ONE of the core values of local cuisine identity is its association with local produce.
It is, therefore, important to define and identify the characteristics of local cuisine, particularly in marketing strategies for tourist destinations.
Many believe that eating local m e a ls while vacationing in tourist destinations boosts the travelling experience, even more so when the food is associated with a locality.
Promoting the cuisine of a destination requires marketing initiatives, and planning and cooperation among agencies.
To Malaysia, local cuisine is essential in marketing initiatives to promote the destination, and is recognised as an important tourism product and experience.
This has been proven with international recognition given by Lonely Planet to Penang as one of the world top 10 food destinations in 2014.
Clearly, focusing on cuisine as a product in a tourist destination is worthwhile .
But, to harness and use it in a marketing strategy is not easy. The main concern is the “how ” and “why”.
This is more difficult in a multicultural country like Malaysia.
However, there are ways to make it happen. The Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board should collaborate with restaurant operators to organise food events not only to promote a destination, but also Malaysian cuisine overseas.
Media partners, including travel and food bloggers, should be invited to report on the events.
There should be support from local airlines (for the transport of food supplies), the Education Ministry (to provide information on local food), the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (for import and export of foods/goods), the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry, and the Department of Islamic Development (for food quality and halal certification).
Have cooking demonstrations and competitions, and cultural activities and performances at these events.
Distribute recipes as souvenirs to remind travellers about their food experiences in the country.
Success in establishing the local cuisine identity and integrating it into tourist destinations’ marketing strategies depend on the cooperation between agencies as it is not enough to just encourage tourists to stop, buy and enjoy food in restaurants.
DR MOHD HAIRI JALIS
Universiti Teknologi Mara, Terengganu Branch, Dungun