We caught up with Fiona Richmond, of Scotland Food and Drink to discuss Food and Drink Fortnight 2020, and the impact of COVID-19 on the food and drink tourism industry.
In a world where nothing is certain, and subject to rapid change, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to predict what might be around the corner. There's no crystal ball.
Perhaps that has always been the case and learning to focus on the here and now, being as flexible and adaptable as we can, and building resilience to change, is a better approach.
Food tourism, like so many other sectors, has been turned on its head these past few months. Plans for food festivals, tours, tastings, cookery classes, going the extra mile to visit a destination restaurant, Year of Coast and Waters celebrations, have been cancelled. Businesses left without income, dreams shattered and visitors disappointed. There's a big question around "what’s next?" and "where do we go from here?"
Travelling for immersive food and drink experiences has risen in popularity in recent years. Whilst originally a niche activity, for smaller or specialist groups of visitors, it’s grown to be a mainstream pursuit. Visitors are hungry to seek out a destination’s culinary highlights, to meet the characters behind the produce or even try their hand at cooking the local produce.
For example, staying on a farm and tucking into its yield of home-produced meat, eggs or cheese and getting a feel for the history and heritage of a place through its food and drink.
People will travel, whether that’s in their own region, country or further afield, to have these experiences.
Whilst visitor travel has been curtailed, their love of food and drink experiences has not. Where they can, businesses have knuckled down and done things differently, keeping close to their customers and followers, devising new online experiences and delivering local produce in a way like never before.
Our own Support Local directory, for example, was set up to give producers and more than 400 hospitality businesses a helping hand with the promotion of their home deliveries / mail order. The public has responded by renewing their appreciation, and value of, the people who make, sell and serve local food and drink.
Cookery schools, tastings and events have turned to the virtual world to keep hungry minds and taste buds satisfied.
From Braehead Food’s Cook School at Home are offering live, interactive and fun cookery classes to Wedgwood Alfresco, where chef Paul cooks alfresco feasts for guests in their own garden or outdoor space. Foraging Fortnight is another great example, as until 13 September, wild food enthusiasts can go on virtual foraging trips and expand their knowledge via fascinating talks and demos. And the hugely popular Taste of Grampian has moved online too, taking place at the end of September.
One of the highlights for many has been the brilliant campaign from Scottish Agritourism, where guests from Scotland, UK and around the world have tuned into live lambing in the spring and then virtual farm tours and lunch experiences.
Our annual celebration of Scottish produce and the people behind it, Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight, from 5 - 20 September, will tell the stories of many more local legends who have impressed us all, and continue to do so, with their tireless work to keep the nation fed and connected with the special larder around us.
Whilst we don’t have that crystal ball, there is one thing that we can be certain of, and it's that we have a country full of incredible produce, talented people and experiences.
If we all continue to support, treasure and nurture it, our food tourism landscape will surely continue to shine, in whatever form, attracting locals and, when the time is right, our valued visitors from further afield.