region in countries where we still lack visibility. Our strategy is to present Flanders as the “home of Chefs” with all the skills surrounding our products such as chocolate creators or beer manufacturers. We have traditional recipes which has been reinvented by many young chefs, that we call “Kitchen rebels” and who turn today into our international ambassadors”, she stressed.

In Flanders itself, gastronomy is now highlighted with a unified voice. “We all highlight the strength and quality of our cuisine. Wherever tourists go, they will hear the same speech about our cuisine”, says VisitFlanders coordinator for gastronomy tourism.

Food culture is indeed the best way to win hearts in Thailand as Thai travellers show a disproportionate interest for food. “Food is often linked to culture and the stories we tell about food will help to push destinations across Flanders and let people discover other aspects of our region. This is a first step for us. We will continue to capitalize on our first time in Thailand by creating more culinary exchanges between Thailand and Flanders. Maybe a food festival open to all Thais would be also a great idea to lure more Thai travellers into our region”, concluded Mrs Van Den Bossche.