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Food producers and pandemics: a mystery shopping analysis

By Francesc Fusté-Forné

Abstract: Recent research has widely analysed the significance of food in tourism. Departing from the understanding of ‘cheese’ as part of the food tourism system of a destination, this paper aims to analyse cheese factory tours as a tourism service provided by food producers. A mystery shopping approach is used to study the 75 cheese producers under the Manchego quality cheese. Results show the response behaviour of Spanish Manchego cheese producers to an email sent by a ‘tourist’ who asks for a visit during pandemic times. As a segment of food tourism, cheese tourism is gathering a growing attention by academics and practitioners, and some cheeses became international tourist attractions. While the majority of cheese producers have not stopped their operations, the current health crisis has led to a suspension of cheese-based tourism experiences. The paper informs the development of cheese-based tourism in pandemic times.

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