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by Pádraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolNua

“Let me take you down as I’m going to Strawberry Fields. Nothing is real.”

It’s ironic, as I leave Las Vegas, that the theme for this week’s blog post is authenticity. In the constellation of words that might be used to describe this astonishing town, authenticity is unlikely to be one of them. For in Vegas nothing is real – the illusionary distances, the pastiche edifices, the carved and sculpted bodies “with beautiful shapes nature never designed”.  But the word authenticity was used scores and scores of times in Las Vegas during this past week as 15,000 people convened at the Nevada town for IMEX, the meetings industry must-attend trade show.



And why am I so sure that authenticity was popping up in conversations at a business tourism trade show in North America? Because it’s a core trend these days, driving consumer behaviour all over the world, and now percolating down to the B2B discussions that underpin the buying and selling at IMEX. If, in the past, participants sought glamour and luxury when travelling for corporate meetings or incentive travel experiences now their focus is on authenticity in all its shapes and sizes.

Real times, real places, real people

Authenticity certainly formed the central theme of Jean Michel Petit’s presentation of Vizeat, the food sharing platform he started 2 years ago. He was speaking in Las Vegas at IMEX16 as part of a panel discussion that I chaired on the Sharing Economy. Vizeat is becoming hugely successful for many reasons but principally because it’s zeitgesity, connecting locals and visitors in a reciprocally enriching encounter around food. As such, Vizeat is front and centre, along with Airbnb (at least in its original, pure form) in enabling visitors be locals and thus get beyond the flimsy superficiality of mass tourism and immerse themselves in the heart of the community.



Research commissioned by Vizeat, interestingly, shows cultural variations around one’s willingness to host and to be hosted by strangers. The Chinese are by far the most willing both to welcome guests at their own home and to be welcomed at the home of a stranger when travelling. At the other end of the spectrum, the retiring and culinarily challenged British are less keen both to host and be hosted but, even so, significantly more than half of all nations surveyed – including the shy and diffident ones – were happy to participate. Such is the extend of the desire for authenticity!

touRRoir16, Dublin, 1 Nov

Jean Michel will be in Dublin shortly  to present Vizeat at touRRoir16, the inaugural forum on food, tourism and culture organised by Good Food Ireland (with help from our own team here at SoolNua) at Croke Park Meetings & Events on Tuesday, 1 November. touRRoir16 pivots around this exploding search for authenticity and brings together experts from the Food, Tourism and Culture fields to dialogue, discuss and debate where this quest for authenticity is taking us and how practitioners in the 3 sectors can harness it for business success.



Speakers and Panelists are being added daily but the programme is solidly anchored by over 20 global thought leaders in food, tourism and culture including Maria Jose San Roman of Michelin starred Monastrell, Hillary Smith of Condé Nast‘s food innovation group and Patrick Whyte, the newly appointed Head of Skift‘s European Bureau. Speakers and panelists from the worlds of destination marketing, hospitality, politics, local government, place and nation branding, culture and small business demonstrate the broach church around which our topics coalesce and ensure dynamic, fulfilling network opportunities.



The conference will incorporate two additional functions as well as a sumptuous collaborative dinner-banquet with creative oversight from our global chefs. One of the functions, the Best of the Decade Awards, celebrates 10 years of Good Food Ireland and the extraordinary contribution that it has made to the island of Ireland as regarding Food Tourism both from the regulatory and marketing perspectives. A panel of expert judges from the worlds of food, media and academia will deliberate over nominations and select “Best of the Decade” recipients in 6 categories.

touRRoir16 also inaugurates its own Hall of Fame award which will go to the individual or individuals whose “vision, creativity and drive has had a positive and significant impact on the development of food, tourism and culture for the long term benefit of all stakeholders and consumers themselves. Where the confluence of these three sectors has effected change to drive business and where soft power and Gastrodiplomacy initiatives have raised profile or changed an image”.

Pádraic Gilligan, Pat Delaney and Aoife McCrum run SoolNua, a specialist agency working with destinations, hotels and venues on strategy, marketing and training.

[Header Image by Patrick Lanigan]



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