The combination of a destination and a gastronomic experience seems ideal for anyone planning holidays. At the same time, 2013 is a milestone year for Santorini, since the municipal authority of the island has proclaimed 2013 as the Year of Gastronomy.
This is a complex and multidimensional initiative which connects the island’s glory era of the prehistoric times of Akrotiri with today, and highlights the specificity and fertility of the volcanic soil of Santorini. Thus, apart from the obvious–that is the food and wine itself–this idea also relates to arts, tradition, education, scientific documentation and culture in general.
The conference ”IMIC 2013 – Tourism & Gastronomy: Moving Forward” organized by Heliotopos was held in Santorini and started on October 17, with a duration of two days. In fact, the involvement of Eric Wolf as the key speaker at the conference is a great success, since he is the head of the World Food Travel Association and considered a connoisseur of issues concerning culinary tourism.
IMIC (International Meetings Industry Conference) has always been held in Athens, but this year a destination outside of Attica was selected and in particular the convention center ”Petros M. Nomikos” on the island of Santorini, in the region of the Cyclades. The conference also incorporated an intensive seminar based on the development of culinary tourism, titled ”Culinary Tourism Bootcamp,” and addressed ways for the establishment of an area as a popular gastronomical destination and strategies for the attraction of more visitors.
In an interview, the American founder and executive director of the World Food Travel Association said “I just discovered the tomato fritter “domatokefte,” and gastronomy could become a cornerstone for tourism here. You have history, but you know, not everyone goes to museums–everyone eats.”
He also spoke to Greek and foreign journalists, as well as local tourism professionals and officials presenting a plan that could help Santorini become an international culinary destination. However, it became abundantly clear from the other presentations at the conference that there are a lot of domestic problems that need to be tackled before such steps can be taken.
For example, Vassilis Zacharakis, head of Santorini’s restauranteurs association, said that what he sees as the biggest obstacle, is convincing professionals who have been making a good living for years on one form of tourism, to try something different.
The prerequisite of success is the understanding of the needs; the identification of the expectations of the visitor who chooses a destination based on gastronomic satisfaction, and most importantly the in-depth knowledge of the special characteristics of this elite clientele.