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Culinary tourism food takes centre stage


Lena Mossberg
Lena Mossberg. Photo: Carina Gran

Food and drink play a big part in the travel experience, and sometimes may even be the main reason for choosing a particular destination. The average tourist spends a substantial 30 per cent of their budget on meals, and the growing group of "foodies" spend much more than that.

Lena Mossberg is a professor of marketing, and probably the person in Sweden who has worked most on the subject of culinary tourism. Over the past 20 years, her research has focused on what she calls extraordinary experiences, often centred around food, and the subject is becoming increasingly topical.

"Food plays a huge role in the tourism industry, because it’s so intimately connected to the country’s food culture and traditions. There is considerable interest, for example, in developing tourism destinations with the help of food. I attended a UN conference on culinary tourism back in May. It was the fifth one so far and we had as many as a thousand participants from all sorts of different countries," says Lena Mossberg.

Interdisciplinary centre for tourism research

Tourism research has a long tradition at the School of Business, Economics and Law. A formal network to address the subject was formed back in the 1990s, and 2007 saw the foundation of the Centre for Tourism. Lena Mossberg was one of the driving forces behind this development.

"We’re an interdisciplinary platform for tourism research, bringing together researchers from four different faculties. West Sweden Tourist Board and Göteborg & Co were involved in setting up the centre and remain active participants in its work and on its board. Our research and education covers a broad spectrum of tourism and hospitality issues, but many of us have a particular focus on consumer behaviour. We also have a constellation that is specifically interested in culinary tourism," explains Lena Mossberg.

Lena Mossberg and others

Photo: Carina Gran

Scary seafood as part of the West Coast's image

In a new project going by the working name of Scary Seafood, Lena Mossberg and her colleagues are working on broadening the view of what we are willing to eat from the vast larder of the ocean.

"What we eat is a very cultural thing. In France, for example, sea urchins are a delicacy. And in Asia people eat sea cucumbers, jellyfish, sea snails and many other foods that we are nervous about trying here. Seafood is an important part of our brand here on the West Coast. To make things a little more exciting, we could expand what we offer to include new edible things that are on brand," says Lena Mossberg.

In the first phase, the team has investigated what is edible and can also be sustainably sourced from the sea. The result is a report showing the potential for various species to become future delicacies. The project has now received funding from the Swedish Board of Agriculture to see whether they can commercialise their discoveries.

Megatrends on the food front

So what are the big trends to look out for when it comes to food and tourism?

"We’re going to see more ‘foodies’ who are curious about new tastes and experiences connected with food. I also think we’re going to be more aware of what we’re putting into our bodies – not just to make us look good, but also to feel good. And, of course, sustain- ability remains a hot topic. The food waste debate is only going to increase in strength. We’re going to neither be able to nor want to discard food the way we do today. When we held a conference on culinary tourism here at the School of Business, Economics and Law in 2018, with 240 delegates from around 30 countries, we served up waste food, including biscuits made from dried cinnamon buns. They tasted like a Swedish syrup cookie and were very popular," says Lena Mossberg.

About Lena Mossberg

Professor of marketing. Has been a professor of consumer experience economys at BI Norwegian Business School and visiting professor at Campus Grythyttan, Örebro University. Lena Mossberg works on projects for the Swedish development agency Sida in Tanzania, and has worked as a tourism expert for the UN in China and on eco-tourism in Kenya. She currently holds a professorship at Nord University in Bodö/Lofoten. Lena also chairs the board of the Centre for Tourism.

This is an article from the School's Magazine 2019