Geraldine Zinsli likes to cook but making dinner for her busy family is more about getting food into their bellies. So, when the Vancouver resident planned a November trip to Punta Mita, Mexico, she booked a private chef to make a few meals and teach a cooking class for her travel partners.
Cooking classes are the second-most popular winter getaway activity among Americans, according to a recent Ipsos survey. Among touristy things to do, culinary experiences are among the fastest-growing, according to a 2018 TripAdvisor report. Globally, food tours and cooking classes were each up 57 percent year-over-year in bookings count in 2018. In the U.S., cooking classes grew 51 percent and food tours 49 percent in bookings count. More importantly, food tours had the highest growth globally in retail value of transactions booked. These dual trends create avenues for differentiation and added revenue for resorts, meal kits, tourism organizations, and culinary professionals.
Culinary travel provides the kind of immersive experience that modern tourists demand today, per Ipsos Affluent Intelligence research. “They want to live the culture and customs like the locals,” says Michael Baer, senior vice president, head of Audience Measurement/Ipsos Affluent Intelligence for the US. “Plus, why not learn something about the local cuisine by making it by hand?
Such was the case for Zinsli. She was among four couples to travel to the Mexican West Coast peninsula to stay in a local condominium. With the chef’s direction, she arranged the class menu. It included of a chicken breast with a chipotle creamy sauce; traditional guacamole with a “martajada style” salsa; aguachile made with shrimp in chili pepper water; quesadillas with homemade tortillas, traditional Mexican flan, and Jericalla, a traditional Guadalajaran dessert.
Besides the eating adventure, Zinsli thought it would be interesting to use ingredients she didn’t use on a regular basis. “I had always been fearful of using peppers. It got me more comfortable,” she says. “I would have never considered making tortillas. It seems difficult, but it turned out to be totally fine. There was a lot of good learning that came out of this.”
Cooking with meal kits
Long weekends often call for preparing at least some of your own food if you don’t want to spend every meal in a restaurant. Vacationers spent an average $63 per person, per day on food and dining purchases, according to a 2017 survey by AAA. Meals kits can be an adventurous alternative for domestic travelers to do something new while keeping their food costs in check.
By collaborating with resorts or home rental companies, meal kit companies could solve their trial challenge. Despite the growth of meal kit subscription offerings, just one in 10 home cooks say they’re planning to try them, according to a recent Ipsos syndicated study.
For Zinsli, the cooking class was the ultimate souvenir. The next night, her group joined another group in their building and they reprised some of the dishes they learned the night before. They made the dishes again once they got home to Canada. Since then, Zinsli bought a Mexican mortar and pestle.
“It definitely was one of the highlights of the trip,” she recalls. “I think we had more of a connection to the food and culture and we have insights we wouldn’t have had otherwise.”