Any planner knows that what’s on the menu may be just as (if not more) important to attendees as what’s on the meeting agenda. And destinations are taking notice. Over the last decade, DMOs across the country have been leveraging common interest in food to drive business to a wider range of travel suppliers in the F&B sector.
A 2015 report produced by Skift and the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance estimated 39 million U.S. leisure travelers choose a destination based on its culinary scene, and about that same number seek out food-based activities once they decide upon a destination. And the dollars tell the same story: A study by the University of Florida reported tourism expenditures on food services in the United States in 2012 topped $201 billion, nearly a quarter of all travel revenue.
This concept applies to your conference attendees too. Who doesn’t want to get a true taste of the city they’re visiting? There’s no better way to experience local culture than through food. Whether you’re looking for private dining spaces, the trendiest cocktail spot or a local mainstay, or simply making a list of meal options to provide to attendees, it makes sense to consider the eats around town on your next site visit.
Click the links on the following reports to discover the latest emerging foodie cities (including some you might not expect!) that are sure to whet your appetite.
Asheville, North Carolina
Long known for its citywide focus on locally produced goods, Asheville, North Carolina, is undergoing a bit of a renaissance that’s transforming its hippie-chic reputation into something more sophisticated.
You’ll find some of the city’s best restaurants in neighborhoods like Inman Park, Decatur and the Westside.
Charleston, South Carolina
When dishes as iconic as shrimp and grits, she-crab soup and benne wafers all originated in one city, you know it’s a place worthy of a visit.
“Denver’s food scene is surprisingly adventurous,” says Justin Bresler, vice president of marketing and business development at Visit Denver.
With more than 10,000 restaurants serving food from 70-plus countries, there’s no shortage of delicious tastes in town.
Host to the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, the ’cue-centric city of Memphis, Tennessee, is more than just a leader in pulled pork.
Nashville boasts some of the best honky-tonks and live-music destinations in the country, but it’s the city’s culinary scene that has everyone talking.
Palm Springs, California
Alfresco dining is the name of the game in picturesque Palm Springs, California, where contemporary, fresh fare is offered up in supersocial settings.
The City of Brotherly Love has all the variety and talented bigwigs that Manhattan boasts, but with all the heart you’d expect from charming small towns.
As the birthplace of gastronomical legend James Beard, it’s only fitting that Portland, Oregon, has a food scene chock-full of award-winning chefs.
Whether you’re craving just-plucked-from-the-water seafood, farm-to-table vegetables or artisanal cheese, Seattle walks the walk of fresh, local and seasonal.
With more than 700 new restaurants in the last five years, Washington, D.C., is becoming a heavy hitter among foodie cities.
Main image photo credit: Heather Ann Thomas