- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 18, 2007

More travelers are biting at the chance to go on vacation just to try new food and wine, a recent study shows.

Visiting a city such as New York specifically for its great restaurants or California’s Napa Valley for its wineries is a trend that has been picked up by tourism bureaus across the country within the past three to four years.

About 17 percent of leisure travelers took such trips during the past three years, according to the study by the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA), a D.C. trade group.

“Dining overall is the single most-common activity that travelers engage in. We really wanted to look into this in more depth,” said Allen Kay, spokesman for the TIA.

The study found that so-called “culinary travelers” are usually younger, more affluent and better educated than the typical leisure traveler. They dine out in restaurants with cuisine specific to the region, take cooking classes, visit farmers markets, do gourmet shopping, attend food or wine festivals or go on winery tours.

“The study demonstrated that a sizable proportion of the U.S. leisure market does indeed make travel decisions based on a desire for wine and culinary experiences,” said Laura Mandala, vice president of research for the TIA.

The top food-related travel destinations were California, Florida and New York. The top wine-related travel destinations were California, New York and Missouri. Virginia ranked 15th and eighth, respectively. Neither Maryland nor the District made the list, which ranked the top 15 destinations in each category.

Virginia has recently started touting its wineries. In October, it marketed a wine month with a series of festivals in the commonwealth’s 100 wineries.

Virginia ranks fifth among states with the most wineries.

“We’re hearing from wineries that visitation is up from 30 to 60 percent in tasting rooms,” said Tamra Talmadge-Anderson, spokeswoman for the Virginia Tourism Corp., the commonwealth’s tourism-marketing group. “We’re pretty happy to be with the company we’re keeping with that study.”

The International Culinary Tourism Association says that when travelers find food they like on vacation, they often try to order it from home, making the initial visit even more valuable.

“Unique food and drink are the perfect attractions, especially for second- and third-[tier] destinations that now must market more proactively in a globally competitive market,” said Erik Wolf, president and chief executive officer of the Portland, Ore., trade group.

In other news …

• The Red & the Black Bar at 1212 H St. NE has combined the best of a salon and a saloon in a new promotion. The bar is selling a simple haircut from stylist John Cullen with a shot of liquor for $12. The promotion takes place Tuesdays from 9 to 11 p.m.

• Marriott International Inc. said last week it purchased nearly 2 acres at National Gateway at Potomac Yard to build Renaissance and Residence Inn hotels.

The National Gateway is a mixed-use site off the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Arlington. A Harris Teeter grocery store also is planned for the site, which is owned by Bethesda-based Meridian Group.

Retail & Hospitality appears Mondays. Send news to Jen Haberkorn at 202/636-4836 or [email protected]

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