The Travel Corporation and the Tourism Authority of Thailand hosted a media dinner in Vancouver last night to celebrate a new season of Thailand itineraries from TTC’s brands.
Citing Tourism Industry Association of Canada statistics showing that 35 per cent of current travel is based on culinary tourism, and 50 per cent of travellers say food influences their travel decisions, The Travel Corporation made food the prime focus of the evening – from the family-style Thai dinner to the presentation by Instagram food photographer and cookbook author Dennis Prescott.
“Each region of Thailand has its own distinctive cuisine,” said Kayla Shubert, the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s representative in Canada, in conversation with PAX. “Regardless of your preference, there’s something for you.”
Jeff Element, president of The Travel Corporation Canada, told PAX that TTC offers a Thailand experience for all traveller styles, each with a focus on the local cuisine. While Busabout guests may dig into Thai street food, Contiki travellers can take a cooking class in Chiang Mai, and Trafalgar guests have a Be My Guest experience at a local family’s home.
“Unless you have family there, you wouldn’t otherwise get to do that,” Element said. He told PAX the immersive culinary experiences contribute to great word of mouth about the company’s tours, leading its Thailand programs to grow year on year.
(From left) Jeff Element, president, The Travel Corporation Canada & author/photographer Dennis Prescott
The Tourism Authority of Thailand is making a big investment in the Canadian market, Shubert told PAX, with plans to open an office in Toronto by the end of the year. With another new office planned for Sao Paolo, Brazil, that will double the number of offices in the Americas to four, including the current offices in LA and New York.
Canadians are among the longest-staying visitors to Thailand, Shubert noted, with an average stay of 17.69 days in 2016. More than 244,000 Canadians visited Thailand last year, an increase of 7.31 per cent from 2015. Statistics through May of this year show that the figure is on track to increase another 5.5 per cent this year.
Dennis Prescott also highlighted discovering new foods as a critical part of the travel experience. After growing up thankful to get three meals a day but viewing eating as a functional requirement rather than an immersive experience, he said his world (and taste buds) opened up when he began to explore new foods during his travels across North America.
“When I had sushi for the first time, in Vancouver 15 years ago, it was like a Fear Factor experience,” he said. “I had never even heard of sushi.”
Food is all about community, Prescott noted, whether that’s feeding 10 people dinner at his house in the Maritimes, or tasting new dishes far across the world. His new cookbook, Eat Delicious, showcases his food photography and recipes influenced both by his home province of New Brunswick and by dishes he has come to love during his travels.
Food that brings locals and travellers together is good for everyone, Shubert noted.
“Travellers are looking for unique and meaningful experiences,” she said, “and local people get to share their culture.”