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Travel Exchange tapped into key trends

Photos courtesy Travel Exchange

The travel landscape is always evolving, and new trends in tourism offer travel planners a variety of ways to engage new customers. Travel Exchange featured several sessions that highlighted current trends in tourism, giving attendees a fascinating look at new trip ideas.

Food Travel
The growing trend of culinary or food tourism was analyzed at NTA’s seminar called “What’s Cookin’ in Food Travel.” Eric Wolf, founder of the World Food Travel Association, discussed how culinary travelers have changed in the past few years. He believes that people are more engaged in food tourism than ever before, and one of their interests is whether their meal is local or sustainable.

Wolf also addressed the misconception that food tourism is not necessarily focused on high-end fine dining; more often, it is focused on what is unique and memorable. He suggested that destinations or tour operators promote great and original food experiences rather than just going after travelers looking for the gourmet experience.

Laura Mandala, managing director of Mandala Research, talked about the research side of food travel. She reported that of the 160 million people in the total leisure travel population, 27.3 million are culinary travelers who make their travel decisions based on food.

Dark Tourism
Is there a dark side to tourism? Are millions of travelers visiting sites each year that exist because they relate to death or tragedy? If so, what motivates those travelers?

Phillip Stone, executive director for the Institute for Dark Tourism Research at England’s University of Central Lancashire, has spent more than a decade studying those questions and shared some insights in a seminar at Travel Exchange.

Stone said that 1.4 million visitors go through Auschwitz each year and 2.4 million visited ground zero last year.

“Numerous cruise lines launched Titanic anniversary cruises this year for the 100th anniversary of that tragedy,” he said. “Most guests dressed in period clothing, and they cruised to the site of the sinking.”

The study of dark tourism as a discipline dates to about 2001, though Stone points out that the phenomenon itself dates at least to Roman times and deaths in the Colosseum.

“There are more than 2 million references to dark tourism on Google,” said Stone. “I published this definition of the term in 2006: ‘Dark tourism is the act of travel to tourist sites associated with death, suffering or the seemingly macabre.’ Auschwitz has been restored and renovated over the years to accommodate visitors. We see many tourists taking photos of themselves at Bobby Kennedy’s grave or the site of the tsunami in Southeast Asia.”

Stone contends that sites such as these present moral and ethical dilemmas. The question arises as to what motivates the tourists. Are they there to honor or memorialize the dead, or is something less commendable at play?