Food-based travel on the rise

People travel for more reasons than it’s possible to count. There are tropical paradises and historical sights. Then there are all the different types of food that can be found when traveling. Turns out the latter is becoming one of the biggest motivations for people to fly across the world.

The travel website Kayak recently conducted a survey on behalf of YouGov that found that restaurants are drawing tourists to new places. The study found that 44 percent of Americans would book a flight, travel by train, take a road trip, or go on a bus ride just to dine at a specific restaurant. An additional 30 percent said they’d take a long detour while 42 percent said they’d take a day trip just to visit a restaurant on their bucket list. These travelers are in good company. Another Kayak study done with OpenTable found that 23 percent of diners have flown for food.

If the restaurant is close by, all the better. Sixty-one percent of Americans reported that they’d travel more than an hour for a restaurant with a reputation for delicious food. They’re more adventurous and open-minded too: 62 percent of those surveyed admitted that they’re more interested in trying local cuisine than the familiar dishes they could easily find at home.

And their interest isn’t limited to glamorous five-star, Michelin-approved restaurants. Seventy-three percent of Americans said they’d rather eat at a restaurant favored by the local community than a fancier (and probably more expensive) high-end restaurant.

The growing interest makes sense as shows like Chef’s Table bring international acclaim — and interest from people not necessarily acquainted with the culinary world — to restaurants like Osteria Francescana in Modena and Blue Hill in New York City.

Perhaps even more importantly, food shows hosted by culinary superstars like David Chang, Samin Nosrat, and Anthony Bourdain have showcased cuisines unfamiliar to many Americans, as well as brought more recognition to the chefs who are creating some of the best food in the world at street vendors and stalls. These efforts drive tourism to destinations from Asia to Italy and, even better, promote a deeper and more meaningful cultural understanding between America and the rest of the world.

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