Erik Wolf is recognized internationally as the founder of the culinary tourism industry and president of the International Culinary Tourism Association.
Imagine that you’re a visitor who just arrived at the Denver airport. Its morning and you feel like a coffee so you stop at a 7-11. For breakfast you’d really like a plate of farm-fresh eggs, ham and toast, but you can’t find any local restaurants so an Egg McMuffin at McDonald’s it is. Has convenience made it too easy to forget local food businesses?
Local foodservice businesses have a hard time competing against bigger companies. Consequently, many are closing. The reasons for struggle are many. A weak economy and layoffs mean that low-margin food establishments can hardly survive.
Apart from the Denver-Boulder area, the state’s population is spread-out. Foodservice businesses need a steady volume of customers to survive. None of us have to think hard to recall a restaurant, wine shop, gourmet store or other food-related business that has recently closed.
The real threat is to Colorado’s local economies. Franchises and chains export most profits to the company’s headquarters. The profit leaves Colorado and less money stays local in towns like Durango, Pueblo and Ft. Collins. Tourism research has proven many times that new money spent in a town is recirculated approximately 7 times before it’s considered “old money”. New money allows a local economy to grow because jobs are created and services can be bought. Old money keeps circulating in the same local economy and becomes stagnant. The lack of fresh cash means an economy can’t grow.
Every company manages its earnings and culture differently, so it’s hard to generalize about larger companies. Most provide product consistency and often, an exciting brand experience. Larger brands also convey a sense of less risk, it’s easier for visitors to pick the “Global Coffee” because they know it from back home. Local food and drink businesses need a hand to make it easier for visitors and locals alike to find and support. Food and travel are intertwined. What’s at stake is much more than just restaurants – think wineries, breweries, farms, farmers’ markets, food events, food manufacturers, etc. Colorado has a lot of great independent food and drink resources to share, but unless these businesses are right on the I-25 or I-70, visitors – and even locals – need help finding them. By making these establishments easier to find, and attractive to tourists, you’ll be helping to create new money for your area, and promote jobs and economic growth.
The International Culinary Tourism Association is developing solutions to help local food businesses survive and compete. Tell us what tools you need so you can do more with limited funds. Visit http://trekkerworx.wufoo.com/forms/w7x1p5/and take our fast survey. Help us to help you improve your economic future!
Visit www.culinarytourism.org for more information about culinary travel or to get involved with the International Culinary Tourism Association.