Two of Galway’s best known restaurateurs have been chosen as food champions to represent the west of Ireland as part of a food tourism delegation due to visit Canada next month.
JP McMahon of Eat Galway (Cava Spanish Restaurant, Aniar Restaurant, and [email protected] Massimo ) and Fergus O’Halloran of the Twelve Hotel were chosen to represent the best of the food industry in the west on the upcoming trip to Canada’s Prince Edward County.
The trip, organised by Fáilte Ireland, will feature 14 emerging food champions chosen from 160 nominations around the country.
“We received a phenomenal response to our quest to find Ireland’s food champions, receiving almost 160 nominations,” said Helen McDaid, Fáilte Ireland’s food tourism manager. “The calibre of the nominations was impressive and we will be continuing to look at ways to leverage the interest of the wider group.”
With Food Tourism growing significantly over the last decade, many international destinations are now looking to this sector to gain a competitive edge. It is a serious business as currently 35 per cent of visitor spend here is on food and drink.
“Obviously from a tourism perspective how our overseas visitors view and experience Irish food while on holiday here in Ireland is important, not only for tourism, but for the economy,” Ms McDaid added.
The selected food champions will enjoy an itinerary developed by a renowned food tourism destination expert Rebecca LeHeup and executive director of Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance (OCTA ), who will be their guide throughout the trip.
The trip will take place from October 15 to 21. Once the group returns home they will work with their local communities to help build Ireland’s food tourism reputation and encourage visitors to stop, spend, and stay longer. Working together and developing networks and relationships within their localities, they will help to enhance regional knowledge of local foods and develop engaging food experiences to utilise food tourism as a workable economic development strategy.
“From the success of the inaugural Galway Food Festival, we have seen firsthand how food can be a driving force to increase visitors to Galway city,” said JP McMahon. “I am looking forward to learning more on how we can leverage this success and use knowledge gained from the trip to better our offerings both in our three restaurants Cava, Aniar, and Eat, but as also a Fáilte Ireland food champion in Galway.”
Fergus O’Halloran, general manager of the Twelve Hotel, added: “We have a tremendous passion and belief in food tourism and in showcasing local ingredients and skills, and we are delighted to have been selected so that we can learn how to best communicate some of our enthusiasm as part of this innovative project.”
Canada’s Prince Edward County was picked as a model because it faces similar challenges to Ireland and has a range of successfully integrated food tourism products and activities, and the people behind these. While there, the group will meet with the pioneers of the local food movement and hear how they used quality local produce and food customs to differentiate and successfully position Prince Edward County as a reputable food tourism destination.