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As the world finds its way toward the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, Alberta tourism businesses are re-imagining their product offerings. Culinary tourism is one smart strategy to help them revive their businesses when it is safe to welcome back international visitors but also a good time to showcase Alberta’s food scene to locals.

“Culinary tourism experiences are equally enjoyed by locals,” says Camilo Montoya-Guevara, Research and Evaluation Officer, Culinary Tourism Alliance. “In our current world we have an increased opportunity to explore our own backyard and there is a growing interest in supporting local businesses, so developing culinary tourism can definitely be geared toward a more local consumer.”

The Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC) defines it best: Culinary tourism, also known as food or gastronomy tourism, includes any tourism experience where a person interacts with food and drink that reflects the local cuisine, heritage, or cultures of a place.

Foodie travellers purposefully seek areas that offer unique, authentic culinary experiences to get a literal taste of the destination. According to the 2020 Food Travel Monitor from the World Food Travel Association, 53 per cent of leisure travellers are food travellers. That means if you are not in the food game, you are missing out on a huge “piece of the pie.”


Culinary tourism development provides Alberta’s tourism industry the advantage of showcasing the stories, people, and places that make destinations across the province unique, all through the food and drink that visitors encounter.

Camilo Montoya-Guevara, Research and Evaluation Officer, Culinary Tourism Alliance

There are endless reasons to consider culinary tourism as a product offering but we’ve narrowed it down to our top four:

High demand opportunity

From emerging Indigenous experiences to traditional farmers markets and the exploding craft beer industry, and everything in between, Canada has a wonderful, diverse culinary scene. But it is also a bit of a dark horse yet to be discovered and appreciated.

With the growing trend of culinary tourism, Destination Canada (DC) wanted to know how it factored into the decisions potential visitors make when choosing a destination. Read their report on Canada’s Culinary Positioning for an in-depth analysis that was conducted across 12 countries. Since U.S. travellers are our biggest international customer, we pulled these highlights from the study:

  • Among U.S. travellers, culinary-related activities stand out as a top leisure travel activity.
  • However, Canada is not top-of-mind as a country that could deliver an exceptional culinary experience because it is not perceived to have a distinct national cuisine.
  • At the same time, U.S. travellers are interested in culinary products which leverage the beautiful nature and scenery that they would expect to find in Canada, such as outdoor dining and winery tours.

While being ready to welcome back our American neighbours is crucial, there is also a huge domestic opportunity. In 2019, the Government of Alberta released survey findings indicating that 91 per cent of Albertans participated in farm-to-fork tourism activities that year.

Bottom line: The demand for culinary tourism is growing and now is the time to leverage it. Alberta has an opportunity to surprise and delight visitors from near—and far. 

Group of people dining outdoors at a long table at the Taste of Markerville near Red Deer.

Economic driver

According to a report from Allied Market Research, culinary tourism generated over $1.1 billion in 2019 (pre-pandemic) globally—and it continues to grow as visitors increasingly factor food and beverage experiences into their travel planning.

In 2020, the World Food Travel Association, a leading authority on culinary tourism, released their latest research findings on food travel trends. They found that culinary travellers spend 24 per cent more per day than other leisure travellers.

When culinary tourism grows in Alberta, everyone benefits. It leads to increased revenue streams for businesses, product diversification, job creation and gives our province a competitive advantage.

Owner of Lefse House Scandinavian.

New partnership opportunities

Culinary Tourism is not one-dimensional. The most successful gastronomy experiences are built on a foundation of collaboration. There are so many players that factor into the value chain—agriculture, food and beverage producers, foodservice, and operators—all working closely together to create memorable, authentic culinary experiences. And Alberta has it all.

Can the farmer down the road provide the beef you are serving in your hotel restaurant? Maybe the eggs at breakfast? What if every item on your menu had at least one ingredient that was locally sourced, even in winter? Now that’s something worth promoting! Partnerships elevate experiences to the next level and enhance your story, leaving a lasting impression for your visitors and give them a reason to come back season after season.

A great example of this is Eau Claire Distillery in Turner Valley. Their team has created an incredible offering of beverages through their unique “Farm to Glass” approach. They recognize that Alberta produces some of the best barley and rye in the world and they have partnered with local farmers to “turn that agricultural gold into fine whiskies” and other beverages. It is a recipe for success. 

Profile photo of David Farren from Eau Claire Distillery

Pride of place

Culinary tourism brings people to your community. It creates bonds between farmers and consumers. It builds understanding, pride and respect for our food system. Alberta’s strong agricultural heritage, mixed with the entrepreneurial spirit of small business owners with a dash of western hospitality, make it the perfect destination to nurture and grow culinary tourism.

Karen Anderson of Alberta Food Tours sums it up perfectly in the video below.

When all is said and done, food is a conduit that brings people and communities together. We think a world-famous chef perfectly reflects this current time in our history of “getting back to basics.”


Cooking is all about people. Food is maybe the only universal thing that really has the power to bring everyone together. No matter what culture, everywhere around the world, people eat together.

Guy Fieri

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