Food for thought

Food and travel have always been intertwined. From the smell of freshly-baked croissants wafting down backstreets in Paris to market stalls selling huge, bubbling servings of orange-red Paella in Spain, a destination’s cuisine is rooted in culture, history and nostalgia. 

But the role of food while travelling has taken on new realms in recent years, with tourists arriving armed with a host of dietary requirements and culinary expectations. According to Great British Chefs, 45% of people in Britain regard food as a highly important factor in choosing their holiday destination. What’s more, the food website suggests 49% of us now regularly eat vegetarian dishes; 30% are trying to cut down on gluten and wheat; and 27% are attempting to reduce their dairy consumption. So how is the luxury sector’s catering to dietary requirements and an interest among travels in local cuisines? 

Riding the wave

Responsible for keeping mouths fed 24/7, it’s little wonder some of the largest culinary waves are being made in the cruise industry. Luxury lines now cater to all manner of dietary demands at every mealtime without so much as batting an eyelid, with tailored support available for customers with allergies or intolerances. 

The quality of onboard cuisine also continues to flourish – and tie-ins with celebrity chefs are largely to thank. Crystal Cruises’ 16-year partnership with acclaimed Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa has produced one of the finest floating restaurants in the industry, Silk Road; Michelin-starred chef Thomas Keller brings grilled, gourmet dining to Seabourn Cruise; while this year Oceania Cruises debuted an exciting collaboration with famed Champagne house Moet & Chandon. 

Silversea Cruises opted for the former editor-in-chief of foodie bible Saveur, Adam Sachs, to helm its latest culinary programme. Launching on the line’s newest ship, Silver Moon, next August, S.A.L.T (Sea and Land Taste) aims to tap into the growing number of cruisers seeking to experience local food from the destination sailed, with new onboard venue S.A.L.T Kitchen and Bar serving regional cuisine replacing signature Asian restaurant Indochine. Silver Moon will also feature a S.A.L.T Lab designed for lectures and cooking demonstrations, while dedicated land excursions will also be offered.

The smaller the better

Large, luxury brands are certainly making strides with their foodie offerings; Fairmont Hotels and Resorts was one of the first to introduce a series of menus chain-wide with dishes specially created for guests with celiac disease, diabetes and heart disease, as well as for those on macrobiotic, raw and vegan diets. But small, boutique hotels undoubtedly have the freest rein when it comes to flexible food.

In Morocco, Es Saadi Marrakech Resort caters towards the so-called SLOW (sustainable, local, organic, wellness) food movement, sourcing all fresh produce from its family-run farm and orchard located in the nearby Ourika Valley. Those following a vegan diet – roughly 540,000 people in the UK as of 2016 according to the Vegan Society – will be well looked after at Hurawalhi Island Resort in the Maldives, which recently launched a new vegan-orientated restaurant, JFK, as well as a new vegan inclusive taster menu at underwater venue, 5.8. 

Clients on a plant-based diet should also consider famed fitness retreat, The Ranch Malibu at Hotel Rosa Alpina in the Dolomites (running from August 25 to October 5), where rainbow-coloured, plant-based fare is served as standard. Oceania Cruises has also recently added plant-based options to its menus fleet wide.

And it’s not just adults filling up on foodie goodness while travelling. This year, popular baby nutritionist Annabel Karmel has cooked up an exciting new baby and children’s menu at Sani Resort in Halkidiki, Greece, to change the way youngsters fuel up on holiday.  

Tasty tours

But in-resort restaurants will only whet the appetite so far. As the demand for experiential travel soars, travellers are increasingly looking for culinary experiences to be integrated into their trip, too. Farm-to-table tours and foraging continue to prove popular among food-focused clients, as does new trend sea-to-fork - harnessing only the freshest, seasonal seafood - found at properties like Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora, whose ‘Taste of a Place’ experience allows visitors to catch and prepare their own supper. 

Similarly, destination-specific packages are a fast-track way to experience a new region. The Ritz-Carlton Bahrain’s castaway dining experience sees guests whisked to a deserted island and treated to a picnic of authentic Bahraini dishes, while The Anam hotel in Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, offers clients a bespoke chocolate masterclass and factory tour. Africa might have concrete connotations of safari, but gourmet getaways await here too. Experiences range from eating breakfast with curious giraffes at The Safari Collection’s renowned Giraffe Manor to exploring Namibia on an off-road foodie adventure with Mavros Safaris’ Safari Butler, who furnishes his 4x4 with a gourmet bush kitchen and craft gin bar.

Take a bite out of these offerings and your client’s appetite will be more than satiated.

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