Good Food Ireland is a unique organisation that promotes Irish food production and authentic culinary cuisine, emphasizing on people behind it – farmers, local food producers and fishermen. Run by a small and devoted team, the organisation is “the trusted guarantee for food experience in Ireland”. In 2015 Good Food Ireland won the inaugural Irish Tourism Industry Award for Best Food Experience for its overwhelming contribution to Ireland’s image and food tourism reputation at the Web Summit.
Among the diverse initiatives and activities, Good Food Ireland organized touRRoir Global Forum (April 23-24, 2018) and brought together experts and collaborators from the Food, Tourism and Culture sectors to discuss how through the inextricable link of these three sectors companies can grow business, local communities can flourish and destinations can ensure a more successful and sustainable economic future. As Margaret Jeffares, Founder & Managing Director of Good Food Ireland pointed out in her welcoming notes – tourRoir 2018 was held in a particularly appropriate location – Galway – the host city of the 2018 European Region of Gastronomy, the focal point of the Wild Atlantic Way and the 2020 European City of Culture. The devotion, energy, creativity and networking skills of Margaret and her team brought us together in Galway for a very short but memorable time of sharing, learning and tasting unique local products.
Here are some highlights of the day, taken from my notes and observations:
Noel Toolan, Consultant and Marketing Change Agent, moderated the whole forum day in a professional and passionate way, provoking debates, exchange of viewpoints and plenty of information sharing from diverse countries and continents. His opening short talk reminded us that tourism needed the DNA delivered by culture and food industries and the collaboration between these three sectors is very important, especially from the angle of the strategies that showcase the local authenticity to the world market.
In Session 1 “ Authentic Collaboration by Design”, Bruce MacMIllan, CEO of Bandwidth Management & Consulting USA, reminded us that authenticity matters a lot and finding hidden resources in our local culture, community, way of life, is very important. The panelists discussed opportunities around market positioning of Irish products and how can we cultivate to add more and more value by Irish food products without making it unaffordable for the people and communities that support the production.
In Session 2 Fia Gulliksson, Chef & CEO of Food in Action in Sweden, reminded us to challenge ourselves, to step out of our comfort zone, to collaborate with new people and set up new alliances, and to trust our employees while getting the organisational priorities right. She passionately spoke about getting your community on the global culinary map, emphasizing on three ingredients:
- have your core values – whatever you do in life mind your inner philosophy and missing;
- get your priorities right and
- act as a CIA agent – create, imagine, act, challenge, be courageous, use your brain.
Session 3 was devoted to Food Experiences at the Heart of the Destination Brand where one of the focus points was branding, promotion and dissemination with the understanding that we need to keep telling the story around the product to be more successful in these efforts. John Heart, Executive Director of Restaurants & Catering from Australia had an optimistic standpoint, emphasizing that we have to turn a challenge into success and walked us through the 15 years journey of the restaurant sector in Australia, based on a strategy for growth which combines the capacity building and empowering local business (2003-2018).
My talk was in Session 4 “Cultural and Creative Enterproses Driving Sustainable business”. I focused on crossover innovations that can catalyze the sustainable creative enterprises and the role of culture and creativity in the tourism business. Together with an orientation on the specificity of entrepreneurship in the sector of arts and culture, my emphasis was on opportunities and trends, as well as cases of collaboration from diverse countries that bring the crossover effect, increase visibility and revenues of a creative enterprise. As a Board member of the International Institute of Gastronomy, Culture, Arts and Tourism IGCAT, I also shared the future strategic directions of the Institute, as well as some of our great projects – the Young Chef Award, the Local Food Gift Challenge and the Food Film Festival.
Session 5, nicely named “Craft versus Crafty?” was devoted to the rise of artisans, their motivation, the need to build and sustain branding that promotes authenticity. Helen King, Director of Strategic Insight & Planning at Bord Bia (The Irish Food Board), left us with several key messages, among them that craft is not what you see but what you do. She emphasized that tourists are attracted by natural, artisan, local passionately crafted food and items. They seek new and different experiences, quality craft and individuality in the brands. Therefore startup companies need to have world class products and world class brands in order to get into the global market. Restaurants need to personalize their products and point out not only “what” is in the menu, but where from it comes and who is the producer.
“Communication Nation – Room to Improve?” was the title of Session 6 where Ciaran O’Gaora, Managing Director of Zero-G in Ireland, reminded us that the brand is a platform for building your story. The importance of finding the values that we share across sectors is the core before the dissemination and communication strategy. Engaging with identity and sense of purpose, and bringing different perspective to the clients’ one are some of the added values in the strategy of his company, working in many sectors including tourism, retail, publishing, health, finance, culture and the arts in Ireland, Europe, Africa and the US.
The International Institute of Gastronomy, Culture, Arts and Tourism IGCAT, collaborated with Good Food Ireland to make this event a success. In the last session Carlos Fernandes, Associate Professor in Tourism Studies at the Polytechnic Institute of Viana doCastelo, Portugal and IGCAT Board member, introduced the objectives, principles and achievements of the European Region of Gastronomy Platform and motivated the audience to join by explaining the key benefits. Jacinta Dalton, Head of Department of Culinary Arts & Services Industries and also IGCAT Board member, emphasized on the importance of education and learning in the formation of the next generation of leaders and managers in the tourism and food industries, as well as the need for collaboration between all industry partners and stakeholders in this process.
An important feature of touRRoir was the networking and open exchange of ideas both in the conference room and during the social events accompanying the Forum. In the closing evening we had the pleasure to experience “Food Tourism Culture IRELAND in Action” where around 40 chefs, food and drink producers from all over Ireland came together to showcase their tasty and authentic production. The way they presented it to us was very memorable, as they were telling their personal stories, passion and motivation behind their businesses. Irish rhythm and sounds accompanied the evening – musicians, singers and dancers created a great atmosphere of celebrating together culinary and cultural uniqueness of Ireland. An unforgettable shared moment of joy!
“Tasting Ireland” is so delicious!