Destination Europe 2020 Conference. Brussels, 12th February 2014.

The Destination Europe 2020 Conference, convened by the European Travel Commission (ETC), gathered over 100 delegates from all over Europe to consider the future of tourism in Europe towards 2020. An important element of these deliberations was gastronomy – identified by the ETC as a major pan-European theme for tourism promotion.

The ETC identifies the key values of the European tourism product as:
• High class
• High touch
• Authentic
• Diverse

These aspects all clearly apply to European gastronomy, which probably represents the densest collection of food cultures in the world. Much of the discussion at the conference was about the need for Europe to attract more tourists from outside Europe, particularly in the face of growing competition from other world regions. The overall conclusion of the assembled delegates seemed to be that gastronomy and food were not necessarily a primary motivation for these tourists, but rather a secondary factor that could support other motivations, such as cultural tourism.

Interestingly, one of the first concrete promotional measures developed by the ETC to attract more tourists is a Gastronomy Events Portal. This portal aims to promote European gastronomy, to increase tourism to and within Europe and to increase visibility for ‘destination Europe’. The overall vision is to ‘create an open window to European gastronomy’. The portal will list gastronomic events and gastronomic routes, provide interactive maps, showcase gastronomic products and give information on recipes. A presentation of the new portal was given in Brussels, although the site was not yet up and running. A video had to simulate what the new site would look like, but we are promised it will soon be available at

In his conference presentation, IGCAT President Greg Richards emphasised the changing role of food and gastronomy in tourism, from being a necessity (tourists have to eat) to being a central part of the tourist experience. He introduced the research that he and Diane Dodd had conducted into the tourism and gastronomy market worldwide, and pointed out that tourists did not just look for food, but for a whole experience of places through the food, culture and art that they produced. He presented a range of findings from the report edited by IGCAT for the OECD, Food and the Tourism Experience.

As the report emphasises, the search for holistic ‘experiences’ is now one of the major themes in tourism development. This has perhaps not quite hit the ETC yet, as their new Ipad app still leads people to countries first, rather than experiences. We are promised this option will be available soon.

Pedro Ortun, Director of Tourism at DG Enterprise and Industry, announced that the Eurobarometer survey for January 2014 shows that only 5% of Europeans feel that safety on holiday is an issue – but half of those consumers who are concerned, specifically mention food safety. This emphasises the potentially important role that local and regional gastronomy can play in helping to increase food safety and educating people about where their food comes from and how it should be prepared.

The same Eurobarometer survey also shows growing demand for cultural tourism, including gastronomy experiences. Cultural tourism was cited as a main reason for travel by 25% of European in January 2014, compared with 22% in January 2013. Culture was mentioned by over 35% of the population in Estonia, Malta, Austria and the Netherlands. In contrast, only 11% of Greeks cited culture as a holiday motivation – presumably they feel they have enough at home.