The role of food tourism in sustaining regional identity: A case study of Kerala, India.
The theme of this project is to look at the role of food tourism in Kerala, India and in particular with reference to regional identity. There are two main questions that will need to be answered in order to understand this. Firstly is food important in sustaining the regional identity of Kerala and if so in what way. The secondary question is whether tourism affects or is affected by food within the region of Kerala, India.
Food tourism is a growing sector of tourism however it remains on the “outer fringes of academic research” (Everett, 2008, p. 151). It is through the “inter-relationship between food, place and identity that food tourisms social and cultural impact can truly be explored” (Everett, 2008, p. 151-152). There have been studies of food within tourism but these have mainly been linked with marketing and economics. Everett (2008), in her case study of Cornwall, clearly identified that much more research was needed both nationally and internationally to look at the role of food tourism in sustaining regional identity.
India is ranked in the top 40 countries worldwide in terms of tourism numbers. During 2010 there were 5.78 million foreign tourist arrivals (FTA) in India, resulting in $14.19 billion of foreign exchange earnings (FEE). Alongside this there were 740.21 million domestic tourist visits within the country (India Tourism Statistics 2012, Government of India, Ministry of Tourism). Therefore the tourism market in India is considerable but in the Indian Tourism Statistics 2010 there is no mention of food tourism. Therefore it raises the question of how important food tourism is and does food have any impact of tourism.
India is a very large country covering nearly 1.2 million square miles which is divided into 28 states and 7 unions, with a total population of 1.2 billion people in 2009. Each state within India has its own regional identity, consisting of its own language, customs and diet. Indian food is often thought of as curries, naan breads and rice but this is not the whole picture of the types of food available in India. Within India there is a wide variety of culinary food specialities which vary considerably from one region in India to another. For example in northern India the daily diet consists of breads and dahl whilst in southern India the daily diet includes rice, appams and curries. Indian cuisine has been influenced by over 5,000 years of continuous settlement within the sub-continent. As various groups and cultures have settled they have introduced and developed their own food sources and dishes.
Kerala is one such region within India. It is located on the southern tip of the country on the Malabar Coast and in 2011 covered an area of 15,005 square miles with a population of 33.4 million people. There is evidence of settlement in Kerala since around 5,000BC and since 3,000BC Kerala has been known for its spice exports. In more recent times the region was dominated by firstly the Portuguese then the Dutch and finally the English who all brought with them their own food traditions. One of the most important staple foods of Kerala is rice of which there are over 600 varieties. Rice features heavily in the Kerala diet. But what makes Kerala unique? This will be one of the areas that will be looked at during the project. In particular what religions and cultures are found in the region and what impact do they have on the identity of Kerala. Also does the history and the various people who have invaded and settled within the region contribute to the present day Kerala?
So is food tourism in Kerala important? Kerala is one of India’s top tourist destinations for both local and international tourists. In 2006 Kerala attracted nearly 8.5 million tourists and the tourism industry as a whole contributed...
References: *Bessiere, Jacinthe (1998): Local Development and Heritage: Traditional Food Cuisine as Tourist Attractions in Rural Areas in Sociologia Ruralis 38:1, 21-34
*Everett, Sally (2008): Beyond the Visual Gaze: The Pursuit of an embodied experience through food tourism in Tourist Studies 2008 Vol. 8, 337-358
Hall, C.M and Mitchell, R. (2000) We are what we eat: Food, tourism and globalization in Tourism Culture and Communication 2, 29-37
*Sebastian, Leena Mary & Rajagopalan, Prema (2009): Socio-cultural transformations through tourism: a comparison of residents perspectives at two destinations in Kerala, India, in Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change, 7:1, 5-21
*Sims, Rebecca (2009): Food, place and authenticity: local food and the sustainable tourism experience, in Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 17:3, 321-336
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