In recent years, food tourism has seen a surge in popularity with people travelling to destinations all around the world not solely for their landmarks and landscapes but also to see how they taste.
In fact, as many as 80% of travellers now research food and drink before heading off on their travels according to Global Food Tourism, which underlines what a big part it plays in trip-planning today.
However, culinary tourists are looking for more than just a good meal. Rather they want the full experience where they can learn about the history, culture, and people behind the food.
One of the best ways to do this is through food tours, which offer the opportunity to sample a variety of local foods in an authentic setting. Experts estimate interest in this to increase by more than 16% a year over the next decade.
Another gastronomical experience that entices people to all corners of the world is street food. It’s thought that around a third (32%) of the population eats street food in some form every day, which equates to around a staggering 2.6 billion people!
What’s more, the benefits of this growing type of tourism are aplenty: strengthening local economies by supporting local businesses, allowing people to try local cuisine and experience culture, and providing the opportunity for tourists and locals to interact over a shared appreciation.
As big advocates of food tourism and exploring destinations through your palette, we decided to look at which destinations, in particular, are gathering interest as the travel trend increases, looking at search data for ‘street food’, ‘best food in’, and ‘food tours’.
Taking the gold medal position for the foodie destination people are most intrigued about is India. Perhaps unsurprising as the country is renowned for a culinary landscape that is full of flavour and fragrance. Whether it be the spicy seafood of the South or the rich gravies of the North, every region boasts its own distinct culinary identity which means that India offers a diversity of dishes to please every palate.
The country sees over 40,000 searches per month worldwide for people wanting to know about its street food offerings, the best food to eat when there, and information about food tours. When talking about food (which we love doing), we always think India deserves a special mention because the food is fantastic - and it seems others agree! We even have our own India food guide if you want to know exactly what we recommend eating throughout the country.
South Korea takes second position, a country that is emerging as one of Asia’s most popular destinations. The food here is a blend of bold flavours and vibrant colours, from the fiery delights of kimchi to the soothing comfort of a bibimbap rice bowl. Of course, Korean fried chicken is a crowd pleaser too, which is loved for its crunchy exterior and its thick sweet-and-spicy sauce.
The destination sees just over 37,000 searches worldwide per month regarding its culinary experiences. And what an experience eating in South Korea is, with communal dining at its core. Sharing dishes with friends and family turns every meal into a social event, whether you're sitting around a bubbling hot pot in the heart of Seoul or enjoying street food at a bustling market
Rounding up the top three is Thailand, another Asian destination renowned for its culinary offerings. Sweet, sour, and spicy are typically brought together in harmony on a plate but flavours and techniques do change as you travel across the country. For example, creamy Khao Soi noodles await in the North’s mountain valleys and hot fish curries beckon in the South where there is more influence from neighbouring countries.
It certainly intrigues people too, with the country seeing almost 27,000 monthly searches worldwide for its street food, food tours, and best dishes. Perhaps unsurprising considering what a haven the country is for street food too. Wander its bustling markets and vibrant streets and we’re sure you’ll be delighted by what you come across.
And we thought we’d break this down further, to find out which specific cities are gathering the most interest when it comes to their food offerings.
Asia is the region foodie travellers are most interested in with 80% of the destinations in the general/wider ranking being in the continent - Asia, as a whole itself, even took fourth position.
The only non-Asian regions in the top ten are Italy and Dubai.
In the city-specific list, six of the destinations are in Europe. Scandinavia ranked strongly too with both Aarhus and Oslo. Copenhagen narrowly missed out on the top ten, taking 11th position.
Bangkok was the most searched for Asian city, Aarhus of European cities, and New York from the North American ones.
This ranking was compiled by analysing global search data for phrases relating to food tourism including ‘food tours’, ‘best food in’, and ‘street food’.
Data correct as of September 2023. A full dataset and source list are available upon request.