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8 Takeaways from the Arival Virtual Summit – Food & Culinary Experiences Roundtable

Given the times we are in, when large meetings are nearly impossible, collaborating in a virtual space is becoming the new normal. Honestly, how many Zoom and Google Meet chats have we all participated in during the last four months? And in the case of this week’s first-ever Arival Virtual Summit, getting hundreds of tour operators, res tech companies and travel professionals together through technology worked. In fact, it worked quite well. 

As part of its day of engaging discussions and presentations focused on helping our industry get back to reopening, Arival asked that we moderate the Food & Culinary Experiences Roundtable. Boy, were we honored! A dozen food tour operators from around the world joined us in this session. We went in armed with questions about reopening concerns: face masks, local health recommendations, increasing private groups, and making profit work when you have reduced group sizes and increased costs.

Screenshot of our Arival Virtual Summit Culinary Experiences Roundtable

Photo Credit: Lauren Shannon of Arigato Japan Food Tours

Results from our Arival Roundtable

In true roundtable fashion, our conversation evolved from addressing these questions to brainstorming solutions that many operators can use, especially when it comes to reaching locals – definitely a group that we should all be aiming to reach. We discovered eight ideas for marking to locals and here’s what we found:

Highlight the hidden gems of your community. 

It’s not unusual to get locals on our tours who say, “I didn’t know that!” We’re pretty much walking historians. So let’s dig deeper and find those hidden gems even locals didn’t know. 

Don’t hide your local pride.

If you are the guide, tell your story of being a local. If you were born in the area, even better! Connect with them through community connections of friends and family and share personal anecdotes about places you point out along the way.

Add private tours to your website. 

This is more important than ever. No matter the reservation technology you’re using, work with your account manager to add at least one private tour to your website. If people can book online and know all the upfront costs, it will save you time and energy. Use tiered pricing and include gratuities. 

Lower your minimum guest count for private tours. 

Raise your rate, but lower how many guests are required for a private tour. For example, if you have a two-person minimum, charge a three person flat rate, and don’t forget those gratuities.  It’s nice to have everything in one clear price.

Get creative! 

Look around your city and see what isn’t being done and incorporate food into that. It’s normal to think, “this is what I do. I take people to these particular restaurants and go to these particular places.” Look at your area, see what’s open and build new relationships with business owners who can bring something different to your tour.

Build partnership with local artists, photographers, and retailers. 

Speaking of building new relationships, host an Instagram tour with a few food stops and have an influencer or photographer come along to share tips on how to get those great food pics! You can have props along the way and make it fun for the whole family.  How about a gallery walk with stops at different galleries and include some small bites? One tour operator in the roundtable shared how they took a cooking class where the instructor also showed them how to take great photos of their own food! Say cheese … and eat it, too!

Virtual tours

While virtual tours are becoming more frequent, from the food tour perspective, they aren’t as sexy. The group suggested a combination of virtual and food. Send a box of goodies to your guests prior to the scheduled live “tour.”  Guests can be noshing on the treats as you are sharing with them the stories of where they come from.

Finally, stay relevant. 

In many markets, locals have little discretionary income and no hope of inbound visitors. If you can’t operate your tours, you can still be a voice for your community. Be the storyteller you were born to be. Tell the stories of your partners. Use a simple slideshow of pictures to tell the story of your neighborhood bakery, fine dining location, bistro and pub. The list goes on. Whether they are partners or not, they are part of your community. When you step up to tell their stories, you are building lasting relationships that will help you get back in business when you’re ready. 

More Roundtables to Come

We learned from this Arival experience that more discussions like this are needed. Having a small group like we did allows us to share ideas and encourage one another. Therefore, we are excited to announce that starting next week, we are beginning bi-weekly 40-minute roundtables for up to 15 tour operators. To open up the conversation to as many operators as possible, we’re capping participation at two seats per tour company.

Our first GTC Roundtable!!

Wednesday, July 1 at 11 am EST/8 am PST
GTC Roundtable: Reopening Concerns
Easing guest health concerns, following local health guidance and guiding with face masks/shields.


(When you register, you’ll receive a follow-up email with information on how to log into the Zoom call. Zoom will say that our roundtable will last 30 minutes, but we are going to max our 40-minute time.)

We’ll continue to announce topics as we go forward so make sure you are on our email list by filling out our interest form and check back here on the blog. If you’re not a current food tour operator nor based in the United States, never fear!  We’ve got you covered and you’re invited. As we onboard additional tours, we will be adding more roundtable topics with experts as moderators. 

We found during our Arival Virtual Summit experience that these roundtables are valuable opportunities and a simple step in supporting our mission: To unite the tourism industry. 

Let’s get connected!

Lauren & Midgi