Food tourism in the Caribbean
The Caribbean is one of the world's most tourism-dependent countries. According to the World Tourism Organisation (WTO), the tourism sector accounts for approximately 50% of GDP in the United Nations Member States, and is the biggest contributor to the creation of jobs and the earning of foreign exchange for the Caribbean economy.
During 2019, over 26.7 million tourists have visited Caribbean locations, setting a record for the region. If the Caribbean is to return to these levels, post-COVID, such achievement would demand high-quality tourism, especially gastronomic. Many tourists state that the native cuisine is one of the most compelling reasons for visiting. In a highly competitive global tourist sector, by embracing native cuisine and delivering a variety of food tourism experiences, the Caribbean has been very successful in developing strong and distinct brands and flavours.
To have a deeper understanding of a city, nation, or region, tourists are interested in learning about local food, its traditions, and its distinctiveness. This is supported by statistics indicating that nearly 80% of travelers research local food and beverages before visiting a destination.
The cuisine of the Caribbean is a mash-up of foods from various cultures. It includes ingredients and flavours from different parts of the world. African, Creole, Cajun, Indian, European, Latin American, and Chinese cuisine have all had an influence on Caribbean cuisine. Nevertheless, all these distinct flavours have melded together to create a recognizable Caribbean art of culinary.
The Caribbean cuisine is famous for being rich, spicy, and full of fresh vegetables, seafood, and meat. It's also known for its stews, which are frequently served with rice, cornmeal pastes, plantains, and beans. Cassava, chickpea, sweet potato, tomato, pepper, and coconut are other common components. Although sharing similar ingredients, no two Caribbean islands are the same, which is reflected in the diverse cuisines.
The official national dish of St. Kitts and Nevis is, for instance, a local version of Caribbean goat stew. Jerk chicken is especially unique (and famous) to Jamaica. In addition, the Cayman Islands’ signature dish is turtle stew and St. Lucia’s - green fig and saltfish. Crab and callaloo are widely common in Trinidad and Tobago, together with its flavours of curry while fungi and pepper pot can be often found in Antigua and Barbuda.
Many of the Caribbean nations share dishes with the same name, though each island prepares the dishes differently. In the British Virgin Islands, pea soup is made with a sweet milk base and red beans and often served with pig-tail. The same pea soup elsewhere in the Caribbean the base is water with an assortment of meats, vegetables and dumpling. Pepper pot also varies across the island nations, but each one is delicious!
The food journey is connected to a certain way of life that includes experimenting, learning from other cultures, gaining information and awareness of the features associated with tourist products, as well as culinary delicacies created in that place via consumption.
In the warm climate of the Caribbean, locals maintain vegetable gardens growing all year. This allows for an extended growing season and warm soil which increases germination. Farmers produce exotic and delicious tropical vegetables and fruits, such as root, tuber, caigua, callaloos, breadfruit, papaya, cassava, dasheen, pumpkin, chayote squash, mango, yam, chayote, okra, green banana, ackee, guava and sugarcane. Seafood is extremely popular in the Caribbean as well. Each Caribbean nation usually has its own seafood cuisine. Sharks, lobsters, conches, and unusual fish, such as lionfish, shad, herring, sprat, bonefish, king mackerel, barracuda, tarpon, permit and kingfish – all demonstrate the ocean's riches and diversity. The conch salad in the Bahamas is one of its famous delicacies and cannot be missed!
Food tourism associations have already ramped up, promoting Caribbean cuisine, and relating tourist experiences through innovative marketing initiatives, gastronomy festivals, food fairs, and events. Most island festivals and carnivals also include food festivals to go along with the music and dancing portions of the festivities. Without a doubt, all of this takes time and a significant financial investment to experience, but regions may improve their food branding to reach international standards by working together and creating collaborations between farmers, food producers, restaurants, hotels, and others in the tourist sector.