Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster has served up a new initiative aimed at giving more tourists an appetite to visit Northern Ireland.
Announcing that next year, 2016, will be Northern Ireland’s Year of Food, the Minister called on everyone to get involved in giving visitors a taste of what makes our local menus so special.
We have some of the best food and the best restaurants in the world, and the potential this has when it comes to tourism cannot be underestimatedEnterprise Minister Arlene Foster
Speaking at the Tourism Northern Ireland annual conference, Arlene Foster said: “We have some of the best food and the best restaurants in the world, and the potential this has when it comes to tourism cannot be underestimated. Food tourism already generates over £350million per year to the local economy, but I believe there is significant room for further growth. That’s why I have asked Tourism Northern Ireland to begin preparatory work to develop the Year of Food initiative and have secured funding to allow them to do so.
“We know how good our food is, which is probably why we enjoy eating out so much, the recent Barclaycard report showing Northern Ireland people spend more on eating out than the rest of the UK is proof of that. Now it’s time to build on our growing reputation for excellence and give visitors even more mouth watering reasons to come here.”
In the lead up to and during 2016, there will be a series of packaged events aimed at tempting the taste buds of potential visitors.
Mrs Foster added: “We have a great story to tell, and this is a very exciting opportunity to really celebrate our food sector.
“We boast some world-class produce, not to mention talented chefs, restaurants, skilled cookery schools and a rich food heritage, all of which is becoming better known, especially in GB, which is our key market. The Year of Food will enable us to continue to raise our profile nationally and to promote Northern Ireland food tourism on the international stage.
“As well as specific events, the Year of Food will see support for industry through master classes and mentoring programmes, the development of new food experiences and trails, and development of a toolkit to enable a wide range of people across Northern Ireland to get involved in promoting their produce and their area.
“Many tourists already say that good quality food and dining is a key factor when choosing Northern Ireland for a short break, and I have no doubt that 2016 and the Year of Food will entice even more visitors to do so.”
Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill, has welcomed the announcement that a ‘Year of Food’ initiative will run throughout 2016.
This cross-Departmental and industry partnership initiative aims to promote and establish confidence in home grown produce to consumers and visitors alike. In addition, it offers an opportunity to increase employment capacity in the food and hospitality sectors, and create a favourable image of food from the north throughout external markets.
Commenting on the announcement, Minister O’Neill said: “This is an opportunity to build on existing activities and events to showcase, strengthen and grow the reputation of food from the north of Ireland. Planning for this initiative is already well underway with my officials working closely with those from other Government Departments and industry bodies.
“I hope the momentum will continue to build as this is another unique opportunity for everyone in the north to work collaboratively to reach a common goal. There will be many opportunities for numerous groups and organisations to get involved and I will continue to provide my support and that of my Department to develop the initiative and to assess the benefits that it will bring, subject to budgetary and resource constraints.”