The push for Canberra as a new foodie destination

The underwater restaurant in the Maldives.
The underwater restaurant in the Maldives. Photo: Supplied

What's the first thing you think about when you plan an overseas holiday?

It used to be that people wanted to visit a place with fabulous natural beauty - think of the sapphire seas and white-painted villas of the Greek islands, or the drama of the Amazonian rainforest.

But now, according to Tourism Australia, we plan our trips around restaurants, cafes, wineries and amazing food. That's the number one thing that most tourists want when they go on holiday overseas.

Grotta Palazzese hotel and restaurant in Italy
Grotta Palazzese hotel and restaurant in Italy 

Think back to your Facebook feed, your Instagram and Twitter. When your friends go on holiday, they tend to post pictures of amazing scenery and food porn. 

Nick Baker, Tourism Australia's chief marketing officer, said most travellers now based their holidays around food and wine.

And the trend towards foodie destination holidays has been very fast, and very recent.

A still from Tourism Australia's new campaign Restaurant Australia, featuring the Poachers Pantry.
A still from Tourism Australia's new campaign Restaurant Australia, featuring the Poachers Pantry. 

"It's become a very, very powerful motivator and it motivates people's decisions on where they go on holiday. [Food and wine has] risen up dramatically in the last five years and it's now almost equal with outstanding natural beauty which is known to be the number one trigger around the world for people to go to places," he said.

But where does Australia rate among global food destinations?

"That's when we had a cold shower moment," Mr Baker said. "We don't rate."

"Now that was a heck of a shock for all of us... Because all know the depth of food and wine culture that exists in Australia, the depth of food and wine experiences that can be had in places like Canberra."

However there was one subset of tourists who rated Australia highly as a foodie destination, ranking it number one and number two in the world amongst France and Italy - people who had actually visited the country.

So Tourism Australia wants to introduce visitors to Canberra's restaurants in a big way. 

The organisation launched its new Restaurant Australia campaign last Wednesday - a serious push to get the country's food and wine on the map for international tourists.

Mr Baker said that Australia had unique experiences to offer and could combine stunning scenery with good food and wine. "Food and wine is a default for culture. Once you start establishing a culture through food and wine, it leads to the other institutions for which Canberra is famous."

Tourism Australia now wants Canberra's restaurateurs, farmers, winemakers, baristas and bakers to sign up to the Restaurant Australia campaign and help put the region on the map. Some high profile food destinations, such as Poachers Pantry, Clonakilla Winery, and Helm Winery, are already signed up as ambassadors. 

Ian Hill, the head of VisitCanberra, said the capital was like a wine. "It's confident, bold, sophisticated, culturally rich and with an emerging playfulness," he said.

"It can be chilled but is always best with friends and visitors."

ACT Tourism Minister Mr Barr said the food and wine scene was one of the key pillars in any tourism marketing campaign and drew on the Sydney Morning Herald's food guide to show how Canberra's restaurants were coming into their own.

"Sydneysiders can start thinking of Canberra as Londoners think of Brussels," he said, quoting a recent restaurant review from food critic Terry Durack.

"Not as a dull and parochial poli-town, but as a chic, small city close to home with good food, wine and its own special spirit. That's the emerging consensus from critics."

The Restaurant Australia campaign can be viewed at restaurant.australia.com

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