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Food and drink serves up a tasty tourism future

NI Year of Food and Drink

Posted by Tourism NI

Published March 22, 2016

Northern Ireland's Year of Food and Drink can help take tourism to new levels, says Tourism NI Chief Executive John McGrillen

Food and drink serves up a tasty tourism future

Judging by the flying start to the year, the tourism industry's appetite for Northern Ireland's 2016 Year of Food and Drink is going to be nothing short of voracious.

The volume and range of announcements, events, launches, promotions and general participation in the initiative's opening few weeks, in Northern Ireland and elsewhere, has been both impressive and very welcome.

No-one can doubt that local fare is now top of the agenda and extremely important to the tourism industry; the trick, of course, will be in sustaining our energy, imagination and commitment throughout a busy year.

The celebration of Northern Ireland food and drink is aimed at integrating our unique local offerings into all levels of the tourism experience and in doing so Tourism NI intends to increase food-related visitor satisfaction by 5%, generate £10 million of positive PR, and support the increase of export sales of our food and drink to £30 million.

There is an excellent calendar developing for the year, and I am therefore more than optimistic that these targets will be achieved.

This immensely important initiative is giving tourism related business of all types an opportunity to intensify existing efforts to showcase the outstanding taste, quality and variety of our award-winning producers and chefs to local people, at the same time as strengthen our appeal to tourists and business visitors to Northern Ireland.

Programme of events

With Tourism NI as the lead body, in partnership with Food NI, Invest NI, local authorities and government departments, our approach is to focus on a series of events that will take place over the course of the year.

Collectively, we're looking at every opportunity to be innovative and to either enhance existing events or create new ones to take advantage of Year of Food and Drink opportunities.

From the Balmoral Show to St George’s Market to the LegenDerry Food Festival to the Armagh County Agricultural Show and the Hans Sloane Chocolate festival in Killyleagh, we will be working across the board and with every local authority.

The event calendar got a great boost with the announcement that the BBC Good Food Show is coming to the expanded Belfast Waterfront in October; it will provide a superb opportunity to showcase our local produce.

Tesco Northern Ireland’s announcement of a £500,000 Year of Food and Drink promotional programme was a further helping of good news.

This is already providing an excellent platform for the local food and drinks industry and Tesco will also be supporting the Taste Northern Ireland Festival, set to be the biggest and best yet.

Throughout the year, Tourism NI is providing a wide range of support, including a dedicated Year of Food and Drink 2016 events fund, as well industry toolkitsbrand guidelines and an integrated marketing and communications plan.

We've also completed a series of very successful fully subscribed roadshows, while our annual Tourism Conference in 2016 will explore the importance of food and drink at events, and across attractions and accommodation.


Northern Ireland's food and drink offerings are one of the best vehicles for encouraging visitors to learn about our heritage, landscape and culture and to engage with our people.

Food and drink is also a highly significant proportion of visitor spend: money is generated into the economy every time a visitor goes to a food festival, books a B&B, enjoys a meal out and signs up for a food tour or cookery school place.

So our fantastic array of fresh ingredients, wide range of eateries and food events, talented chefs, culinary pioneers, artisan producers and indeed a flourishing foodie culture is hitting its stride at just the right moment.

The potential this great food revolution offers for the wider economy and to the local businesses that can reap benefits, publicity and profits from getting involved is huge.

I am convinced that as our message about the quality of our local produce spreads out domestically and internationally in 2016 we will capture the minds, hearts and taste buds of our visitors.

Though not yet fully complete, the tourism figures for last year are extremely encouraging. We've had an excellent 2015 and more people than ever are choosing Northern Ireland as a destination.

Tourism NI is determined both to drive the positive momentum forward in 2016 and to keep on target for becoming a £1 billion industry by 2020.

There is potential for an even tastier future for tourism if we maintain our recent impetus and successes, and so the importance of the Year of Food and Drink in driving more uplift in the industry cannot be underestimated.

Tourism NI will be doing everything possible to ensure it achieves everything it is setting out to do. I think it will be a great success and that it will make a major contribution in the drive to grow Northern Ireland tourism to a new level.

For further information, toolkits and events please visit

Posted by Tourism NI

Produced by Tourism NI