YOUNGER tourists who “take their behaviours on the road with them” are shaping the way Scotland will cater for visitors in future as the extent of the world’s food and drink tourism needs are revealed.

Erik Wolf, executive director of the World Food Travel Association, outlined the international food and tourism trends that Scotland should know about as its study showed 96 per cent of people it surveyed said food and drink, not just eating out, are now key holiday drivers.

The US-based association publishes an annual of food and drink report of tourism statistics and it found that setting off on a trip specifically for a food or drink experience is one of the new trends growing particularly among under-40s of which every tourism business operator should be aware.

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He said: “So that means people are going to a brewery or distillery, they are going on a food tour, they are going to a gourmet food shop, so anything like that that would be an opportunity for them to create memories.”

HeraldScotland:

Mr Wolf, above, was speaking ahead the Scottish Tourism Alliance’s flagship conference in Glasgow on Wednesday and Thursday.

He said: “Trends we are seeing right now are the changes in special diets and people’s requirements, things like animal ethics, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan.

“Those are skyrocketing and affecting how people travel, so they are taking their behaviours on the road with them. There really is [opportunity] if a company is quick and nimble enough to turn on a dime, or to react very quickly.

“One of the concerns is how this affects authenticity.

“Plenty of national cuisines have plenty of vegetarian options but they are just not highlighted because there is a cultural expectation that it is not a meal unless meat is served."

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He said: “So it is a little bit of adjusting that but also cuisines evolve.

“Maybe this change is advancing more because of the power of the internet but cuisines do change.

“I think that there’s a way to look at fusion while still respecting the authenticity or the heritage, maybe meat is less focussed, maybe there is another option where the vegetarian dishes are given equal weight but authenticity needs to be looked at and considered when this is happening.

HeraldScotland:

“The salmon one is interesting because of issues of sustainable seafood stewardship, the sourcing, the ethical sourcing, responsible fishing, not overfishing, is it farmed salmon, is it wild salmon.

“Those issues are all important and consumers will go to a restaurant and ask is this wild salmon or farmed and is it Marine Stewardship Council-certified.

“These are questions that consumers are asking so there is a lot of moving parts that business owners need to be aware of, but if they can put it all down on paper and think about it and say ‘look consumer trends are changing, the industry is changing, the climate is changing, governmental laws and regulations are changing, how can we make sense of this so that we can have a viable business model’.”

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Mr Wolf, a renowned speaker who will give the keynote address on day two of the conference, said: “If you look at all the producers, whether it is lamb, salmon, whisky, cheese, jams - you have a wonderful fruit industry there - they have no choice but to take responsibility for their own future success and if that means stepping up as a unified voice then that is what they are going to have to do.”

In the previous parts of our series we revealed the industry is facing its “biggest threat” from proposed immigration changes as the STA and the Scotland Food and Drink, both instrumental in forming the food tourism strategy, aim to boost spend by £1bn.

The WFTA, headquartered in Portland, Oregon, serves a community of about 200,000 professionals and collated the results from its experts across 33 countries. It also found that having information about local food and drink before they travel is expected to have the most positive food impact for travellers in the coming years, and that social media posts are encouraging unique food and drink experiences.