Taste of local cuisine – fiji times online

Graham Temo prepares a sesame Vudi finger food during the food festival launch at FNU Namaka campus. Seafood restaurants nearby Picture: BALJEET SINGH

Globally, the tourism industry is a key foreign exchequer of a region.

The past few years have witnessed an upsurge in local and international travelling and people are often making a trip for relaxation, pleasure, adventure and for exploring new cuisines.

Majority of the time, the travellers (tourists) like to visit historical places with rich cultural heritage or prefer to visit tourist destinations wherein nature or the scenic beauty is sustained.

Among a wide range of attractions the tourists are anticipating in a destination, decisively it is the local food delicacy that tends to make the journey a memorable one.

With the changing world scenario, as of today, food tourism has become a cohesive part of tourism experience.

Travellers often like to explore foods that are indigenously prepared using local ingredients and with traditional/customary knowledge (and by adopting traditional recipes and processing methods).

It is not a necessity that a tourist would like to explore these foods in big or popular restaurants, but they are open to tasting them even on the streets — buying from street hawker stalls.

Further, each country or a region has its own unique “food stuff” and “food-culture”.

For example, tomyam soup and somtam of Thailand, nasi lemak of Malaysia, beef rendang of Indonesia, tandoor roti, biryani and much more from India, paella de marisco of Spain, hamburger of Germany, mole (mh-ly) of Mexico and many others.

In our own Fiji Islands, we have lots of traditionally prepared foods such as kokoda, lovo, duruka curry, steamed taro, nama (sea grapes) soup or stew, lumi, and much more.

Popular tourist destinations are exploring various approaches to attract travellers to have an experience of food tourism.

Apart from tasting local/ traditionally prepared cuisines, food tourism also includes studying the origin and production of a range of foods or beverages as well as recognise and appreciate the value of local foods culture.

Under the food tourism concept, tourists also have a unique opportunity to participate in various cooking activities, visiting farming lands, collecting raw materials for food preparations, going fishing, visiting local poultry/livestock farms, etc.

During farm visits, tourists can learn more about agricultural systems, traditional practices of farming and harvesting, livestock rearing, and others.

In majority of the instances, direct selling of locally grown fresh agri-food produce (in and around farms), and indigenously prepared food products has captivated tourists.

Direct marketing of produce can contribute immensely for promotion of small-scale industries or a farming sector by providing employment for local populations and setting up a firm stage towards being self-reliant.

By knowing the importance of food tourism in majority of the countries the world over, local governments officially organise visits to local farms and food industries for tourists.

As per the Fiji Bureau of Statistics, the Fiji’s annual visitor arrival number had reached a new high with a 5 per cent increase in 2016 compared with previous years.

This number can be further increased in the coming days if food tourism is encouraged and planned effectively.

There will certainly be challenges concerning health and hygiene conditions that need to be ensured for a traveller.

Food poisoning or foodborne illness is a common feature a traveller experiences in a new place.

Food or water-borne infections such as diarrhoea, cholera and typhoid caused by human pathogenic microorganisms are much more common and of high concern the world over.

Maintaining proper hygienic practices among local vendors and food handling personnel, and educating them on health issues associated with unhygienic settings are of paramount importance for local authorities.

Practising and implementing an effective and a strict food safety system or policy are usually recommended.

Organising public health awareness campaigns and education programs among locals in a tourist destination is also highly essential.

Once tourists appreciate the importance of food tourism in a region, this will lead to a repeated visit by them to the same destination as well as performing the unofficial role of publicity ambassadors through writing their experiences in blogs or on social media about a destination.

Once planned in an appropriate way, food tourism will definitely put a firm platform for the flow of more tourists and thus indirectly contribute to the economy of a region, which certainly holds true for a living paradise such as Fiji.

* Dr Rajeev Bhat is an associate professor and head of food science department at the Fiji National University. Chinese food restaurants nearby Email: hodfs@fnu.ac.fj or rajeev.bhat@fnu.ac.fj.

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