Spain is emerging as a major gastronomy destination, with the latest tourism numbers showing a rise in visitors choosing to make culinary pilgrimages to the land of some of the most influential chefs and restaurants in the world.
The latest numbers out of Spain’s tourism office show that in 2012, the country’s culinary heritage attracted 5.6 million international visitors -- a spike of 4 percent compared to the previous year, reported Spanish website Europa Press.
In dollar figures, that translates to €6.4 million in spending on food and wine, or a 10 percent rise from 2011.
According to a survey out of the Institute of Tourism Studies or IET, the wine-making region of La Rioja received top marks by international tourists for its gastronomy, followed by Asturias, Extremadura and Navarra in 2010.
The latest tourism figures, meanwhile, come on the heels of Spain’s climb back to the top of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards which last week crowned El Celler de Can Roca the best in the world.
The Girona eatery -- which serves modern, Catalan dishes and is helmed by trio of brothers Joan, Jordi and Josep Roca -- knocked Danish eatery Noma out of the top spot after being stuck in second place for the last two years.
The restaurant’s slip into top spot, meanwhile, also handed back the reins of culinary supremacy to Spain which dominated the event when legendary chef Ferran Adrià ran his El Bulli restaurant. The Catalan restaurant took home the title five times before shuttering in 2011.
Other major restaurants and chefs to make this year’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants list 2013 include:
Mugaritz - San Sebastián, Spain (ranked 4th)
Arzak - San Sebastián, Spain (8)
Quique Dacosta - Dénia, Spain (26)
Asador Etxebarri - Atxondo, Spain (44)
Another influential ambassador for Spanish cuisine is José Andrés in the US, who has been promoting his native country’s culinary heritage to American TV audiences with shows like “Made in Spain,” and restaurants like minibar, Jaleo and The Bazaar across the country.