Michele Shirlow Farm Week Coloum 15th November

Tourism NI recently introduced an imaginative and exciting new marketing identity for Northern Ireland tourism at the influential World Travel Market in London, it is great news for food and drink and the growing food tourism sector.

World Travel Market was the event at which Northern Ireland won the title ‘World’s Best Food Destination’ in 2018, evidence of how far our food and drink industry has travelled in the last decade. From being a relatively unknown food and drink region ten years ago we have leapt forward to become one of the top food and drink regions in Europe.

Embrace a Giant Spirit is a fresh and impressive experience brand which is now being used by Tourism NI and Tourism Ireland to increase visitor numbers and thereby drive revenue from visitors here. Tourism is set to double in the next 10 years and it already contributes £1 billion to the economy here. Embrace a giant spirit was developed by some of Northern Irelands top talent. The logo was designed by internationally acclaimed artist Colin Davison, the words by poet Paul Muldoon and the images by Oscar nominated cinematographer Seamus McGarvey.

It’s a great message with eye-catching graphics which already features seven food and drink experiences and will now feature prominently in promotional activities These food and drink experiences include Blossom to Bottle, Catch and Sea, Whiskey on the Rocks, Toast the Coast, Belfast Food Tour, Tracey’s Farmhouse Kitchen and Titanic Afternoon Tea. Evidence if it were needed that people love to get behind the scenes with our food and drink.

Our experience during the year at food events in GB, which were part of InvestNI’s Small Business Food Programme, delivered by FoodNI, was that World’s Best Food Destination award certainly caught the attention of the thousands of visitors.  I hope that the InvestNI Small Business Food and Drink Programme will continue to play an important role in underpinning our great food and drink industry and that there may be synergies with the inspirational Embrace a Giant Spirit promotion.

While Embrace a Giant Spirit offers great opportunity for food and drink tourism, confusion still surrounds the current agreement between the UK and the EU on trade between Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. We are deeply concerned over suggestions that trade between Northern Ireland and Britain, the biggest market for our food and drink, especially goods from smaller companies could face additional and delaying bureaucracy.

Anything that results in Northern Ireland appearingsignificantly ‘different’ from Britain and Ireland could adversely impact access to this most important market.Another deeply felt concern of smaller processors is the likelihood that the completion of Brexit will see a substantial increase in competition from products from beyond the UK. Our industry needs to have marketing and promotion to support companies as they face greater and often lower priced competitors who do not have to adhere to standards required to do business in the EU.

Food NI will do all we can to help ensure the local food and drink industry enjoy the benefits likely to flow from Embrace and Giant Spirit both here and outside Northern Ireland