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Mapping culinary tourism in Europe through summer's restaurant bookings

Italy, Spain and France make up the trio of culinary tourism hotspots in Europe

Published: Sep 17, 2022 08:18:12 AM IST
Updated: Sep 16, 2022 06:21:32 PM IST

Mapping culinary tourism in Europe through summer's restaurant bookingsItaly, Spain and France make up the trio of culinary tourism hotspots in Europe. Image: Sanjeri / Shutterstock

From the Michelin-starred restaurants of Paris to the pizza sellers of Rome and Lisbon's mouthwatering pastéis de nata, Europe's culinary specialties and the quality of its restaurants—as well as their diversity—are such that foodie travelers have plenty of options. And this summer, vacationers certainly got stuck into the continent's menu of culinary highlights.

With the resurgence of tourism, following the reopening of borders and the easing—or ditching—of travel restrictions, travelers are back on the road and back on the restaurant trail. Inspired by the ever-growing selection of gastronomic guides and specialist foodie media, this tasty approach to travel was already booming before the pandemic. According to the tourist office for the Paris Ile-de-France region, 13.1 million tourists who chose to visit the French capital and its region discovered French gastronomy in 2018. At the time, these travelers spent some €8.9 billion. In an extensive study, Visit Paris Region revealed that international travelers who came to sample local cuisine were 39 years old, on average, while French people who came to the capital for the same reason were slightly older, at 43. As for overseas visitors, Americans were the clientele with the biggest appetite (14.3%).

Now that the summer season is over, we can get a better picture of how tourists enjoy Europe's culinary delights thanks to The Fork, the leading network for restaurant reservations on the Old Continent (and in Australia). The platform lists nearly 60,000 restaurants in 12 countries. Based on the reservations made in July and August with its partner restaurants, The Fork concludes that it was a "record summer." Compared to last year, bookings have increased by 11% on a European scale, and even exceeded those of 2019—the pre-pandemic reference year—by around 3%.

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Italy is a culinary favorite

Unsurprisingly, given its countless opportunities for eating well and cheaply, Italy is the continent's top culinary destination for The Fork's international diners. It is the European country that generates the largest share of international reservations (29%), ahead of Spain (22%) and France (20%). French travelers have a particular taste for Italian culinary tourism (39%), with Spanish and Portuguese restaurants attracting fewer French travelers (25% and 18% respectively).

And the feeling's mutual, it seems, since Italians top the list of tourists booking restaurants during their vacations in France (17%). Travelers from the UK are almost as numerous (16%), far ahead of visitors from Germany (9%), Belgium (8%) and the Netherlands (7%). When overseas visitors come to France and decide to eat out, they logically choose French cuisine, and to a lesser extent Italian or even Japanese restaurants.

In terms of reservations made by international visitors by city, rather than by country, Paris is the leader with 8% of international visits, ahead of Barcelona (5%) and Lisbon (5%).

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