Consuming places: the role of food, wine and tourism in regional development
In this light it should therefore not be surprising that tourism and food production are seen as potentially significant sources of economic development in rural areas. Long seen as only a ‘bit part’ or ‘minor’ industry in terms of national development, tourism has now assumed centre stage as a major source of foreign income and overseas investment, and as a key component in regional development strategies (Butler, Hall and Jenkins, 1998). The reasons for the change of attitude towards tourism by politicians, business and the public are complex, but several reasons can be put forward. First, most rural areas in Western countries have suffered major recessions and concerns over foreign debt since the late 1970s. International tourism, in particular, is seen as a mechanism to help boost exports incomes. Second, economic deregulation and the impacts of globalization have affected ‘traditional’ employment in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors. Tourism is seen as a ‘sunrise’ industry that is labour intensive and therefore offers the potential to be a substantial source of employment. Finally, many rural areas in Western countries have become significant destinations for international travellers in both global and regional terms as well as domestic travellers in increasingly urbanized societies. In short, much public and private attention has been directed to tourism’s economic potential (Hall and Jenkins, 1998; Jenkins, Hall and Troughton, 1998). In the current global environment the relationship between food and tourism therefore represents a significant opportunity product development as well as a means to rural diversification. Specialized products offer the opportunity for the development of visitor product through rural tours, direct purchasing from the farm, specialized restaurant menus with an emphasis on local food, and home stays on such properties (Bessie`re, 1998). Indeed, in these circumstances, outsider interest in local produce may serve to stimulate local awareness and interest, and assist not only in diversification, and maintenance of plant and animal variety, but may also encourage community pride and reinforcement of local identity and culture (Wood, 2001). Therefore, it is apparent that from the seeds of globalization the development of strong local food identities and sustainable food systems have substantial potential to grow, with tourism playing an significant role in this process.