Menus of change at the ASEAN Tourism Forum

The Future of Food: Turning ASEAN Tradition and Craftsmanship into Sustainable Gastronomic Tourism was the title of the ASEAN Gastronomy Conference that took place on 25 January 2018 within the framework of the ASEAN Tourism Forum, 22-26 January 2018 in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Tourism and Sports Minister of Thailand, Weerasak Kowsurat presided over the opening ceremony of the conference, proceeded by a show of solidarity by ASEAN representatives from Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and Thailand that took to stage and shared their pride of national cuisines and expressed their support for regional collaboration to encourage gastronomy tourism in ASEAN. A key and important outcome of the event was the signing of an agreement to cooperation in Gastronomy Tourism in ASEAN and the Joint Declaration on Gastronomy Tourism in ASEAN, signed by respective ministers of ASEAN member states. The Joint Declaration aims to raise awareness among ASEAN nations of the significance and role of Gastronomy Tourism as the key towards the development of sustainable tourism in the region.

Two key note addresses from Europe and the Pacific pinpointed the importance of the initiative and suggested new approaches to gastronomy need to be found.  The international keynote speakers were Dr. Diane Dodd, President of IGCAT and Dr. Tracy Berno, Associate professor, Culinary Arts, AUT, New Zealand. The moderator of the session, Dr. Jutamas (Jan) Wisansing, Executive Director Perfect Link Consulting group and tourism consultant for Thailand, as well as IGCAT expert and board member, introduced the session that aimed to address the integral role of gastronomy in building competitive destination experiences, as a driver for inclusiveness and citizen participation as well as sustainable development.

Dr. Diane Dodd focused her presentation on the cultural and food diversity as the key to empower local communities and outlined the work established by the 10 founding Regions of Gastronomy in Europe.  The Regions of Gastronomy have gained international visibility through joint projects that have been given added-value by being part of and international Platform of Regions of Gastronomy. The regions of Gastronomy are awarded not just because they have great gastronomy but because they are enhancing local pride, stimulating economic innovation and promoting healthy eating – all stimulated by cross-sectorial working (culture, arts, tourism, gastronomy, hospitality, agriculture, education) . She also outlined her hope that experts from around ASEAN will join IGCAT in encouraging regions from the ASEAN region to also apply for the Award and develop their own ASEAN Platform for Regions of Gastronomy.

Dr. Tracy Berno outlined some of the challenges and achievements in the Pacific region as well as presented her multiple award-winning cook book that helped established for the first time the value of Pacific local food culture. Dr. Tracy Berno noted how important it is “to communicate the relationship between land, culture, society, history and people in an authentically deep way through cuisine. Gastronomy and tourism linkages in the south pacific have been weak, and what her book revealed was the diversity and richness of Pacific cuisine linked to people, values and traditions. Most people think of the south pacific as a ubiquitous sea-sand-sun destination, and the cuisine is not well known and is not an attraction in tourism. Dr. Berno suggested however, that food is the most powerful way to tell any country’s stories and culture.”

Dr. Jutamas Jan Wisansing, along with other ASEAN members from the floor voiced their desire for an ASEAN Gastronomy Forum to be established and this was applauded by the Ministers when conclusions from the session where transmitted to them in a later session.

The key note speeches were concluded with a panel session with two Thai chefs that defend both traditional and innovations on Thai cuisine: Thai chef Chumpol Jangprai, founder of the project “Chef Chumpol Creates Community Chefs” project and chef Black Panupon from Chef Blackitch artisan kitchen, a new innovator of Thai cuisine that advocates the use of local animal and plant varieties expressed their desire to grow recognition of local food diversity.  The notion of Gastrodiplomacy also came up and Dr. Diane Dodd reminded the audience that we should not be afraid of celebrating cultural and food diversity, as the new generations of visitors are used to enjoy multiple and complex offers. As Dr. Dodd explained “the new generation want to be surprised and delighted, they want something new and different and this requires us to think creatively and constantly innovate.”  Dr. Jutamas Wisansing concluded that “unique cuisine is a selling point for localities and a great means to empowering local communities.”

The theme of ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF 2018) is ASEAN: Sustainable Connectivity, Boundless Prosperity. The main items on the Forum’s agenda are ASEAN Tourism meetings, academic seminars, a MICE Conference by the Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), TRAVEX (Travel Exchange) and the Sellers Meet Buyers Onsite Appointment Session organized by the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

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. Being part of the European Region of Gastronomy Platform and bidding for the award brings a range of stakeholders together to confront development challenges in the region.


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.

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