Catering to the demands of curious travellers

This article explores the importance of food to people who travel, focusing on how the city of Toronto has stepped up to meet this need and the opportunities this has created for students looking to study hospitality in Canada.

When we think back to our childhood’s, for many it is clear that some of the most interesting things we learned, we did not learn in school. The family dinner table and the road trip or vacation was the place where we learned the most about the culture and social norms of our country of origin and our local society.

Everything from current events shared in table conversation to tastes and smells from local favourites and family dishes taught us what we needed to know. Food even taught us how to celebrate major milestones like birthdays and cultural and religious holiday events. The same can be said for travellers. Perhaps more informative than a field trip to a local attraction is partaking in regional foods at a restaurant catered with local fare.

With more than four million visitors travelling to Toronto each year, the call for comfort in accommodation and in food is a bellow not lost on the city’s more than 24,000 tourism businesses. Toronto’s tourism industry employs 203,000 people within sports and entertainment, transportation and sightseeing, cultural attractions, gaming, restaurants, night clubs and accommodations. This sector has grown 33% over the past five years. Toronto’s fascinating attractions such as the 54 metre wonder of Niagara Falls and the 1776 steps up the CN Tower draw travellers from around the world.

A flavourful and well presented meal is fundamental to our travel and must be washed down with a beverage that is equal to the quality of the meal itself. For that, Toronto is just over an hour down the road from one of the world’s premier wine growing regions: Niagara wine country.

Beyond the yum of the thousands of tastes and smells of the food available for tourists to taste and tourism and catering managers to serve, food is key in attracting visitors to any country or city. Cooking and serving food as well as the creation of food-based festivals contributes to all aspects of travel. All of this is dictated by the tourists themselves. Demand exists for local experiences through food and catering as part of tourism management. Research in the UK shows that 86% of travellers prefer to try local fare when traveling abroad and 62% prefer basic surroundings enjoyed by locals rather than a high-end setting created for foreign visitors. This is so much the case, that some cities are even appointing an individual position to direct food-related tourism activities and in some nations, education is being offered by tourism boards to help restaurant-owners improve their ability to attract tourists.

When tourists are attracted — accommodation is required. Toronto is headquarters to renowned hospitality companies such as the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts and Fairmont Hotels and Resorts — unbeatable training ground for wide-eyed tourism students. 100 cultures from around the world fill Toronto with style. Toronto offers full service hospitality with more than 35,000 hotel rooms to choose from for a short stay from the boutique hotels to luxurious spa resorts; from furnished apartments to budget backpacker accommodations. Within many hotels these days there is a new position for those hoping to get involved in the latest and most innovative part of the industry. Hotels are using the services of something called a ‘food concierge’ whose job it is to research the best in local foods and dining experiences to offer to hotel guests who can just hit ‘0’ on their room phone and be brave enough to dive in!

For those who hope to be part of the 203,000 tourism employees in Toronto, in catering or anywhere around the world, perhaps as a new fangled ‘food concierge’, Centennial College’s School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culture prepares students for careers in any of the five sectors of tourism: accommodation, food and beverage, transportation, travel services and recreation and entertainment. The skills learned in this programme are transferable anywhere in Canada and the world.

Food is key to telling the story of a nation or a city and its people. We can see that in how histories are written and now it is making its way into the foundation of tourism throughout the world as visitors demand access to the local tastes that are embedded in its culture. Food is part of the learning experience of the curious traveller. Because of that, those who plan to cater to those travellers through food or any other tourism activity, must educate themselves by living the experience and by studying the latest in the field — what better way to live the experience than to become educated abroad.

Provided by Centennial College