Australia: the next culinary capital?

23rd March 2021 | Eativity editors

A food museum could put Australia firmly on the global food tourist map, but defining our national food culture could be a challenge, according to an Australian tourism expert.

From Sweden’s Disgusting Food Museum and the Netherlands’ Dutch Cheese Museum to the Philippines’ Desert Museum and Spain’s Museu de la Xocolata, countries all over the world are increasingly capitalising on the lucrative food traveller market – according to the World Food Travel Association, around 53 percent of holidaymakers are food travellers.

Tourism expert and Edith Cowan University researcher Dr Eerang Park believes that food travel could be a golden opportunity for Australia when international travel resumes post-COVID. However, the first step will be understanding what makes Australia’s cuisine unique.

“We need to prepare for beyond the pandemic,” Dr Park says. “We can tap into culinary tourism by positioning Australia as a destination of choice for a unique food experience.

“Australia has some incredibly diverse offerings for food tourists, from modern gastronomy to traditional Indigenous cuisine. We should showcase this to Australians and to the world.”

Cake pop fun at the Philippines’ Desert Museum.

More than just pavlova and Vegemite

Dr Park says while Australia is home to some iconic foods – such as Vegemite, Tim Tams and lamingtons – the key to a successful food museum will be in defining our food culture.

“Australia is well-known around the world for its high-quality produce, particularly our fresh food and wine,” she says. “But how do we express our food culture and identity while also embracing our vast and diverse heritage and Indigenous history?

“Food tourism is deeper than just a few special dishes – it needs to go beyond the food to the culture and wider experience.”

The Hangzhou Cuisine Museum is one of a growing number of food museums in China.

Hungry for knowledge

Dr Park has researched gastronomy travel around the world to understand what attracts holidaymakers. Her latest study explored the motivations of food tourists who visited China’s Hangzhou Cuisine Museum, which features lifelike models of dishes from different historical periods, and found that providing an authentic and engaging experience was key.

“Food museum visitors want an immersive experience with the ability to taste and enjoy the food while learning about its origins and history,” Dr Park says. “Around the world, we’re already seeing a gradual shift in museums from look-but-don’t-touch monuments to more interactive places for visitors to explore and learn.”

Dr Park believes the opportunity for an Australian food museum is ripe for the picking.

“When the world recovers from the devastating impacts of COVID-19, what better way for people to reconnect, explore and engage than through food?”