• Cyril McAree

Serving Up Change For Ireland’s Food Networks

Fáilte Ireland has announced a new nine-month Step Change programme for Food Networks from Kerry, Sligo and Wexford to improve the impact of visitor experiences locally through food. The new programme, which kicked off at the Savoy Hotel in Limerick will help the Food Networks, which promote food and tourism packages in their local areas, to play an enhanced role in tourism in their region. Through the initiative, networks will receive a food focused visitor evaluation of their destination, participate in a number of structured development workshops and connect with other food network leaders to share best practise and new insights around experience development. Sinead Hennessy of Fáilte Ireland said that the initiative is initially designed to focus the energy of the three food networks, Taste Kerry, Sligo Food Trail and Taste Wexford, towards having an increased tourism and visitor impact support and will be gradually rolled out to other Food Networks throughout the country. She said: “We know that high quality local experiences are a major contributor to a visitor’s holiday satisfaction - creating positive memories and return visits – and Ireland’s Food and Drink offering has a leading role to play in delivering these great experiences. “The role of effective local food networks in tourism is vital as they show the considerable gains that can be made when visitors are placed at the centre of activities, linking food with the local culture, all whilst strengthening and sustaining local food enterprises. “This Step Change Programme has been developed to support Food Tourism Networks that want to scale up the efforts in tourism to deliver a world-class, connected destination offering that is consistent and profitable.” Lorraine O’Dwyer, from Gallivanting Tours in Ireland’s Ancient East, attended the programme for Taste Wexford. She said: “I am delighted to be part of this Step Change programme. The practical format allows us to evaluate how visitors experience the food offering in Wexford and the critical factors that need to be developed to ensure we stand out a destination with great food and drink experiences. Wexford is currently known for its potatoes and strawberries, but on the ground we know there is a lot more to Wexford’s food story and its time the rest of the world discovered it!” John Harty, of Taste Kerry along the Wild Atlantic Way commented:

“As a chef it’s great that Fáilte Ireland recognise the importance of gastronomy and the synergies between food and tourism. Food networks can play a key role in establishing Ireland as a destination that is recognised for great food and drink. Taste Kerry are delighted to be actively involved in this development programme and look forward to bringing the network to the next level.” Teresa Cawley-Krebs of Cawleys Guest House along the Wild Atlantic Way and attending the programme for Sligo Food Trail commented: “As with all Food Networks, you are only as good as your weakest link and for Sligo to stand out in an international marketplace we must continue to innovate in order to add value to our offering. There is a fantastic energy around food and drink in Sligo and it is good to step out of the operation to look at how our development work impacts a visitors satisfaction on holiday. I am delighted to work with Failte Ireland to bring Sligo Food Trail to the next level.”

Ramping up the visitor experience is important as food and drink play a substantial part in helping to generate and sustain economic opportunity and development by increasing visitor numbers, dwell time, spend and satisfaction in visited areas. There have been many strides in recent years in increasing quality and depth of Ireland’s food and drink offering - now including over 2,400 restaurants, over 40 food festivals, 160 farmer markets, 40 cookery schools and 27 active food networks as well as 18 whiskey distilleries (10 with visitor centres) and more than 60 microbreweries and 7,000 pubs.

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