better tourism mission Mar 03, 2018

What does Fáilte Ireland’s Food & Drink Strategy 2018-23 mean for tourism operators in Ireland?

The strategy is relevant, not just for food and drink providers, but for all tourism operators who get themselves into an area of high relevance and become pro-active collaborators in creating an Irish Food Movement.

“Enhancing Irish Food Experiences” was the title of the 2014-16 Food Tourism strategy for Ireland.  With significant successes and innovations arising from that strategy, its successor, Food and Drink Strategy 2018-23, has a new focus.  This time, the strategy and planned activities speak to tourism operators in all sectors who have food or drink ‘consumer touchpoints’.  Food and Drink tourism is being mainstreamed.  So if you’re in mainstream tourism, this strategy is relevant for you.  It reaches out not only to producers, restaurants and food festivals but also to pubs, visitor attractions and B&Bs.  This is a plan for the development of Irish tourism far more than it is a plan for the development of Irish food and drink.  The difference is subtle but important.  It is about how Irish food and drink can be leveraged to consistently enhance the overall visitor experience of Ireland.    

So, what is the vision?

This strategy seeks to cultivate an Irish Food Movement so that, by 2023, Irish food and drink is a powerful enhancer of Ireland’s experience brands, greatly improving the visitor’s overall stay and delivering sustained growth in per diem spend.  Take from this vision statement two important conclusions: firstly, food and drink experiences are no longer to be considered niche or ‘additional’ - rather they are assigned an important branding and marketing function in terms of communicating the Wild Atlantic WayIreland’s Ancient EastDublin Breath of Fresh Air and the anticipated Midlands Experience brand to visitors;  secondly, food and drink experiences are regarded as drivers of economic growth, whose impact will be monitored and measured in economic terms. 

How will this vision be achieved?

To achieve the vision, the strategy identifies three drivers: Visibility, Availability and Capability.

Visibility: According to the research, international visitors do not really consider Ireland to be a food destination.  Examples of food tourism strategies from Netherlands and Australia – both employed to tackle their international reputation challenges head-on - are presented in the strategy as models Ireland can learn from.  Expect therefore to see a significant marketing and awareness campaign, with a global focus and reach, that seeks to tell a new story about Irish food and drink experiences.  Ireland’s unique point of differentiation in the busy global food tourism marketplace is to be its ‘larder’.  Its key positioning attributes will be quality, authenticity, innovation and value for money.  The goal is clear – Brand Ireland is now focused on gaining a global reputation for its food and drink offering. 

Availability: the document employs a wonderful phrase as a core objective “to increase the probability of happening on a great Irish food experience’.   To be fair, our visitors now have a fairly good chance of happening upon a few less-than-great Irish food experiences.  The aim is to ensure that visitors get an on-brand food and drink experience right across the country and at every part of the day - from every café, restaurant, visitor attraction, accommodation provider and pub.  This is a key difference in this strategy – it is acknowledged our food and drink reputation relies not only on our specialist food and drink operators, but on every tourism operator who has a food ‘visitor touchpoint’. 

Capability: Fáilte Ireland is seeking to drive industry capacity and performance.  This means it will seek to support individuals and groups to bring this strategy to life.  It recognises two different industry sectors in this context: those who operate mainly in the food or drink industry and are diversifying into tourism and then those whose home is firmly in the tourism industry but are now seeking to enhance their performance in food and drink experiences.  It seems there will be quite an emphasis on the latter.


What does this mean for tourism enterprises and managers?

If this is the planned direction for Irish food and drink tourism, how can you position yourself to catch the wave and swim with the tide?  What are the areas of high relevance and how can you align with them?  Here’s 8 actions you could consider:

  1. Ensure that what you offer to visitors enhances your relevant Experience Brandi.e. Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East, Dublin Breath of Fresh Air, or the as-yet-to-be-announced new Midlands Brand.  Consider your experience as a marketing tool for those brands.
  2. Be purposeful about how you link your food and drink to the land.  Remember the Global Unique Point of Differentiation is ‘Ireland’s Larder’ – start with that idea! Think about how it symbolises Ireland and the Irish culture.  Know the story of your food and drink and be proactive about telling it. 
  3. Include keywords and key themes in your communicationsi.e. authentic, real, local produce, close to source, iconic.  Ensure they are truly integrated into your visitor offering.  Again, these concepts are good start points for idea generation.
  4. Be proactive. In terms of innovations and collective projects, Fáilte Ireland seeks to be a proactive collaborator and will align with ones arising from the grassroots and driven by passionate individuals.   It’s clear that the impetus must come from the ground up, not the other way around.
  5. Become part of a food tourism network. Amongst the successes arising from the last tourism strategy is the existence of mobilised food networks such as the Burren Food TrailBoyne Valley Food Series and Taste Cork.  Networks are considered essential for creating width and depth of offering in a destination.  The strategy indicates support for the development of emerging networks as well as fostering co-opetition links between them and the more established networks. 
  6. Stay in touch with visitor trends and food and drink innovations.  If you’re looking to branch into food and drink tourism or to enhance what you already do, look at some of the food innovations that are signalled in the strategy:
  7. Long-table dining
  8. Menus and experiences based on local sourcing
  9. Foraging and trails
  10. Gourmet Fast Food
  11. Food Trucks
  12. Slow Food
  13. Food Pairing
  14. Indoor markets
  15. Think economics. The strategy heavily emphasises making the economic case for food and drink tourism, in measuring and quantifying the economic impact. Think about how your experience or innovation can measure and quantify its economic impact.    
  16. Invest in compelling imagery and videofor your food and drink experience or your area as a food and drink destination.  They may well find their way to inclusion in national and international campaigns. 


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