Vegan travel: no longer marginal



When she became vegan about four years ago, Colleen Corbett, a waitress based in Tampa, Florida, thought she might starve or be forced to eat meat while traveling abroad. Instead, it was just the beginning of his explorations of the growing vegan destinations that have flourished around the world.

“It’s changed the way I make my to-do list,” he said in an interview between trips to Peru in December and Dublin in March. “They used to be scenic things. Now, I’m adding cities that I wouldn’t have been interested in before, but that have booming vegan scenes. I just added Warsaw.”

Although vegans and vegetarians are a minority in the United States, a growing number of people are more interested in reducing their meat consumption, often for environmental reasons, as livestock farms significantly produce climate-damaging methane gas. .

The travel industry is contrasting with hotels, restaurants, festivals and plant-focused excursions, as veganism is increasingly associated with sustainable travel, and not just during what some people call Veganuary, an annual campaign. January to highlight the plant-based diet during the month. traditionally associated with good intentions.

“Collectively, we are much more aware of the planetary impacts of food than even five years ago,” said Justin Francis, co-founder and CEO of Responsible Travel, a sustainability-focused tour operator that has seen demand. for his vegan travels it has quadrupled in the last decade. “As more people switch to planet-friendly diets, travel is responding to that.”

Vegan diets consist exclusively of plant-based foods, excluding meat, as well as animal-based foods such as eggs, dairy, and honey.

It’s hard to say how many vegans there are in the United States. A 2019 Ipsos Retail Performance survey found that 9.7 million Americans were vegan compared to about 300,000 15 years earlier. However, a 2018 Gallup poll found that 5 percent of Americans who said they were vegetarian and 3 percent who said they were vegan changed little from 2012.

Still, many eat greener. In a 2019 Nielsen survey, 62 percent of Americans said they were willing to reduce meat consumption based on environmental concerns. Many have satisfied their carnivorous desires with fake meats from brands like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods. The nonprofit Good Food Institute, which promotes alternative protein, said 2020 was a record year for alternative investment of $ 3.1 billion, more than triple the $ 1 billion invested in 2019.

“Never before has the demand for exquisite herbal food been so popular,” said Joan Roca, founder and CEO of Essentialist, a member-only travel planning services company, referring to Eleven Madison. Park, New York City’s renowned restaurant. which was vegan last year. She expects “environmentally friendly food” to grow in 2022.

Hotels are unfurling the welcome carpet of plants with vegan menus and interior design.

Vegan restaurant add-ons range from the Aloft Hotels of Marriott Bonvoy, which recently added vegan and vegetarian breakfast items to its lobby markets of more than 150 American hotels, to the Peninsula Hotels of Marriott Bonvoy. High-end, we launch a new wellness initiative in March, which includes herbal dishes and aromatherapy that promotes sleep.

Some used the 2020 pandemic break to give it a new leaf, so to speak, including the Andaz Mayakoba complex on Mexico’s Riviera Maya, which introduced VB, short for vegan bar, which serves salads. of rice balls and Chaya leaf wrappers next to the beach.

Since 2017, when she hired vegan chef Leslie Durso, Mexico’s Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita has accommodated a growing range of diets. It now offers more than 200 vegan menu items and creates dishes based on guest allergies and dietary restrictions.

“Instead of treating it as a later idea, we are offering a safe place for travelers to relax and unwind that it has already anticipated their needs,” he wrote in an email.

Menus are not the only vegan aspects of avant-garde hotels without animals. Rooms become vegan with plant facilities and interior design.

In Mykonos, Greece, Hotel Koukoumi opened in 2020 with a vegan restaurant, a spa that only uses vegetable massage oils, and rooms furnished with vegan mattresses made of coconut fiber. In the UAE, the 394-room Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi plans to open two vegan lounges in February with vegan mini-bars and room service.

In London, among its 292 rooms, Hilton London Bankside offers a vegan suite built with plant-based materials such as bamboo floors and pineapple-based vegetable skin pillows. A pillow menu offers feather-free filling options such as buckwheat and millet, and vegan snacks fill the minibar. Guests have designated leather seats in the restaurant.

“People love it because we take it very seriously,” said James Clarke, the hotel’s general manager, adding that “it’s not cheap,” with more than $ 800 a night.

Many new vegan hotels are usually high-end, such as the all-inclusive Palmaia: The House of Aia in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, where all food is vegan and the furniture is skinless and featherless (doubles start at around $ 900 per night).

Vegan activities have grown at the Anse Chastanet Resort in St. Lucia, which added a vegan restaurant four years ago. Its vegan chef offers Rastafarian Creole cooking classes, which are vegan. Chocolate brewing classes produce vegan bars and a local craft brewery uses fruit and cassava in its vegan beers.

Karolin Troubetzkoy, the co-owner of the resort, compared having vegan options to maintaining ecocentric operations. “A certain percentage of travelers check, and vegan is the same,” he said. “A small percentage say they come here because you have a vegan restaurant, but that will increase,” he added, noting that the resort recently held a vegan wedding for 24 people.

For travelers who don’t want to research every meal, vegan tour operators and travel agencies offer the security that they will be able to maintain their diet and eat well, especially abroad.

Last year, Responsible Travel added about 1,000 vegan trips as part of its commitment to becoming “positive for nature,” a vow not to damage wildlife or habitats, but to leave them more protected. and supported, by 2030.

Your vegan-only vacation includes a 10-day vegan tour of Ethiopia (starting at about $ 2,300; prices do not include flights), a seven-day volcano trekking in Guatemala (starting at about $ 1,360) and eight days of snowshoeing in Austria (starting at about $ 1,160).

“I think this decade we will see travel companies not only improve their attention to veganism, but they are actively working to provide the best food and experiences,” Mr. Francis of Responsible Travel.

Brighde Reed and Sebastien Ranger were disappointed with expensive pasta dishes with tomato sauce and the lack of soy milk at the breakfast buffet in the high-end hotels, experiences that helped guide their company World Vegan Travel, which offers trips that include gorilla safaris to Rwanda and guided tours of Tuscany by villas.

“When 20 people come for three nights, hotels are more likely to make an effort than for one person,” Ms. Reed.

Leslie Lukas-Recio, a former food importer living in Portland, Oregon, had experience traveling abroad when she joined a global vegan trip to Alsace, France, in 2018.

“If you want to experience the culture or focus on the outdoors, the last thing you want to worry about is trying to find something other than chips and a green salad,” he said.

Donna Zeigfinger, owner of Green Earth Travel and co-founder of an online vegan travel summit through Jan. 30, said the diet has become much more common in the more than 30 years she has been organizing vegan trips. .

“There are countries I started going to in the 80’s that I thought wouldn’t make them vegan and that are now some of the best vegan countries,” he said, citing Spain and France. “The joke used to be that you showed up at the French border and showed your vegan passport and they rejected you.”

For her vegan guests, Ms. Zeigfinger makes sure hotels know they are vegan and has them change their feather beds. For Heidi Prescott, a frequent customer and cruise based in North Potomac, Maryland, the notification often prompted a letter on board the culinary staff requesting a meeting.

“I’ve always hated meeting the chef,” Ms. Prescott said. “I would eat around.”

Now, there’s a lot more vegan variety at sea: Regent Seven Seas Cruises offers more than 200 herbal dishes, and Virgin Voyages has a plant-focused restaurant aboard her ship, Scarlet Lady, and the cards have stopped. . Last fall, Ms. Prescott sailed with Oceania Cruises around the Baltic Sea, her 11th cruise with the line, which carries commodities such as cashew cheese and identifies vegan options in pasta bars and grain bowls.

Paul Tully, a vegan and executive director of Better Safaris, organizes sustainable trips to Africa, where he said vegan food is relatively easy.

“Surprisingly, it has been the airlines that seem to be slow in this rise in veganism, many still offering extremely soft food and limited options for vegans,” he wrote in an email.

Destinies, on the other hand, are willing to proclaim their vegan credibility. The Virginia Tourist Board said visitors spend an average of more than five minutes on pages related to vegetarian and vegan content on their website, nearly two minutes longer than general travel content.

Until January 30, the world fair Expo 2020 Dubai celebrates what it calls the first vegan food festival in the Middle East. In September, VegVoyages’ Vegan Travel Asia is planning what it calls the first vegan festival in the Himalayan region, which will take place in Nepal and Bhutan with roundtables, cooking workshops and a vegan village with more than 100 exhibitors.

Big cities have long been vegan shelters. Happycow, a digital platform for vegan dinners, ranks London as the world’s largest city for vegan food with more than 150 vegan restaurants, followed by New York, Berlin, Los Angeles and Toronto.

But veganism is becoming easier to find in more rural areas: Argyll, in the west of Scotland, has a new vegan route that connects cafes and vegan inns, and smaller cities like Boise, Idaho, where a vegan food truck, a soul food restaurant, a tattoo. visit to the store and dining room.

Gourmet tours have thrived from Greenville, SC to Scottsdale, Arizona, as ways to introduce vegan visitors to local options. In Tel Aviv, Eager Tourist began offering vegan food tours visiting food markets, farmers and restaurants in 2019.

“To be honest, it’s more interesting than a non-vegan tour,” said Ross Belfer, a partner in the company, who is an American living in Israel. “What the Israelis can do with a vegetable is quite incomparable, in my humble opinion.”

Elaine Glusac writes the column Frugal Traveler. Follow her on Instagram @eglusac.

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