As a result, the Irish tourism industry needs to work towards changing the perception of Irish cuisine amongst overseas visitors. It must reposition Irish food and drink from being a pleasant surprise to becoming one of the compelling reasons to visit Ireland, believes the Director of Commercial Development at Fáilte Ireland Paul Keeley.
He was speaking at a briefing to tourism and food & drink industry representatives on the publication of the tourism body’s new Food and Drink Strategy 2018 – 2023.
Among the weaknesses highlighted in the report was ‘an absence of or weak food offering in some Irish pubs’.
“To raise our game, we need to develop our capacity and performance within food in tourism businesses so that operators deliver a world-class offering that’s consistent and profitable,” he stated, “As part of this, we need to ensure that our visitor attractions use local foods to deliver an offering representative of place, we need to enhance our national menu in areas such as the Irish Breakfast, support pubs in bringing authentic experiences to life and assist the tourism industry in tailoring Ireland’s local food story.”
He believes that food and drink experiences play a substantial part in helping generate and sustain economic opportunity and development by increasing visitor numbers, dwell-time, spend and satisfaction in visited areas.
Great strides have been made over recent years in the quality of Ireland’s food and drink offering which now encompasses 16 whiskey distilleries, over 15 gin distilleries, more than 60 microbreweries, over 7,000 pubs and more than 2,400 restaurants (including 12 Michelin Star premises), over 60 food festivals, 160 farmer’s markets, 40 cookery schools and 27 active food networks.
“Food and drink consumption is an intrinsic part of the tourist experience,” he continued, “Quality experiences are now a major contributor to increasing holiday satisfaction, creating positive memories and driving advocacy.
“Amongst those deciding on a holiday location, the expectation of good food is nearly as important as hospitality. We undoubtedly have the product and expertise, we have natural produce, fresh ingredients and great fish and meat but we need to ensure that our food and drink offering gains a global reputation that matches the reality on the ground.”
The full potential of Irish food has also been demonstrated in a new Fáilte Ireland promotional video.
The new Food and Drink Strategy seeks to increase the number of tourism businesses engaged with development initiatives while, overseas, it aims to increase and enhance the awareness and perception of Ireland’s food and drink offering.
In 2017, revenue from overseas visitors totalled €6.5bn with approximately a third – about €2 billion – spent on food and drink. By targeted investment and effective promotion of the quality food and drink experiences available, the report claims that food could help grow tourism revenue by as much as €400 million over the next five years.
The next steps to redefine the appeal of Irish cuisine are outlined in the Strategy along four key pillars:
- Improved insights & innovation
- Strengthening Ireland’s appeal
- Driving industry capacity and performance
- Delivering great visitor experiences.
Reacting to the publication of the Strategy the Head of the Department of Culinary Arts & Service Industries in the Galway International Hotel School at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology Jacinta Dalton – also a member of Fáilte Ireland’s Food Champions Programme (comprising members of the tourism, food and hospitality industry who champion and influence Irish food & cuisine) – said that the food and drink strategy for the next five years is hugely important for the Irish tourism.
“Whilst a lot of great work has been done in the last number of years to promote Irish food to visitors, this strategy is important in terms of a wider reach right across the sector and it’s important for all service providers at all levels to engage with this strategy and to ensure that Irish food and drink is featured on menus and promoted by front line staff,” she commented, “From my own perspective in tourism/hospitality & culinary education, it’s a hugely important document in terms of teaching students about the importance of local provenance in tourism.”
Ketty Elisabeth, Owner of Delicious Dublin tours in Dublin said that it’s very exciting to see that food and drink will be part of the tourism strategy.
“As a Fáilte Ireland Food Champion, it’s really exciting to see that the focus will be on food. We have an amazing offering already but now it’s to push it out there and to attract people internationally and change the perception of Irish food.”