When you think of a holiday in Italy, it’s almost impossible to imagine that trip without a traditional Neapolitan pizza.

Now think of Japan. Surely, sampling local sushi is something on everyone’s “to do” list?

And New Zealand?

To locals, we may be the land of pies, pavlova and hangi but outside of Aotearoa, according to the Food Travel Monitor Survey (June 2016) conducted by The World Food Travel Association, we are not well recognised for our food and beverage scene.

In typical #MapsWithoutNZ form, we have been left off the culinary map.

But there is room to improve. The results also show that the low recognition rates are not based on negative food experiences, but on lack of experience. 

83% of the travellers surveyed believe that food and beverage experiences help to create a lasting impression of a destination. 57% of these tourists also stated that eating local food and drink is a motivator in their decision to travel. 

By using these figures and showcasing example opportunities, a recent report from ANZ on food and agri tourism argues the need to formerly establish food tourism in New Zealand.

And Auckland is the ideal hub to lead the way.

As one of the biggest cities of the South Pacific, which already has an amazing restaurant scene, Auckland is uniquely blessed with volcanic land, forestry, farms, vineyards and oceans – it sets the scene for the perfect culinary destination; but how can Auckland #getNZonthemap?

Māori and South Pacific cuisine
Māori and Pasifika food experiences are already on the rise in Auckland. Hangi is a popular food truck option found around markets and events – Auckland’s annual Pasifika Festival is a particularly great place to tuck into a plate; Kai Pasifika in Mt Eden has a menu that spans the South Pacific; and popular food truck Pūhā & Pākehā recently opened as an eatery in Grey Lynn, and expanded their offering of Māori fusion kai.

According to Tourism New Zealand, 25% of international travellers to New Zealand seek out a wine experience. Villa Maria, New Zealand’s most awarded winery, is easily accessible with Auckland’s public transport – and nicely located near the airport (a glass of award-winning wine before/after a flight, anyone?). But other wineries in the region also come with a point of difference that are experiences in themselves: art lovers will enjoy Matakana with its sculpture trails and fine art galleries; the outdoorsy kind will enjoy a glass at one of Kumeu’s finest after a day of surf, skydiving or exploring the ranges; and those after an island getaway will love the beauty and serenity of Waiheke.

Farm to table eateries
It’s already a growing trend with many Auckland eateries to adjust their menu according to season, and the produce they can farm themselves or purchase locally; for many people, eating ethically and sustainably is becoming a determining factor in their dining decisions. But there is also an opportunity for farm and agriculture tourism operators to expand their services, with farm to table experiences.

Catch and cook experiences
Auckland’s oceans, beaches and bush provide a natural pantry for tourist operators and adventurous travellers. Imagine this itinerary: a morning fishing or diving trip, an afternoon hike to forage for Puha, digging up Kumara on a local plot, followed by a delicious feast of what you caught and collected. What a fabulous way for our tourists to experience the backyard of Aucklanders.

Better promotion of our local favourites
Our bakeries are the place to go for a Kiwi treat and we think our tourists need to know about them too. Auckland was a top contender throughout this year’s Supreme Pie awards, taking out the gold, silver and bronze in both the Steak and Cheese and Potato Top categories. And let’s not forget about our sausage rolls, ginger crunches, custard squares and caramel slices. Throw in a bottle of L&P and you’ve got yourself a true Kiwiana spread (but not advised for daily consumption!).

Then there’s the Pavlova. Tourists need to know that this delicious dessert is definitely a Kiwi invention and that they need to taste it in its country of origin. They can learn the tricks of the trade in the soon-to-be-opened baking school at Chelsea Bay, where our local sugar is produced.

And while fish and chips might be traditionally British, do tourists know that Aotearoa does them best? 

The opportunities for Auckland to lead the way in food tourism are endless; in fact, it is already an important strategy included in our Destination AKL 2025 strategy. Not only will food tourism be a great boost for our visitor economy, it will provide significant help to other elements of the plan: 
•    Improving night time economy
•    Promoting Auckland’s identity and narratives – recognising it as a cultural city of the Pacific
•    The development of authentic Maori cultural experiences
•    Improving sustainability
•    Introducing all-weather experiences and attractions
•    Expanding product and services in the Hauraki Gulf and greater Auckland region

So, whether it’s with Māori cuisine, catch and cook experiences, local produce or the good ol’ pie, the time has come for tourists to associate New Zealand with food, just like Italy and Japan, and Auckland is a worthy leader to achieve this goal.

Let’s #getNZonthemap (culinary and otherwise).

You may also like