“Gastronomy tourism, a niche within the broader travel industry, has emerged as a powerful tool not only for attracting tourists but also for empowering local communities and promoting sustainable practices,” said associate professor Huseyin Pamukcu, a consultant at the Turkiye-based Islamic Centre for the Development of Trade (ICDT).
Speaking on the current state of gastronomy and Muslim-friendly tourism, he observed that “gastronomy tourism can also promote sustainable tourism by encouraging visitors to support local businesses, reducing food waste, and promoting locally sourced ingredients”.
This concept, Pamukcu explained, involves exploring a destination through its culinary offerings, providing travellers with a unique cultural experience.
He pointed out that some of the popular activities for gastronomy tourists include visiting restaurants and food markets, taking cooking classes, attending food festivals, going on food tours, visiting farms and vineyards, and meeting with local food producers.
Pamukcu, who is also a faculty member at the Department of Gastronomy and Culinary Arts at Turkiye’s Afyon Kocatepe University, also shed light on the rich and diverse culinary traditions within the OIC countries, including Turkiye, Malaysia, and the UAE.
These nations, he said, actively promote culinary experiences through dedicated festivals, food trails, and TV shows featuring local chefs.
According to Pamukcu, food and beverage festivals with cooking demonstrations, tastings, and cultural performances offer opportunities for participants to engage in community events and learn about food and drink traditions.
He also explained the concept of experiential gastronomy tourism, where visitors actively interact with a destination’s history, people, culture, food, and environment.
Pamukcu cited the growing interest among tourists in learning about the food production process and experiencing it firsthand.
“In Indonesia, there are opportunities to attend a cooking class in Bali and learn how to make traditional Balinese dishes, such as (local variations of) nasi goreng (fried rice) and satay (grilled meat on wooden skewers),” he said. “Tourists can take a food tour of Jakarta and visit a traditional market in Ubud and purchase fresh ingredients to cook a Balinese feast.”
“In Malaysia, tourists can visit a tea plantation in the Cameron Highlands and learn about the tea-making process,” Pamukcu continued. “In Morocco, people can visit a traditional Moroccan market and purchase fresh ingredients to cook a ‘tagine’, a traditional Moroccan stew.”
“In Egypt, travellers can take a food tour of Alexandria and visit some of the city’s most popular restaurants, such as Abou El Sid and Seagull,” he added.
Despite the potential, Pamukcu stressed that comprehensive strategies and cross-sectoral co-ordination on gastronomy remain limited in most OIC destinations.
To address this, he suggested facilitating cultural exchange programmes that focus on the culinary arts, allowing for the exchange of chefs, culinary students, recipes, and food items between OIC nations.
Pamukcu underscored gastronomy tourism’s key role in revitalising traditional foodways and creating economic opportunities for local communities.
He said that small businesses, farmers, and artisans can benefit from the influx of visitors seeking authentic food experiences.
In addition, he said, gastronomy tourism presents an opportunity to revitalise endangered ingredients and culinary customs within OIC countries.