POSITIONING DECOLONIAL FOOD AS A DIFFERENTIAL COMPETITIVE TOURIST ELEMENT IN VALENCIA
The mission of the VALENCIA: HOME TO DECOLONIAL FOOD project is to strengthen the competitiveness of the Ma Khin Café and Baalbec restaurants in 2022 through digitization, greater sustainability, safety and resilience in processes, as well as to introduce singular products and services that define their profile in the national and international market for tourism in Valencia. Both restaurants underscore Stephen Anderson’s vision of food as an occasion for the coming-together of different cultures and an opportunity for mutual enrichment.
The project embraces a whole series of initiatives that will drive culinary tourism in Valencia and make Decolonial Food a differential element to heighten its international profile, grounded in locally-sourced, sustainable and healthy produce from Valencia, to the highest levels of food safety and quality, while at once promoting a rapprochement between cultures through new and differential dining experiences.
Our point of departure is a respect for and appreciation of the wealth of different culinary traditions, fostering a meeting and exchange between cultures. We are convinced that by sharing ideas, ingredients and good practices we will advance the evolution of our gastronomy and the way we eat. We want to boost the cosmopolitan character of the city of Valencia, which has always been a melting pot of cultures throughout its history.
This plan details the initiatives which will allow us to achieve our mission while at once improving the competitiveness and growth of Steve Anderson’s restaurants, turning the concept of Decolonial Food into a core differentiating factor.
THE POTENTIAL OF FOOD TOURISM IN VALENCIA
Food is a powerful new motivation for travelling, with proven capacity to help tourist destinations diversify their offer and stimulate social and economic development.
Dining experiences enrich travelling and provide an excellent opportunity to give tourist destinations a distinctive individuality. Faced with the dangers of undifferentiated mass tourism, food tourism reinforces authenticity and is one of the most dynamic segments with the highest growth in the sector.
In fact, food tourism is now a key element in the Spanish economy. In 2018, over 260,000 tourists visited Spain for its gastronomy, 16.7% more than the previous year, accounting for a turnover in excess of 15 million euros, with a growth of 65.6% evincing the enormous importance of culinary tourism. Tourists spend more than 18 million euros in gastronomy.[i]
Generally speaking, a visitor with culinary interests is also a dynamic, inquisitive, cultured, tolerant and respectful tourist who is interested in learning, discovering and accruing new experiences and emotions. Typically, a food tourist spends about 20% more than the average tourist.[ii]
In short, food is now one of the most evident differentiation factors to attract tourists, and a critical element in building brand image and positioning a tourist destination.
WORLD FOOD AND CULTURES: CREATING INTANGIBLE HERITAGE
In addition, one has to bear in mind that food is part of the history of peoples, reflecting their culture and ways of life, and is a legacy passed down from generation to generation. For this reason, developing culinary tourism also means highlighting local products and reinforcing primary, secondary and tertiary value chains.
The importance of food and its relationship with culture and society are readily evinced by the UNESCO Chair at the University of Valencia whose goal is to promote the understanding of food as a social and cultural element, by means of research and education.
In this context, Valencia will be hosting a symposium in 2022 organized by the University of Valencia within the framework of the UNESCO Chair, which is also supported by FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations). The symposium will address the issue of food in world cultures; traditions that have been passed down through the ages, from antiquity to the present.
This will be the first activity undertaken by the International Observatory of Intangible Culture and Global Village at the UNESCOChair in the University of Valencia, demonstrating how our city is at the forefront in bringing cultures together through food.
Stephen Anderson will be one of the invited guests, in recognition of the projection and references of his DECOLONIAL FOOD, as borne out by the everyday activity of his restaurants Ma Khin Café and Baalbec.
DECOLONIAL FOOD, THE DIFFERENTIAL ELEMENT IN STEVE ANDERSON’S PROJECT FOR FOOD TOURISM
Today’s interconnected world has created the ideal conditions for what we call “Decolonial Food” to prosper. Based on local products, it adapts and transforms dishes from other parts of the world and borrows ingredients and cooking methods from faraway places and peoples to renew and reinterpret local recipes.
Decolonial Food is the concept that defines Stephen Anderson’s vision. It fosters food that contributes to our health, well-being and happiness and helps us to understand the origin of the foods we eat and their connection with families, history and life. The philosophy is grounded in the premise that we must share and learn together.
Decolonial Food aspires to be ecologically and economically sustainable, to support small producers on a local and global scale, and to work for a world that embraces and welcomes people and their foods with equal generosity.
As such, its development helps to drive the primary, secondary and tertiary sector, and position Valencia among the most attractive cities for quality, healthy and sustainable local and global culinary tourism, attracting cultured cosmopolitan tourists open to the world and with high purchasing power.
With this philosophy, Stephen Anderson founded the Ma Khin Café restaurant in Valencia in 2014 to explore his Burmese roots, leveraging his insights into fusion food and local ingredients from Mediterranean culture. Following its success, in 2019 he introduced a new restaurant called Baalbec, adding to the city’s gastronomic diversity and expanding Decolonial Food with dishes from the other end of the Mediterranean.
Given the welcome received by both restaurants in Valencia, Ma Khin Café and Baalbec are now benchmarks in their category in the city, recommended by different food guides and critics, and have earned the “Commitment to Tourism Quality” distinction awarded by SICTED CV.
This plan was conceived to improve the competitiveness of both restaurants and to heighten their international profile, enhancing the offer of food tourism in the city of Valencia and the wider region.
This proposal includes a program of actions required to promote its international projection.
The goal of the “VALENCIA: HOME TO DECOLONIAL FOOD” project is to heighten the international profile of the Ma Khin Café and Baalbec restaurants and to improve their competitiveness. Both restaurants have earned a “Commitment to Tourism Quality” distinction for their participation in the SICTED CV Program.
This goal will be achieved through four specific and complementary lines of action, as follows:
- Improving digitization, safety and resilience in processes, services and/or products.
- Digitization of basic processes for Bookings and Taking Orders.
- Security in information and systems.
- Digitization of Processes and Food Safety: Incorporation of digital thermometers to automatically check the temperature of refrigeration equipment.
- Promotion and communication for the introduction of experiential tourism products and/or services.
- Development of a new corporate webpage Steve Anderson: DECOLONIAL FOOD, and a revamp of the Ma Khin Café and Baalbec webpages in Spanish and English, including support for the automation of e-mail marketing campaigns in Spanish and English (precision marketing), boosting social media in Spanish and English, SEM digital advertising campaigns in Spanish and English, content marketing and SEO, fostering greater media presence for brand awareness and branding.
- Actions to attract tourists and potential customers interested in culinary tourism and to build loyalty, including online and in-person cooking courses with restaurant staff, in both Spanish and English.
- Additional anti-Covid safety measures to applicable mandatory health regulations.
- Reinforcing physical safety in restaurants with the acquisition of FFP2 masks and using rapid antigen tests.
- Measures aimed at strengthening sustainable tourism, aligning our business activities with Sustainable Development Goals.
- Definition and implementation of a Sustainability Plan in the Ma Khin Café and Baalbec restaurants, drawing up a Sustainability Report and attaining Sustainable Tourism certification from the Institute for Spanish Tourism Quality (ICTE).
- Definition and implementation of an Equality Plan.
- Participation in initiatives and activities geared towards raising awareness and promoting the “DECOLONIAL FOOD” concept worldwide.
- Development of measures to facilitate access to tourist services and products for persons with functional diversity by means of QR codes.