There are few things tourists love more than getting a chance to eat yummy food.
But seeing the food being made and then getting to eat it are even better.
It’s something that Oregon dairy farmer-owned co-op Tillamook and Britain-based Cadbury have mastered.
And local economic development officials say it’s something the Tri-Cities can do too.
Country Mercantile already gives visitors a look into their chocolate-making process. And the new Richland store also opens up the bakery to observation.
Chukar Cherries’ Prosser headquarters isn’t really set up to give tours. But that’s something founder Pam Montgomery hopes to change in the future when the specialty foods company expands.
They’ve already show a video in their Prosser store and on the website that tells the story of Chukar Cherries and shows the process of making dried cherries and covering them with chocolate.
Food is one of the top things a tourist looks at when deciding where to visit. It’s as important as climate, accommodations and scenery, said Kris Watkins, Visit Tri-Cities president & CEO.
And the food and wine industry especially goes hand in hand, she said. As a result, some wineries have added restaurants and food options to add to the overall visitor experience.
It doesn’t have to be fine cuisine to work well, she said. “It just has to be good food, authentic food, different cultural experiences.”
You can see that at the Country Mercantile and at area farmers markets.
“When it’s fresh produce growing in your region, it really makes a difference,” Watkins said.
The key is to create a critical mass, with enough wineries, restaurants and specialty food companies to get visitors to spend some time in the area, Watkins said.
Tourism has a promising future, especially with the Manhattan Project National Historical Park in the works, she said. That will help create a demand for existing businesses and new ones.