Thailand to host global gastronomy forum

The Kingdom that produced one of the world’s greatest cuisines is set to host the World Gastronomy Forum next week, an event organized by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and attended by over 500 delegates from around the world who will focus on sustainable gastronomy tourism.

“This 4th edition of the World Forum on Gastronomy Tourism will specifically focus on harnessing the power of technology as a driver for sustainable growth,” the UNWTO said. The first three forums were held in Europe, making Thailand the first country in Asia to host the event.“This is going to be a landmark event in the annals of Thai and Asia-Pacific tourism,’’ said Thailand’s Minister of Tourism and Sports Weerasak Kowsurat.

The event will consist of workshops and symposiums in which the UNWTO said experts will discuss  “current trends and challenges, exchange best practices, intercultural dialogue, gastro diplomacy, and the importance of technology for sustainable gastronomy tourism.” In addition, delegates will tour eight areas in Bangkok known for the excellence and distinctiveness of their local food.

Thai cuisine and tourism feed off each other. During the past 20 years, Thai food has risen from relative obscurity to become one of the world’s most popular cuisines. This has occurred in parallel with the Kingdom’s rise as a global tourism success story. Many people overseas first become familiar with Thailand through its cuisine at Thai restaurants and some eventually end up traveling to the Kingdom to experience the full range and authenticity of its fare.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) reported that spending on food and drinks accounts for 20 percent of Thailand’s tourism revenue and was equal to $10.2 billion in 2016.

As a form of gastro diplomacy, Thai entrepreneurs have opened Thai restaurants overseas since the early 2000s and their number has grown dramatically. As the only net food exporter in Asia, the government also positions the country as “the Kitchen of the World.”

“Thai cuisine is famous all over the world,’’ said TAT Governor Yuthasak Supasorn. “It is rare a major city in the world that does not boast a Thai restaurant, be it in the form of fine dining or takeaway. All our culinary delights have their roots in Thai agriculture, which was our bedrock source of economic livelihood well before tourism.”