Culinary tourism or food tourism is the exploration of food as the purpose of tourism. It is now considered a vital component of the tourism experience. Dining out is common among tourists and "food is believed to rank alongside climate, accommodation, and scenery" in importance to tourists.
Culinary or food tourism is the pursuit of unique and memorable eating and drinking experiences, both near and far. Culinary tourism differs from agritourism in that culinary tourism is considered a subset of cultural tourism (cuisine is a manifestation of culture) whereas agritourism is considered a subset of rural tourism, but culinary tourism and agritourism are inextricably linked, as the seeds of cuisine can be found in agriculture. Culinary/food tourism is not limited to gourmet food.
While many cities, regions or countries are known for their food, culinary tourism is not limited by food culture. Every tourists eats at least three times a day, making food one of the fundamental economic drivers of tourism. Countries like Ireland, The Philippines, and Canada are making significant investment in culinary tourism development and are seeing results with visitor spending and over night stays rising as a result of food tourism promotion and product development.
A growing area of culinary tourism are cooking classes. The formats vary from short lesson lasting a few hours to full-day and multi-day courses. The focus for foreign tourists will usually be on the cuisine of the country they are visiting, whereas local tourists may be keen to experience cuisines new to them. Many cooking classes also include market tours to enhance the cultural experience.
The food tour formula varies from tour to tour and from operator to operator (of which there are many). Most, however, feature the following elements: