Next year will be dedicated to showing visitors all that is best about Northern Ireland’s food and drink industry in a bid to tempt discerning tourists to the province Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster has claimed.
Speaking at the Tourism Northern Ireland annual conference, Mrs Foster on people to get involved in giving visitors a taste of what makes local menus so special.
“We have some of the best food and the best restaurants in the world, and the potential this has when it comes to tourism cannot be underestimated,” she said.
“Food tourism already generates over £350million per year to the local economy, but I believe there is significant room for further growth.”
That was why, she said, she had asked Tourism Northern Ireland to begin preparatory work to develop the Year of Food initiative and secured funding for the job.
“Now it’s time to build on our growing reputation for excellence and give visitors even more mouth watering reasons to come here.”
In the lead up to and during 2016, there will be a series of packaged events aimed at tempting the taste buds of potential visitors.
“We have a great story to tell, and this is a very exciting opportunity to really celebrate our food sector,” the Minister added.
“We boast some world-class produce, not to mention talented chefs, restaurants, skilled cookery schools and a rich food heritage, all of which is becoming better known, especially in GB, which is our key market.
“The Year of Food will enable us to continue to raise our profile nationally and to promote Northern Ireland food tourism on the international stage.”
As well as specific events, the initiative will also involve industry-led master classes and mentoring programmes, the development of new food experiences and trails, and development of a toolkit to enable a wide range of people across Northern Ireland to get involved in promoting their produce and their area.
“Many tourists already say that good quality food and dining is a key factor when choosing Northern Ireland for a short break, and I have no doubt that 2016 and the Year of Food will entice even more visitors to do so.”