The Creative Food Economy and Culinary Tourism through Place Branding: Terroir into a Creative and Environmentally Friendly Taste of a Place
Lee, Anne H.J.
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Culinary tourism can contribute to the economic development of many rural communities. Creating competitive advantage for a rural community by establishing a culinary cluster requires a strategy designed to leverage the economic, cultural and environmental qualities of a place in an attractive setting and within reach of interested markets. Accordingly, culinary tourism development occurs in places with a ‘local milieu’ that possesses a concentration (spatial agglomeration) of local culinary-related products and services produced by their clustered production of a number of inter-connected firms and service providers. This can attract visitors, new residents and investments and lead to more sustainable economic outcomes that increase the quality of life of residents. To take full advantage of such possibilities, a strategy for partnership and collaboration among various stakeholders involved in culinary tourism is required. This study provides a conceptual foundation for culinary tourism as a part of the creative food economy through place branding. It analyzes the formation of culinary clusters in place-based rural community development. A culinary cluster results from innovation in the production and consumption of local food. The research began with a review and assessment of literature on culinary tourism, economic geography and business/management that led to the definition of concepts that were combined in the creation of a conceptual model based on modification of Porter’s (1990) clustering model. The model consists of ‘four interdependent determinants’ and ‘four facilitators’ that influence the creation of a culinary cluster, and that require attention in building a creative food economy and an environmentally friendly taste of a place as a brand. A ‘terroir’ contributes to the formation of a successful culinary cluster. Tourism and agriculture are leading sectors in this process. Four broad elements specified in the model (‘environmentally friendly movement’, ‘leadership’, ‘stakeholder collaboration’ and ‘communication & information flows’) are the challenges that must be met for the successful transformation of a ‘terroir’ into a creative and environmentally friendly tourism destination that provides the taste of a place and, eventually, contributes to the global green movement. The creation of the model is an important conceptual contribution of the study. The model is used in a variety of ways. First, it was used to guide the collection of information in field investigations of two selected case study sites in the province of Ontario, Canada (Savour Stratford and SAVOUR Muskoka). Second, it was used to structure the qualitative analyses in each case study. Third, it guided comparison of the case studies where it was also used as an evaluative tool to suggest what is working well and less well in the study clusters. It was also used prescriptively to suggest what elements require further attention to strengthen the performance of the clusters. The study focuses on the relatively new concepts of a creative food economy, environmentally friendly culinary tourism and place branding in the formation of a culinary cluster in place-based rural community development. These themes are obviously interrelated, but have not been explored together previously; and thus, the study provides conceptual coherence for addressing their relationships. The findings of the comparative case study suggest that the transformation of a ‘terroir’ into a taste of a place through place branding is based upon the identification of the strengths of a place through inventory of the culinary-related core resources, and the leading and supporting assets (e.g., hard factors of natural environment and soft factors of cultural heritage). Since these will be different from place to place, one should expect different outcomes as the comparative case study demonstrates. Success will depend upon the use of culinary-related resources, based on local things and knowledge, leadership, and stakeholder involvement through collaboration and partnership, to create a uniquely appealing identity and image (place brand). Thus, a synergistic relationship can be established between the primary sector (agriculture) and service sector (tourism) through innovative entrepreneurial activities. The study makes important contributions both conceptually and empirically by creating a model that addresses the conversion of ‘terroir’ into a creative and environmentally friendly tourism place, by demonstrating the utility of the model through application to two cases in a comparative format; and practically, by directing attention to items that need careful consideration if synergistic relationships are to be established between agriculture and tourism through the development of culinary clusters as part of place-based rural community development.