Food tourism, niche markets and products in rural tourism: combining the intimacy model and the experience economy as a rural development strategy
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The countryside hosts an increasing number of alternative food networks: rural tourists can play an important role in acting as both consumer and “cultural broker” between these networks. This paper provides a theoretical framework for niche marketing food specialties in rural tourism by combining two different consumer behavioural theories, the “experience economy” and the “intimacy” model, representing a reorientation from classical marketing thinking. It explores the meaning of local food, including the pursuit of reconnection with nature, resilience to globalisation, the role of local food in reinforcing personal identity, the search for freshness, taste and authenticity, support for local producers, and environmental concerns. It considers the challenges for rural entrepreneurs and policy makers in marketing food specialties and rural regions to the post-modern consumer. Using examples derived mostly from secondary literature it identifies seven dimensions that elevate food products to an appealing culinary niche, namely, coherence, anti-capitalistic attitude, struggle against extinction, personal signature, mutual-disclosure, rituals of spatial and physical proximity, and sustainability related practices. Food providers may use these features to signal food distinctiveness to rural tourists; policy makers can include them in their regional development models to enhance rural tourism without altering historically, socially, and environmentally layered culinary traditions.
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