Food tourism top priority in the west

Failte Ireland hosted an interactive food tourism workshop this week in the Radisson Blu Hotel, Galway.

The event gathered more than 50 representatives of the Galway and Mayo food tourism industries together to hear from high profile experts in food tourism development on international standards and practices as well as food destination development.

The central concept of the workshop was to build and establish food tourism destinations across Ireland. These destinations would have food that is unique to the place, to its traditions, heritage, and skills, by promoting industry collaboration to create dynamic food tourism activities in restaurants. These individual styles and varieties of food should evoke a defined sense of place, culture, and hospitality that is exclusive to each destination.

The key note speakers at the evet included Rebecca LeHeup, a food tourism destination expert of the Huffington Post in Canada; Arlene Stein, chair of the Terroir symposium and Good Food Revolution contributor; and Valerie Howes, a food editor with Reader’s Digest also based in Canada.

“We are delighted to have three of Canada’s most prestigious ‘food gurus’ here in Ireland where they are experiencing our local cuisine and sharing some of their own insights and learnings with the local tourism industry,” said Helen McDaid, Fáilte Ireland’s food manager. “Food is not only good for the soul, it is also good for business and has the potential to deliver on long term growth and sustainability to Ireland’s tourism industry.”

Fáilte Ireland’s local food champions Fergus O’Halloran of the Twelve Hotel in Barna and JP McMahon of Aniar restaurant and EAT at Massimo, also spoke and shared their experiences and edible wisdom from a recent benchmarking programme conducted in Canada.

“I was totally taken aback at how Canadian food tourism is central to the visitor experience,” said JP McMahon at the event. “With the great food producers and restaurants we have in Ireland I really feel that we can make food tourism a central force over the next few years, so as to ensure that Ireland’s status as a food destination is highlighted on an international level.”

The tourism authority is currently on the lookout for other emerging food champions along the Wild Atlantic Way long distance touring route which stretches from Donegal to west Cork. The deadline to apply to be one of Fáilte Ireland’s champions is on or before 12 noon on Friday June 14.

As well as speaking at the workshop in Galway, the three international guests participated in an intensive familiarisation trip of Ireland's West Coast, organised by Fáilte Ireland. Taking in some of the West’s unique food tourism products which included Ronan Byrne, The Friendly Farmer in Athenry, and his free range chicken farm; McGeough’s Artisan Butcher in Barna; the Twelve Hotel also in Barna; Aniar Restaurant in Galway city; as well as exploring Galway’s medieval streets on foot.

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