A conference looking at the region’s potential to drive food tourism and maximise its economic benefits is being held in Belfast next month.
Belfast City Council is organising the ‘Focus on Food’ conference at the ICC on 28 March, in partnership with Department of the Environment and Rural Affairs (DEARA) and Tourism NI.
It will bring together industry experts including food producers, restaurateurs, chefs and food educators to celebrate the economic contribution and creativity of the sector, as well as setting goals for Belfast and Northern Ireland to achieve further success as a culinary destination of choice.
Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor Tina Black said: “You just have to visit our award-winning St George’s Market on any given weekend to see the abundance of local food producers and outstanding homegrown products we have here on our doorstep. Belfast also boasts an amazing choice of local, independent restaurants.
“There is a huge opportunity to build on our food tourism potential and our tourism strategy for the city identifies the importance of making this one of Belfast’s key selling points. Celebrating the food we are known for and creating a unique offering means we can transform how we position Belfast on a global stage, where so many cities are competing to attract visitors; we want to become a destination of choice for foodies and make our name as a city famous for what’s on the menu.
“Getting everyone together at this major event is the start of that process as we look at how we can support our hospitality and local food businesses to achieve our tourism ambitions and the benefits that will have for not just Belfast, but the entire region.”
Belfast City Council is leading on an action plan around food tourism which includes setting up a new food and drink network and steering group. It’s hoped that by setting ambitious but achievable goals, Belfast can establish itself as a leading food and drink destination and eventually achieve international status.
The conference will bring together a stellar line up of guest speakers including restaurant critic Grace Dent, Chris McClurg (chef patron at Paul Ainsworth at No. 6 and Great British Menu winner), Anna Pollock (strategist on regenerative hospitality and tourism), Gemma Austin (chef patron at A Peculiar Tea and Great British Menu finalist), Skye Gyngell (chef patron at Spring and Heckfield Place), Giles Gibbons (co-founder of Sustainable Restaurant Association) and Conor Spacey (founder of Food Space, Dublin).
Albert Johnston, Head of DAERA’s Agri-Food & Corporate Support Branch, said: “DAERA is delighted to support Belfast City Council’s Focus on Food Conference 2023, as it is a key engagement platform for all involved in our food supply chain to showcase the strength of our local agri-food industry and to bring together the agri-food and hospitality sectors.
“Northern Ireland has a wealth of high quality, safe and wholesome foods available to the processing, food service and retail sectors and we continue to encourage processors and consumers to seek out local produce where possible.”
David Roberts, Director of Strategic Development at Tourism NI added: “Food and drink tourism plays a central role to the visitor economy. In recent years, it has become a motivation for visitors who are spending more time and more money on opportunities to connect with local food and drink.
“Tourism NI is delighted to be supporting The Focus on Food Conference which provides delegates with an opportunity to celebrate the creativity of our sector whilst learning from others to strengthen our reputation as a world class food and drink destination.
“The conference will stimulate opportunities for knowledge exchange where delegates can garner insights from panellists who are delivering exceptional food and drink experiences. Tourism NI look forward to collaborating with those who have a shared interest in raising the quality of the experience that we offer to visitors.”
For more details of the conference including ticket info, visit www.belfastcity.gov.uk/events