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by Padraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolNua 

Way back in 1980, when he wrote “Nobody Told Me” John Lennon pithily summed up what it’s like living in this brave new world:

Nobody told me there’d be days like these
strange days indeed.

Yet the beautiful strangeness about the kaleidoscopic way things diverge and converge these days is constantly throwing up new ways of looking at the world and gifting us with new perspectives and horizons.

For those of us in tourism and hospitality, for example, there’s been a seismic shift in what travellers want when they visit a destination. When mass tourism started in the 1960s UK and Irish travellers headed for Spanish seaside resorts with kettles and tea bags and as many packets of rashers and sausages as they could reasonably conceal in their luggage for fear of starvation or poisoning in the sun. Now savvy UK and Irish visitors to Spain avoid the seaside resorts and head for tiny hillside villages in search of jamón ibérico de bellota and single estate Rioja. Then we wanted the comfort of familiarity, now we want the excitement of discovery.

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These dramatic shifts in consumer preferences offer massive opportunities for destinations like Ireland as they allow us to reach beyond our legacy markets and explore new segments and sectors that fit within a sustainable tourism policy. Food Tourism is an “on trend” niche sector where Ireland can compete with credibility and two conferences, one that took place this week, the other still to happen on 1 November, bear this out.

FoodConnect took place earlier this week at the magnificent Tankardstown House near Slane, about 30 minutes from Dublin airport. Under the auspices of Fáilte Ireland, Ireland’s National Tourism Development Authority, over 100 delegates from Ireland and overseas convened at the Co Meath estate to dialogue, discuss and debate how food and tourism can combine for the benefit of both.

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Expertly moderated by travel journalist Pól O’Conghaile the conference provided a platform for a broad range of topics, both tactical and strategic, and brought together farmers and food producers, agencies and academics, tour operators and travel experts. International food tourism gurus such as Erik Wolf of the World Food Travel Association gave a useful global perspective on food and food tourism in Ireland highlighting the innate strength and credibility of Brand Ireland in the world of food.

In my own presentation I referenced a 2010 Bord Bia report by two Harvard professors that makes the same point:

Ireland has an enviable agricultural situation that almost every other country would kill for. It has abundant fertile land, lots of water, and miles of coastline all situated in close proximity to a collection of 400 million affluent people. It is one of Europe’s largest dairy and beef exporters, and home to several world-class firms and hundreds of food artisans. All this comes at a time when the global demand for food is projected to increase by 70% over the next 40 years. [Bell & Shelman, 2010]

Clearly, as a nation, we have sufficient substance to build a compelling brand value proposition around Ireland as a “food nation” but do we have a coherent strategy across all the diverse stages from which we sing our songs about Ireland to the world? Is there brand alignment between Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), the culture people, the tourism players and the food guys? Is there a single, controlling conductor ensuring that the FDI brass, the tourism strings, the culture timpani and the food woodwind are playing a beautiful Ireland symphony together?

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Still to come is touRRoir, a new food, tourism and culture forum created by Good Food Ireland who, in 2016, celebrates 10 years of extraordinary service to the food tourism industry here. The event will take place at Croke Park in Dublin on 1 Nov and will incorporate the Good Food Ireland “Best of the Decade Awards” and the inaugural touRRoir Hall of Fame.

For touRRoir, Good Food Ireland has assembled a world class faculty of food, tourism and culture experts who know how the soft power of these three strands can weave powerful brand equity for business and corporations, cities and countries. Jean Michel Petit of Vizeat, for instance, will explain how the Sharing Economy is opening new opportunities for food, tourism and culture by linking visitors and locals over food and forging deep destination experiences. Ana Ros, meanwhile, of Netflix’s Chef’s Table, will share the compelling story of Hiša Franko, her immensely successful restaurant with rooms in Slovenia and how the surrounding landscape and culture shapes what she cooks and serves.

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touRRoir is about encounter and exchange, storytelling and sharing, connection and collaboration. Key features of the forum will be the lunch showcase where farmers, fishermen and artisans, all certified members of Good Food Ireland, will display their produce before a global audience of cognoscenti and the collaborative Gala dinner which will bring together renowned international and acclaimed Irish chefs to create an inspirational dining experience featuring Irish producers and craft drink pairings.

One key feature of the newly evolving horizons within travel and hospitality is an almost insatiable desire for local experiences couched in undisputed authenticity. touRRoir has its fingers right on this pulse and will help attendees identify, harness and express the power of authentic experiences in building a sustainable brand value proposition at the heart of their businesses.

The SoolNua team is proud to collaborate with Margaret Jeffares and the Good Food Ireland team in the creation and delivery of touRRoir.

Pádraic Gilligan, Patrick Delaney and Aoife McCrum run SoolNua, a specialist agency working with hotels, venues and destinations on marketing, strategy and training for the MICE industry.

 

 

 

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