What’s that, Skip? You’re on the menu?
FOOD tourism promises to be big business in Queensland, but reaching its full potential could be bad news to our most iconic species.
With culinary experiences one of the booming tourism sectors across the world and accounting for a more than $7 billion visitor spend in the Sunshine State, Queensland is keen to increase its piece of the economic pie and position itself as a foodie's playground.
But Griffith University's Mun Yee Lai, who has spent more than three years investigating food tourism in Australia, says the likes of kangaroo, emu and crocodile must be added to restaurant menus to attract travellers.
"The question we asked the tourist was, what is the most unique Australian dish, and the top answer was kangaroo," Dr Lai said.
"Kangaroo is something that tourists wanted to try, but unfortunately when I look at the current food environment there are not many places or restaurants that are offering kangaroo dishes, so it isn't aligned with what people want."
While Dr Lai said we should embrace our multicultural food influences but should be fusing them with native Australian ingredients to give us a point of difference.
"So having that ginger and spring onion stir-fry, but having it with kangaroo meat," she said. "Those are the things we should really look at to bring all the Australian products into the tourism stable."
Dr Lai said regions across Queensland also needed to develop signature dishes to give tourists a reason to visit, such as clam chowder in San Francisco or pizza in Naples.
"In the north of Queensland along the coast and also inland, what are some unique or signature dishes that you should have tried as you travel along this region?" she said.
"With Australian food, we talk about fresh produce instead of particular dishes or how to make that our signature dish."
However Michael Hodgson - a former Tourism Australia food and wine adviser and The Star Entertainment Group general manager for tourism, food strategy and partnerships - said Queensland should become the seafood state.
He said developing a unique food brand rather than just saying "we have great produce" was essential to attracting tourists and claimed Queensland's global association with the ocean made seafood the perfect choice.
"Everybody has good seafood, but nobody has positioned themselves as the seafood state and Queensland, I think, has to have the greatest claim for that because of the association of the state with the ocean - the Great Barrier Reef and the Gold Coast," he said.
Mr Hodgson said Hervey Bay scallops, Moreton Bay bugs and Fraser Isle spanner crabs were becoming globally recognised, which made them a perfect launching pad, but promoting the people and places behind the dishes was also an essential part of the story.
"If you're doing Moreton Bay bugs, you've got great product, but you're also showcasing the beautiful region of Moreton Bay, so the images of that produce is linked to the people behind it - you're eating it on a beach," he said.
Mr Hodgson said culinary festivals and events were also necessary to drive tourists.
"One of the wider challenges for Australia is that it has great awareness as a holiday destination, but it's one of those things where people go, 'I'll go there one day'," he said.
"Events are a great hook to go, 'I want to go to that event, I'll go now'."
Food and Agribusiness Network general manager Emma Greenhatch said we should take inspiration from places such as Tasmania and its arts, music and food festival, Dark Mofo, to do something innovative that raises awareness of great Queensland producers such as Maleny Food Co, Sunshine Coast Cider and Montville Coffee.
"We definitely need some really iconic events here that are out of the box, that aren't just another food festival," she said.
"I think we've got to take a bigger focus, like southeast Queensland for example, instead of just running individual food festivals year-round, or local food months or whatever it might look like.
"Let's actually be much more strategic about this and work with Tourism and Events Queensland and hit an international market by creating some sort of amazing event that brings people for a much broader experience than just a micro region."
Food marketer and Brisbane restaurateur Amelia Taylor said food tourism should also include bringing amazing shows to Queensland.
"People who are going to the theatre are dining out, as a general rule. Is the driver just food or can the food complement another driver," she said.
TOP 10 FOOD EVENTS
EAT LOCAL WEEK
When: 29 June - 7 July 2019
Where: Scenic Rim
When: 20-21 July 2019
Where: South Bank, Brisbane
HERVEY BAY SEAFOOD FESTIVAL
When: 11 August 2019
Where: Hervey Bay, Fraser Coast
CAPRICORN FOOD AND WINE FESTIVAL
When: 19-22 September 2019
Where: Rockhampton, Capricorn Region
KENILWORTH CHEESE, WINE AND FOOD FEST
When: 29 June
BAYSIDE BBQ & BEER ROADSHOW
When: 29-30 June
BEAUDESERT GOURMET STREET FOOD FESTIVAL
When: 30 June
Where: Jubilee Park, Beaudesert
MORETON BAY FOOD AND WINE FESTIVAL
When: 7-8 September
THE OUTBACK FOOD AND WINE FESTIVAL
When: 14 September
CAPRICORN FOOD AND WINE FESTIVAL
When: 26-29 September