TourismNI and FoodNI team up to promote sustainability to chefs, producers and visitors

The collaboration will see 12 new food and drink tourism experiences and 50 sustainable dishes on menus in NI hospitality establishments

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 2nd April 2022, 5:00 pm

TourismNI and FoodNI have combined forces to encourage visitors to Northern Ireland and local holidaymakers to embrace their giant spirit though sustainable food and drink experiences especially over the upcoming Easter break.

It’s an immensely exciting collaboration that will see 12 new and sustainable food and drink tourism experiences being launched and 50 sustainable dishes appearing on menus in hospitality establishments across NI. It kicks off on Friday, April 9 with a sustainable banquet in the Weston Pavilion at Hillsborough Castle.

This is just one of the bookable experiences which range from brewing and seaweed gathering to chocolate making and a vegan breakfast club.

Geri Martin of Chocolate Manor in Castlerock pictured with celebrity chef Paula McIntyre outside her workshop which recently joined the international Economusse network of artisan workshops open for visitors to experience the expertise of producers. Geri runs chocolate making classes

FoodNI’s chief executive Michele Shirlow explains: “Visitors are seeking sustainable, regenerative experiences and are increasingly looking for sustainable dishes on menus in hotels, restaurants and other eateries throughout Northern Ireland.”

“It is vitally important that local food producers and hospitality experiences embrace this trend,” adds Michele. FoodNI has long held an ambition for a sustainable year of food and drink and this initiative is an opportunity for tourism experience providers to pilot new sustainable food and drink tourism experiences, she continues.

A sustainable business is defined by TourismNI as “one which attempts to make a low impact on the environment and local culture, while helping to generate, income, employment, and the conservation of local ecosystems. It is an ethos, an evolution in the way of doing things”.

TourismNI adds that: “NI’s unique landscape and authentic heritage lends itself perfectly to the sustainable tourism opportunity”. NI is indeed fortunate in having a wonderful variety of quality food and drink experiences such as how to made traditional Northern Irish breads, process apples for cider, chocolate making and learning about the processes involved in whiskey, gin, poitin and rum distilling.

Tracey Jeffrey runs a baking school specialising in traditional Northern Irish breads in her farmhouse home overlooking picturesque Strangford Lough at Killinchy

Michele continues: “The partnership with FoodNI will encourage chefs and producers to come up with dishes based on sustainable ingredients. The key focus will be on provenance (short supply chains), seasonality and on measures minimising food waste. A toolkit has been developed to guide chefs and visitor experiences. We will showcase ‘sustainability heroes’, role models, people with smart ideas on food and drink, in the week’s ahead

“We’ve long been committed to food that’s grown here and not flown here, but now we need to fly our sustainability credentials and make visitors aware of our short supply chains and our commitment to reducing waste. Tourists want to learn new skills and enjoy food and drink that is good for the planet and good for them. And we want them to experience and enjoy the outstandingly tasty and wide variety of good food and drink now being produced here by dedicated and skilled people, especially artisan enterprises,” she adds.

And it’s food and drink that’s also been acclaimed in national and international awards for originality, premium quality, wholesomeness and nutritional value.

“This is an imaginative and exciting collaboration that should help to set us apart as a tourism region that attracts visitors because of our commitment to food and drink sustainability,” she says. “Furthermore, the scheme will benefit our growers and producers and also reduce significantly our carbon miles. It will challenge our chefs to think outside the box and it will set an important precedent that our tourism industry is taking sustainability seriously.”

Underpinning this strategic collaboration is extensive research by TourismNI which pinpointed the growing importance of what has become known as sustainable tourism. This important research found that one in three visitors to Northern Ireland would prefer to stay in accommodation with green credentials.

“A massive 65% in hospitality are already taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint,” the TourismNI report continues. “Many customers care about the environment. By showing them that you care too, you will be well placed to attract new customers and win loyalty from those you already have.”

Tourism, of course, is a significant industry which was now worth over £1bn in annual revenue in 2019, it is set to bounce back strongly post pandemic. Food and drink, furthermore, generates around £5 billion annually to the local economy and employs around 100,000 people across and extensive farm to fork supply chain. And both industries have massive scope for further development in both short and long terms. It’s in all our interests to ensure the success of the hugely significant sustainability initiative. For more, go to www.nigoodfood.com.

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