Historically, food has connected people across cultural and geographical distances and boundaries, going back to the ancient trade routes based on commodities such as nuts, grapes, spices, coffee and sugar. Tourism also links peoples and nations, playing a role in the building of national identity. IWINETC 2019 speaker Irina Gusinskaya takes us on an informative tour of Gastrodiplomacy.
Gastrodiplomacy – what’s that?
There are few aspects as deeply or uniquely tied to culture, history, or geography as cuisine. Food is a tangible tie to our respective histories, and serves as a medium to share our unique cultures. The subject of gastrodiplomacy is exactly that: how to use food to communicate culture in any context.
The concept is ancient, but the terminology is relatively new. The term gastrodiplomacy was first used in an Economist article on Thailand’s public diplomacy campaign to promote its food and culinary art to the world. Since then, gastrodiplomacy’s popularity has spread rapidly. In gastrodiplomacy, nations use food as a part of their efforts to promote their cultures, build their images, globalize their food industries, attract foreign tourists, and build relations with foreign publics — at the same time strengthening their national identity and pride. The actors are no longer limited to state politicians and their chefs but include food corporations, celebrity chefs, tourist agencies, public relations firms, public diplomacy practitioners, TV cooking shows, and social media.
Can you give us a couple of countries or case studies where Gastrodiplomacy is happening?
The region in which the most work has been done is South-East Asia, but there have been projects in other parts of the world, including South America (especially Peru), Europe and the United States. Apart from culinary nation-branding initiatives, there are other practical applications of culinary diplomacy that are performed by the mere citizens.
Gastrodiplomacy is a manner of creating greater soft power — the power of influence, by making distinct culture more attractive through better understanding of all the culture entails. For countries like Peru and South Korea, the benefits of gastrodiplomacy have been profound as each respective nation’s cuisine has topped the charts of the popular food trend lists.
Gastrodiplomacy helps under-recognized nation brands such as Taiwan or Korea, among others, to attract broader international attention for their culture through their cuisine, and thus indirectly enhance their soft power. Or it can help great powers like the USA ‘soften’ their image. And of course, it is an excellent means to boost economic development and improve the social situation and national self-awareness for countries like Peru. In the case of each nation, the cultural narrative acted as a cohesive social force, uniting neighbourhoods, villages, regions, and the nation, offering a sense of belonging and pride. The private, public and civil sectors have the capability to resurrect the positive narrative through a systematic approach to national gastronomy. As a relatively new discipline, gastrodiplomacy has already proven itself effective as a soft power instrument of public diplomacy. Its importance is highlighted by the general trend of globalisation, where it is becoming more difficult, especially for smaller countries, to showcase their national identity. It has the potential to reshape public diplomacy through its promotion of gastronomic exchange between nations, as well as its strengthening of cultures through accentuating a sense of pride for nationals. The number of ways in which a nation —and each citizen — can utilize gastrodiplomacy is endless.
What would you say are the conditions that a destination should have to make Gastrodiplomacy a success?
The most popular gastrodiplomacy strategies: quality, evidence-based content creation and storytelling, media strategy, brand ambassadors, fighting for official recognition, food and wine festivals, affiliations, agricultural product marketing, specific education, social and economic measures…
But the recipe of success requires only 5 quintessential ingredients:
- Consolidate the forces and create a powerful lobby.
- Include gastronomy in as many of the actions of the destination as possible.
- Reinvest profits and constantly improve the quality of the experience and guarantee it.
- Do not overdo it: nationalist ideas do not lead to anything good.
- Measure the results and correct the strategy respectively.
Food and wine seem to go hand in hand yet we hear about food tours and wine tours – are these two different types of tourism?
Definitely not. Wine is a part of gastronomy and should not be considered separately. At least if we want people to understand not only this wine in a glass but all the history and landscape required to make it.
Keep up to date with the wine and culinary tourism industry at the next International Wine Tourism Conference (IWINETC)
Irina Gusinskaya — food, wine and tourism expert but still meticulous editor, enthusiastic publisher, accomplished blogger with 15+ years experience. For the last 7 years I’ve been working as deputy editor-in-chief in Alpina Publisher. (A short article about my publisher’s alter ego can be found here.)
In 2016 I moved to Spain to turn my passion into a new profession — to study the Master of Food Tourism in Basque Culinary Center, and the next year my Master thesis won the Gourmand Award in two nominations — Innovative and Embassies. You can download the whole thesis in Spanish here.
Since that time I’ve also become a certified sommelier and spirits master (Madrid Chamber of Commerce), whilst still working as an editor and organizing gastrotours — thus practicing the gastrodiplomacy.
Ref. my LinkedIn profile for more details.