Exploring the World of Culinary and Agri-Tourism, with Rebecca Mackenzie

Episode 325

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Passionate about the interconnection between food, agriculture, tourism, arts, and culture, Rebecca has been instrumental in developing tourism products, including Prince Edward County’s award-winning Taste Trail & Arts Trail and the Culinary Tourism Alliance’s Feast On® certification program.

In her role at the Culinary Tourism Alliance (CTA), Rebecca manages highly participatory and asset-based community development projects at the local, regional, provincial, and national levels. She oversees programming, partnership development and develops comprehensive marketing partnerships to increase awareness of Canada’s food tourism experiences.

Rebecca contributes her expertise to a variety of industry boards, including the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO) and the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) Sustainable Development Goals Working Group. She has written the curriculum for Centennial Colleges Food Tourism Post Graduate Program, contributed chapters to the 2nd UNWTO Global Report on Gastronomic Tourism, and produced a chapter on Transforming the Terroir into a Tourist Destination to the Routledge Handbook of Gastronomic Tourism (release date of fall 2019). Rebecca completed a Master of Arts in Global Leadership at Royal Roads University in 2021 with a specific interest in sustainable tourism. She is a part-time professor at George Brown College in their Food Tourism Entrepreneurship program.

Born and raised in Toronto, Rebecca spent her summers in rural Prince Edward County. In her grade 12 year, she sailed with West Island Colleges Class Afloat on a 156-foot-tall ship to 20 countries in Europe and Africa – an experience that rooted her passion for travel, adventure, and taste of place! Rebecca continues to split her time between Toronto (week) and Prince Edward County (weekends), sharing her adventures with her husband, two teenage sons, and silver labrador Blueberry.

On this episode of Destination on the Left, I talk with Rebecca Mackenzie, the President and CEO of Culinary Tourism Alliance. In this enlightening conversation, Rebecca provides insightful definitions for culinary tourism and agri-tourism and shares her expertise on building partnerships and programs that are sustainable and beneficial for all involved.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • How destinations can leverage culinary and agritourism to stand out by defining their unique selling proposition and sharing their stories
  • Why successful culinary and agri-tourism programs are grassroots-driven, and DMOs should understand and own their particular taste of place to collaborate and showcase it to visitors
  • What culinary tourism is and how it reflects the history, heritage, and culture of a place
  • How marketing organizations can create a curated culinary tourism experience
  • How the Maple in the County event encouraged collaboration, bringing together five maple syrup producers under one brand and encouraging local businesses to create maple-themed products and experiences
  • Rebecca shares her insights and best practices for initiating and developing partnerships

The World of Culinary Tourism

In this episode, Rebecca Mackenzie, the President and CEO of Culinary Tourism Alliance, dives deep into the world of culinary and agri-tourism. Mackenzie shares her insights on how destinations can truly stand out by defining their unique selling proposition and sharing the stories of the people who grow, raise and craft their tastes of place. As Mackenzie explains, the reality is that no two ingredients are quite the same, and the way they are processed or celebrated reflects the culture of that place.

Successful culinary and agri-tourism programs are grassroots-driven, and business operators must fully understand and own their unique taste of place to collaborate and showcase it to visitors. By executing excellent multi-sensory experiences, destinations can leave lifelong impressions with visitors, ultimately keeping them competitive in a rapidly growing industry. So tune in to learn more about how to make your culinary and agri-tourism program outstanding in your field.

History, Heritage, and Culture

Rebecca explains that culinary tourism includes any travel experience where a person can learn about and consume food and drink that reflects a place’s history, heritage, and culture. While agritourism is primarily focused on the production side of food and beverage, culinary tourism goes a step further by providing visitors with an opportunity to taste the products grown and raised in the area.

This immersive experience allows visitors to understand the nuances of grape growing, production processes, and the people involved in the destination. From visiting farmers’ markets and specialty food retailers to attending cooking schools and festivals, there are numerous ways to experience the taste of the place.

Maple in the County

We also discuss the development of the Maple in the County event over 20 years ago in Prince Edward County, Canada. The event brought together five maple syrup producers under one brand, encouraging local businesses to create maple-themed products and experiences. The first year saw almost 100 businesses participate, leading to increased tourism and visitors spending longer in the area.


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