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The Travel Foundation's Taste of Fethiye project in Turkey tackles one of the most challenging, but important, aspects of destination sustainability: how to integrate small, local producers into a mainstream tourism supply chain. Too often the possibility of local sourcing is dismissed by bigger businesses and hotel chains that need guaranteed supplies on a grand scale and low cost, and so choose to centralise their buying and distribution requirements. Could we show that it is not only possible, but desirable, to change that business model and buy locally?
Set up in 2011, the Taste of Fethiye project aims to be a replicable model based on supplying local fresh fruit and vegetables to some of Fethiye’s mainstream hotels. Working with farming communities around Fethiye, the project provides advice and support on good agricultural practices (which have in turn improved quality and yields) and coordinates the sale of produce via a local wholesaler, to hotels and restaurants.
The project works with 25 farming families in six villages in the Fethiye region and produces over 600 tonnes of high quality fruit and vegetables, such as apples and courgettes, each year. Over the last two years, the project has supplied 11 hotels with a combined bed capacity of over 5,000. Four hotels are purchasing 70% of their fruit and vegetables locally through Taste of Fethiye. By working with villages at different altitudes and therefore different harvest times, the project can supply a hotel’s fresh fruit and vegetables requirements across the entire tourist season.
As well as supporting farmers, the project works with hoteliers to help them understand the business case for local supply and capitalise on marketing and promotional opportunities. Hotels are using Taste of Fethiye to engage with customers and offer 'added value' experiences. Through leaflets and displays they are making the links between the super-fresh local food on offer and responsible tourism. Some hotels are offering more authentic dishes on their menus to reflect the use of local seasonal produce, or have organised local food or ‘Turkish’ evenings. Better still, the project has developed a self-drive guide, distributed through local car rental companies and tour operators, so tourists can visit the places where the food they are eating was grown - taking in the surrounding orchards, vineyards, farmsteads and other sites of horticultural and culinary interest.
Taste of Fethiye has shown it is possible to produce and sell locally-sourced and responsibly-produced fresh produce in sufficient quantities and at a market price. Some of the key elements of the project include:
Of course many challenges remain. Changing the sourcing practices of large hotels is not a quick or straightforward process. However, Taste of Fethiye is a sustainable model - both in terms of its social and environmental benefits, but also in terms of its potential to provide lasting commercial change long after we hand over the project locally next year.
Sean Owens of TUI UK & Ireland said, "Not only are we confident it will bring tangible benefits to the communities involved and to Fethiye as a destination, we believe it has the potential to genuinely enhance our customers’ holiday experiences. It also helps us in engaging our colleagues on sustainability, not just in Fethiye but throughout the business, on an exemplary initiative that we hope can be replicated in other destinations worldwide."
Jo Hendrickx of Thomas Cook UK & Ireland says, "The Taste of Fethiye project provides us with a great opportunity to work with hoteliers to bring the benefits of local sourcing to life for them and for our customers. We talk about the project and the hotels that support it in brochures, in-flight magazines, resort guides and at welcome meetings. We encourage holidaymakers to get off the beaten track and experience the self-drive routes for themselves, making their own contribution to the local economy. Our representatives promote and attend Taste of Fethiye hotel evenings where fresh, local food is celebrated. Customers can enjoy the local flavours and browse traditional craft stalls for hand-made gifts showcased by local producers. We believe that this project has the potential to position Fethiye as a unique, high quality resort where everyone plays their part in creating a more sustainable supply chain, and we hope that other destinations will be inspired to do the same."
The Travel Foundation is an independent UK charity that works with the travel and tourism industry towards a sustainable future. For more information about Taste of Fethiye visit www.thetravelfoundation.org.uk/projects/destinations/turkey