Northern Ireland named world’s best food destination

John Best, past chairman Food NI, left, pictured at the awards in London with CEO Michele Shirlow, John McGrillen, chief executive of Tourism NI, and Andrew Nethercott, current Food NI chair
John Best, past chairman Food NI, left, pictured at the awards in London with CEO Michele Shirlow, John McGrillen, chief executive of Tourism NI, and Andrew Nethercott, current Food NI chair

Northern Ireland has been named the world’s Best Food Destination in 2018 at a major travel and tourism awards in London.

The entry from Food NI, Northern Ireland’s food and drink promotion body, won gold on Tuesday night at the prestigious International Travel and Tourism Awards in for the province as The Best Food Destination in 2018.

Food NI pipped other global food destinations, including San Sebastian/Donostia in Spain, to lift the prestigious award for Northern Ireland for its organisation of the highly successful Year of Food and Drink in 2016.

The awards were held as the showpiece of the annual World Travel Market in London, the world’s leading global travel trade event, which attracts over 50,000 travel professionals from around the world.

The coveted award was presented to Michele Shirlow, chief executive of Food NI, who said it reflected the hard work of many people in the province.

“I am thrilled to receive this strategically important award which positions Northern Ireland internationally as the leading destination for premium quality and innovative food and drink.

“This international award is a marvellous accolade for our industry and local producers in particular and should be a major benefit for our rapidly developing tourism industry as it seeks to attract even more visitors from across the world and in particular golf enthusiasts for The Open in Portrush in 2019.”

Food NI played the central role with Government departments including the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Tourism NI, Tourism Ireland and Invest NI in delivering Northern Ireland’s first year-long Year of Food and Drink in 2016, a celebration of outstanding food and drink and the people who produce it and provide it.

The awards were held for the first time during the the three-day show attracting 70 entries from across the world.

Raising the profile of Northern Ireland food and drink and the hospitality sector is a key objective in Food NI’s Taste the Greatness strategy.