Leveraging Partnership in Becoming a Foodie Destination

Following Rebecca Makenzie's talk on culinary tourism, she led an amazing panel with Beth Potter and Kevin Eshkawkagon.

Kevin is an Anishinabek and established Indigenous Tourism Ontario in 2008 to improve the socio-economic life of indigenous people. Their practice is dominated around culture and authenticity, partnerships to grow cultural dimensions of tourism and bring people together.  As Kevin discussed, indigenous food embodies social concepts beyond food.

Following Rebecca Makenzie's talk on culinary tourism, she led an amazing panel with Beth Potter, CEO of Tourism Industry Association of Canada, and Kevin Eshkawkagon, CEO of Indigenous Tourism Ontario, on the subject of 'Leveraging Partnership in Becoming a Foodie Destination'.

Kevin is an Anishinabek and established Indigenous Tourism Ontario in 2008 to improve the socio-economic life of indigenous people. Their practice is dominated around culture and authenticity, partnerships to grow cultural dimensions of tourism and bring people together.  As Kevin discussed, indigenous food embodies social concepts beyond food. To him, indigenous food is about gathering people during the harvest season, telling stories and creating environments to educate about indigenous culture. The importance lies in the fact of taking an interest in indigenous people.

On the same line, Beth elaborated on the significance of culinary in the tourism of Canada from a strategic point of view. She reflects on a national programme for culinary tourism development, including capacity building workshops and destination-specific strategies to leverage culinary. Beth also emphasised supporting businesses with action plans and custom coaching across the country.

The panel discussed foreseeable challenges in culinary tourism in the coming months as we enter 2022. Beth reflects on the challenges by referencing climate change impacts such as flooding in British Columbia that has had food supplies. However, she saw food supply distribution as an opportunity to cultivate food growth across the country and shift emphasis to generic food production in different regions. To Beth, the challenge offers the chance to grow and consume food locally and differentiate tastes of places. Is it a chance to reflect on which culinary products grow well in Canada and what has historically been produced in the region. Kevin, however, discussed digital solutions to food and culinary tourism. He asserts the need for innovative solutions and changing the landscape. With digitalisation, mass tourism is already happening (digitally) without mass tourism (in physical space). Accordingly, digital solutions such as VR or other multisensory experiences can improve culinary tourism in an accessible and safe way.

The panel also reflected on labour shortage issues. Kevin suggested involving more indigenous people in the industry, collaborating and building mutual partnerships with the right partners as an effective solution. Respectively, Beth shared her views on the challenges of culinary tourism on a national level by reflecting on the industry perspective. As Beth mentioned, businesses and procedures involving have seen a ripple effect. Therefore, the urge to collectively rebrand and showcase culinary tourism can be sensed. Additionally, the panel reflected on the importance of education and starting educational programmes on culinary culture from a young age. The programmes should cultivate mindsets to value people, celebrate local stories, people and products of Canada and encourage appreciating the link between food, social, historical and geographical contexts.

Key Takeaways

1. Food and culinary tourism provides many opportunities to leverage food potential of destinations and the local communities.

2. Involving indigenous people in culinary tourism establishes links between food and socio-economic aspects of life such as gathering people during harvest season and educating about indigenous cultures.

3. Thinking about culinary tourism of destinations and regions sets the scene to reflect on food growth and the impact of climate change on it.

4. Collaboration between food growers, indigenous people and education strengthens social and historical links of the destinations and leverages the food potential to a higher degree.

Published on:
November 2021
About the contributor

Rebecca Mackenzie

Rebecca Mackenzie is the President & CEO of Culinary Tourism Alliance, a Toronto-based organisation working with communities to grow food tourism by leveraging the history, heritage and culture behind the food and drink that make each destination unique.

Beth Potter

Beth Potter is an accomplished leader with over 35 years of diversified provincial, national association experience, and close to 20 years in the tourism sector.

Kevin Eshkawkogan

Kevin is an Anishnabek and is a member of the M’Chigeeng First Nation on Manitoulin Island. Kevin has been a key player in the development of Indigenous cultural tourism in Ontario since 2003.