Food for thought

Food brings people together and tourism boards around the region are capitalising on this (Credit: Dubai Food Festival)

Dubai Food Festival (DFF), for instance, is a great vehicle for Dubai Tourism to diversify its offering. Returning for its sixth edition on February 21 to March 9 this year, the 17-day programme will include Dubai Restaurant Week, Beach Canteen and Hidden Gems.

“Dubai Food Festival has become a definitive part of Dubai’s culinary calendar and annual retail calendar, building the city’s reputation as a gastronomy destination within the region and across the world,” said Ahmed Al Khaja, CEO, Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment.

Cities across the region have their own food festival these days: Abu Dhabi, Muscat, Jeddah and Kuwait also made the most of the pleasant winter weather and organised food festivals of their own.

The two-week Abu Dhabi Food Festival (ADFF) concluded last December with more than 70,000 visitors and food lovers coming together across the emirate, contributing to the positioning of Abu Dhabi as a global culinary hub.

Saif Saeed Ghobash, Undersecretary at Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi, said: “It is clear that food brings people together and the plethora of international visitors we have once again welcomed to the UAE capital this year, I hope will have encouraged an exchange of cultures, particularly as we look ahead to 2019, the UAE’s Year of Tolerance.”

Oman Ministry of Tourism also organised its annual food festival, Muscat Eat, in November last year. The festival, now in its second year, is part of the country’s efforts to ramp up its tourism numbers to meet the ambitious 2040 target of 11 million visitors. 

Some 15,500 food lovers from Oman and neighbouring communities flocked to the event’s first season held in 2017. About 50 local business owners showcased their delicious fares during the highly successful three-day event.

Salim Adey Al Mamari, director general of Tourism Promotion, Oman Ministry of Tourism, said: “Muscat Eat is another excellent opportunity to attract people from all over the world to the capital and discover our traditional, unique and distinctive cuisines specially prepared by our local chefs. Apart from our succulent traditional dishes, famous international food will be showcased during the festival as well.”

“Food is an essential area in which we can further promote Oman as one of the world’s best tourist destinations all year round and it is one of the most effective ways to bond and bring people together regardless of their nationalities and cultural backgrounds. Inspired by our previous success, we are confident that Muscat Eat Season 2 will repeat, if not exceed, the achievements made during the first season,” added Al Mamari.          

The gastronomic tourism sector is constantly innovating and diversifying. UNWTO, in collaboration with its Basque Culinary Centre, launched the UNWTO Gastronomy Tourism Startup Competition, the first and largest initiative in the world dedicated to identifying new companies that will lead the transformation of the gastronomic tourism sector. The prize will be awarded at the upcoming UNWTO World Forum on Gastronomy Tourism, which will be held in San Sebastián, Spain this May.

* Do you think food tourism is picking up? Reach out with your opinion [email protected]