A decade ago, culinary tourism was still a concept unknown to the Indian subcontinent. Known for its unique flavours and spices, Indian cuisine is extremely popular globally. With the evolution of the tourism sector in India, culinary tourism is one of the niches which is on the verge of becoming an entrée.
Speaking about the growth of culinary tourism in India, Megha Singh, Director, Agra Walks said, “Indians and Indian food restaurants are a frequent sight in many foreign cultures now. At many of the world’s best restaurants Indian food is become hugely popular among foodies all over the world. Our masalas, naan bread and sweets are fast becoming familiar with the international travellers and now they look forward to trying them out on their journey to India. Food is an integral part of the Indian culture and increasingly tourists want to do the complete Indian experience with a cocktail of history, culture and cuisine.”
Echoing similar opinion, Rajeev Goyal , Founder, India Food Tour added, “Since we have been the trendsetter for culinary tours, we are still working on awareness for this new field that tourist should look for while travelling to india. Globally, Indian cuisine in not new, but when international tourists come to India the big question for travellers is 'what and where to eat'? In recent years, we have noticed the three fold change in number of travellers looking for these kinds of culinary tours in India.”
Globally, international travellers are very familiar with the north Indian cuisine. The food trails in India also shows similar trends. Delhi and Rajasthan have emerged as the most favourable destinations for culinary tourism, whereas cities like Mumbai have now started to tantalise some taste buds of international travellers.
Goyal said, “Delhi, Rajasthan are major popular destination for food/culinary tour as of now but I see big potential in almost all states as food and its preparation varies in each state of India. We have a strong presence in Delhi, Jaipur, Agra, Varanasi, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Mumbai, and we have package tours in all these cities. Our very popular tour is the ‘Golden Samosa’ which is for Delhi, Agra, Jaipur.”
Singh added, “North India has always been famous for Mughlai cuisine, chat at some of the extremely famous Halwaais who can give the best fine dining restaurants a run for their money. While each city has its own local favourites and legacy food joints, the cities of Delhi, Lucknow, Agra and Mumbai are running some of the most sought after food tours. We organise food tours in the city of Agra and partnering with some associate companies, we also offer food tours in Lucknow, Delhi and Jaipur.”
Every state in India has its own distinct cuisine and some of the cuisines are so authentic that travellers must visit a particular destination to satiate their palate. This has given rise to a segment of domestic culinary travellers. This is still at a very nascent stage.
Singh said, “Food tours are becoming increasingly popular with international tourists who are now become more and more open to spicy food and also trying their hand at street food. We carefully curate our tours to include food joints which have a very high focus on quality and hygiene to be able to assure foreign tourists a safe experience. Domestic travellers have now started exploring these tour options. But still a very small number of domestic travellers come. Only 10 per cent of the tourists on food tours are domestic.”
Goyal said that currently they are catering only to the international markets, but they organise some special walk for domestic audience as well and it is now becoming a popular way of exploring city by its food for the domestic market. Demand for such tours will increase in future as and when the awareness increases. Many tour operators are now venturing into such niches. Goyal feels that knowledge about the product becomes extremely important when it comes to culinary tours.
Singh added, “I strongly believe that niche tours like this are the need of the hour and now one of the only differentiating factors between DMCs offering tours to India, the sightseeing, routing and good hotels have now become a simple expectation for tourists, the only differentiating factor is what memories can be added to an itinerary. Such tours are a great way to learn and also experience local flavour of a city. I believe India has a great potential to be a hub for culinary tourism as we are country of so many cultures and each culture having its own food.”