Paper Title: Regional Insights of Culinary Tourism in Mexico: Cooking Schools in Oaxaca
Authors: Dweck Dolores Wiarco, Sasidharan Vinod
Culinary tourism is now considered to be one of the fastest growing subsets of travel in Mexico. With increased competition among tourist destinations, local food culture is a valuable asset that can be used to attract niche culinary tourists. Both, Mexican tourism officials and businesses are in a unique position to design and create food culture-based experiences that appeal to tourists and promote Oaxaca, Mexico, as a culinary destination. Although some research exists on Mexico’s food and its tourism industries, few studies relate the two. This study makes an important contribution to a limited body of literature on culinary tourism as it relates to Oaxacan cooking schools that operate within the industry in Mexico. The mixed-methods approach provided evidence-based insights into the experiences of small business owners. All data was collected through a triangulation methodology that included participant observation, semi-structured personal interviews with five cooking school operators, and surveys that were distributed to their clients. Findings revealed that business strengths ranged from personalized attention offered in class, to the market tour experiences at each school. Challenges included communication barriers, skill and time constraints, and fluctuations in tourism. The majority of cooking class students were female, college educated, relatively well-off, and from the United States. Overall satisfaction levels with the five cooking schools were generally positive. Aside from contributing to a topic that has generated relatively modest amounts of literature, the study provides empirical product development and implementation insights for cooking instructors, destination marketers, and small business owners who seek to provide a unique culinary experience and attract tourists.