As part of the programme of events for South Aegean, European Region of Gastronomy 2019, a special showcase of the region’s gastronomy and culture was conducted at the 2018 EXPOTROF food and drink expo at the Athens Olympic Fencing Center 26-29 January. Visitors and professionals were treated to a wide range of traditional products by Aegean locals, which captured the gastronomy, heritage and culture at the heart of IGCAT’s European Region of Gastronomy platform.
Further excitement was caused by a thematic event on Saturday morning, which emphasised how the South Aegean region is now uniquely placed to exploit two recent trends in global sustainable tourism. The two trends discussed were the increasing preference for experiential gastronomic tourism, coupled with a rise in nutritional awareness among modern tourists and locals alike.
Roberta Garibaldi, Associate Professor at the University of Bergamo and certified Ambassador of the International Association of Gastronomic Tourism, participated in the meeting and presented the current international trends in gastronomic tourism. In her speech, she highlighted the great dynamics growing internationally in this field, referring to the increasing number of tourists choosing their holiday destination based on its gastronomy. This rise has materialised, according to Prof. Garibaldi, in the context of increasingly popular experiential tourism, an area in which the South Aegean Region is uniquely well placed to exploit and flourish in.
Glykeria Psarra, a PhD Scientific Associate at Harokopio University and Assistant Professor at Rutgers University, focused her presentation on proposing the Aegean diet as a healthy nutritional model. Dr Psarra was keen to highlight the Hippocratic concept of the Diet, emphasising the important role of physical exercise in stimulating overall dietary change. Dr Psarra concluded that the peculiarities of the local climate, crops and soil morphology complement the image of the Aegean Diet, offering to those who follow it, multiple benefits for their mental and physical health.
Heidi Lazani, Head of the South Aegean’s European Region of Gastronomy 2019 committee, introduced the activities of the Taste the Seasons programme which has been implemented since the beginning of 2017 and will peak in 2019. The main philosophy of the programme, according to Heidi Lazani, is to enhance the interconnection between tourism, gastronomy and the primary sector. As demonstrated by the speeches of both Prof. Garibaldi and Dr Psarra, enhancing the interplay between these three sectors can enhance a region’s ability to capitalise on recent trends and develop a sustainable tourism model. Furthermore, in the case of the South Aegean region, it is essential to implement the key objectives of their Taste the Seasons programme. These are to;
- Upgrade the Region of South Aegean to an international gastronomic tourism destination;
- Promote the Aegean Diet and to increase the number of labeled and certified products;
- Use local products throughout the tourism chain;
- Educate the consumer to ask for, buy and consume local products;
- Incentivise and motivate young people to return to traditional land cultivation and to educate producers on new technologies.
About the European Regions of Gastronomy
The European Region of Gastronomy Platform and Award aim to contribute to better quality of life in European regions, by highlighting distinctive food cultures, educating for better health and sustainability, and stimulating gastronomic innovation. It provides cross-marketing opportunities and longer-term benefits.
IGCAT is a non-profit organisation established in 2012 working in the fields of gastronomy, culture, arts and tourism. Through its worldwide network of experts, IGCAT aims to empower local communities by guiding, facilitating, and supporting local leaders in cities, regions and cultural projects to understand the potential of their distinct food, culture, arts and sustainable tourism assets.
IGCAT is furthermore the official secretariat for the Region of Gastronomy Platform and provides the European Region of Gastronomy Award, the European Young Chef Award and the Innovative Food Souvenir Award.