The development of your culinary tourism strategy will be based on the approach you identify, as well as the goals, objectives, and expected outcomes you determine, while assessing your readiness and approaching strategy development. Your strategy will be a central resource for the direction your destination takes to grow culinary tourism. Additionally, a culinary tourism strategy is an important resource to support future projects, funding asks, and plans for tourism development.
Clear, ongoing communication is the basis of successful project management. The importance of this begins at the onset of the project and continues throughout to its completion. You will likely need a number of communication strategies and tactics to connect with different groups, both internally and externally to the project. A key role of the project manager is to make sure everyone who should be involved is aware and up-to-date on the development of the strategy.
Within the project team, decide on how and when you will check-in, and map this across the project timeline.
Important questions to clarify include:
- Will the project team meet weekly, monthly, or in an ad hoc way?
- Will the project team meet in person or through video calls?
It is equally important that you set up a communication plan to share information with relevant parties external to the project team. This means deciding on when and how you will let people know about your project, including opportunities for engagement. Remember, meaningful engagement starts by letting people know about the project early on and sharing final outputs with everyone who contributed to the process.
Create a plan to make this happen by asking:
- Who needs to know about this project?
- On whose traditional territories is this project taking place, and how can I meaningfully connect with these Indigenous groups at the onset of the project?
- How can we effectively reach everyone who should know about this project? (i.e., Think about the platforms your target groups already use including, newsletters, message boards, etc.)
- How will project outputs be communicated back to the culinary tourism community?
In general, good practices for connecting with diverse groups include communications that are:
- Time sensitive, and
- Respectful to the needs of each group or individual (e.g., do not plan key communications with agricultural stakeholders during harvest season)
Tools and Resources
There are several tools and resources available to support project management. If you are working with project partners across multiple organizations, pick the project management tools and resources that everyone can easily access.
Common project management tools and resources include, Gantt charts, critical paths, timelines, calendar tools, and specialized project management software.
Quality research is the basis of culinary tourism strategy development. It provides you with the information needed to chart the direction forward. Putting together a research plan that outlines research methods and activities across your project is essential. Your research plan should include primary and secondary research questions to guide all research activities and be based on the goals and objectives set at the onset of your project. It is important to keep your questions within the context of culinary tourism. Keeping this context in mind will ensure that you have a focussed research plan and contribute to a comprehensive research process and clear strategy.
Primary research questions are overarching to the entire project, whereas secondary research questions inform specific research activities. When compiled together, the answers to secondary research questions will help respond to the primary research question.
Sample primary research question:
How should the destination go about developing culinary tourism?
Sample secondary research question:
Who are the key players relevant to culinary tourism in the destination?
Once you decide on the research questions, you then choose how to collect required data. In other words, you can determine what methods and activities are best suited to collect the data to answer the questions. You will likely use both primary and secondary research methods to do this. Importantly, primary and secondary research methods are distinct from the primary and secondary research questions described above.
Primary research is when you collect data firsthand by engaging stakeholders, partners, government representatives, industry experts, and community members for research purposes.
Some primary research methods include:
- Focus groups
- Secret-shopping trips
- Participant observation
- Photo tours
- Community mapping
- Online business reviews
Community engagement is a key part of primary research for strategy development. When deciding which engagement techniques make sense for your project, remember to tailor these to the specific groups you are trying to reach. For example, if your target group lives in an area with poor internet-connectivity, an online video call is likely not the best way to connect.
Secondary research involves compiling data from research that already exists. In secondary research, you collect, analyze, and interpret data presented by someone else.
Secondary research does not require direct contact with stakeholders. Therefore, it is strategic to schedule secondary research at times when key stakeholders are otherwise occupied. For example, the tourism industry is often busy in the summer, so that is a good time to undertake low-engagement, secondary research activities such as the ones below:
- Background document review (e.g., existing plans, previous strategies, etc.)
- Archival research
- Literature review of academic journals
- Policy document reviews
- Online research of news articles, blogs, etc.
- Inventory reviews
- Trip-planning research of business websites, tools, and resources, etc.
Analysis and Planning
To define your strategy, you will need to analyze your research and data to begin planning the opportunities and actions of your strategy. During the analysis and planning phase you are addressing three big questions:
- Where are we now?
- Where do we want to be?
- What do we need to do to get there?
Analysis starts with making sense of all the research data by compiling it to draw conclusions about the current state. Next, you compare the current state to your desired future state as a way to identify gaps. Your desired future state is determined during goal setting at the start of the project or during the research phase via community engagement. Once you identify gaps, you create a plan to fill these gaps through actions set out over a timeline.
Determining the Current State
There are multiple approaches for analyzing research data. By consolidating your research and dividing the findings into predetermined categories you get a clear picture of culinary tourism development in your destination at the time of analysis. Some ways to organize your findings to describe the current state include:
|Type of Analysis||Finding Categories|
|Type of AnalysisSWOC Analysis||Finding CategoriesOrganize findings into four categories:|
Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Challenges
|Type of AnalysisPESTLE Analysis||Finding CategoriesOrganize findings into six categories:|
Politics, Economy, Social, Technology, Legal, Environment
After analyzing your research, you might notice that you have not adequately answered all the research questions. If this is the case, consider engaging in supplementary research to address this.
Identifying Gaps Between the Current State and Your Desired Future State
Once you have a clear understanding of the current state and your desired future state, you can identify gaps between the two states, as depicted in the table below:
|Objective||Current State||Gap||Desired Future State|
|ObjectiveTo increase the number of culinary tourism experiences in the destination||Current State50 culinary tourism experiences on offer||Gap25 more culinary tourism experiences needed to reach desired future state||Desired Future State75 culinary tourism experiences on offer|
|ObjectiveTo grow the number of visitors through new and enhanced culinary tourism offerings||Current State100 visitors per day||Gap100 extra visitors per day needed to reach desired future state||Desired Future State200 visitors per day|
|ObjectiveTo facilitate access to local food and drink at outdoor spaces and parks||Current State2 provincial parks in the area with shops
10 food and beverage producers in the vicinity of the parks
|GapNo mention of or access to local food and drink at the parks||Desired Future State5 local products available and featured at the provincial park shops|
Note: Not all future states will be easy to quantify, but it is important to attach indicators to your objectives so that their success can be measured. Additionally, not all future states need to point to an increase. Your future state may involve stronger connections between businesses and producers or the dispersal of tourists from one specific area of your region.
With a clear understanding of the gaps you need to fill to reach your desired future state, review your research data to identify areas of opportunity or pillars for development that can help you move to your desired future state.
Organize a strategy development session where you sit down with your project team to decide on broad strategies that can help you achieve your objectives. For example:
Is there a gap-filling opportunity to…
- improve destination marketing?
- grow industry capacity?
- develop new culinary tourism products?
- contribute to tourism dispersal across the region?
Making decisions within your project team and with stakeholders, a task force or working group, is a very important part of the strategy planning process. There are a number of ways to approach decision-making towards the development of your culinary tourism strategy:
- In-person decision making meeting
- Co-design session
- Online collector with gaps and preliminary areas of opportunity
Once the project team has a clear understanding of the broad area of opportunity, list the actions associated with each opportunity across a high-level timeline. This helps to ensure that the recommended actions are reasonable within the implementation timelines determined for the project. For example:
|Area of Opportunity||Actions (Year 1)||Actions (Year 2)||Actions (Year 3)|
|Area of OpportunityBuild capacity among industry||Actions (Year 1)Send informational newsletters about culinary tourism||Actions (Year 2)Host workshops for industry||Actions (Year 3)Host workshops for industry
Organize a learning journey to a best practice destination
The main outcome of this process will be a culinary tourism strategy document. How you present the strategy document, depends on who the main audience is. Additionally, if your plan needs to be approved by a municipal council, consider adding a short executive summary to make it easily digestible. If your plan is going to be shared with the broader public, think about how you can structure and design the report to make it easy for industry and other stakeholders to use. Equally important is paying attention to the language used across the strategy, aiming to avoid technical jargon.
Although the main output is a strategy report, you may also have additional tools and resources from the process as useful outputs such as a stakeholder database, inventory of culinary tourism businesses, as well as workshop or forum information and capacity-building materials on culinary tourism.
Implementation is where the real work begins! This is where you and your partners make a plan for how to implement the actions outlined in the strategy report to fill gaps and seize the areas of opportunity identified to achieve your desired future state.
It is recommended that the implementation process be mapped out clearly across a detailed timeline that corresponds to the length of your strategy (e.g., 3-year strategy). This can be done through an implementation framework or action-planning tool. It is important that the method you select for implementation planning allows you and your partners to clearly understand the roles, related responsibilities, required resources, and expected outputs across implementation. When everyone knows their role and related expectations, it is more likely that your strategy can be effectively implemented.
Monitoring and Evaluation
Monitoring the progress of your strategy and evaluating the success of your objectives are important parts of culinary tourism strategy implementation.
One way to approach this is to refer to the process-oriented and outcome-based indicators you drafted when you identified your objectives. Using the indicators, you can develop evaluation tools and mobilize destination developers, industry, and other partners to collect data to evaluate the success of strategy implementation. This will allow you to evaluate whether or not the strategy worked to move your destination from the current state to your desired future state and identify areas that need adjustment.
Importantly, monitoring and evaluation of your strategy provides important data for reporting back to funders or supporting organizations. Additionally, when done with integrity and consistency you’ll be able to track the progress of your objectives toward understanding the larger impacts of culinary tourism development in your destination. Impacts are longer term effects of the changes you set through the implementation of your strategy. They will likely begin to manifest in 3 or more years after you begin implementation.
Collecting data throughout the implementation of your culinary tourism strategy allows you to monitor the roll out and measure its success against your goals using the key performance indicators.
Iteration and Adaptation
The results of your monitoring and evaluation will guide iteration and adaptation. Revisit your strategies for culinary tourism development periodically to decide if new approaches are needed based on changes to the current context. You will likely need to adapt or develop new strategies for culinary tourism development as time passes and your destination’s context changes.
Please make sure to explore the Elevating Canadian Experiences platform for more industry-facing culinary tourism development resources as well as the list of resources below: