Industry experts recipe for tourism success at Focus on Food conference

Valentine Warner- Photo Credit: Walter Van Dyck

Some of the industry’s top experts are to focus on the importance of the food and hospitality sectors to local tourism at a major conference in Belfast next week.

‘Focus On Food: Our Recipe For Tourism Success’ takes place at St George’s Market next Tuesday (23 February).
Speakers and panelists are drawn from all areas of the food and hospitality industry, including chefs, academics and retailers. The keynote speaker will be top chef, food writer and broadcaster Valentine Warner, who will share his passion for food heritage, the people, the places and the stories they tell while “in conversation” with conference host Sarah Travers.

The other speakers are led by the acclaimed Michelin Star chef, restaurateur and author JP McMahon, culinary director of the Eat Galway Restaurant Group, who will address the importance of partnership and collaboration between all aspects of the food industry, including farmers, producers and restaurants.
Ewen Venters, CEO of Fortnum and Mason, who has been described by Spears Magazine as “one of the most influential people on the British food scene”, will look at the shifting trends in food shopping, as well as how the store regards Northern Ireland products, such as award-winning Glenarm salmon and Shortcross Gin, as being synonymous with the quality their customers expect.

Professor Lynsey Hollywood, Lecturer in Consumer Management and Food Innovation at Ulster University, will look at latest trends in food tourism and agri-food, while Nigel Hardy, Head of Global Food at Invest NI, will provide practical information and advice on how local artisan producers can get their products into national and international marketplace including top-end retailers. Damien Donnelly of Ad-Man Creative Marketing will focus on practical and immediate tips on how to boost businesses through digital marketing.

There also will be a series of panel discussions, looking at the subjects discussed in the main presentations. Panelists will include Caroline Wilson of Belfast Food Tours, Jilly Dougan of Slow Food NI, the food journalist Joris Minne, Michelin Star restaurateur Michael Deane, Michele Shirlow of Food NI and Nigel Hardy.
‘Focus On Food: Our Recipe For Tourism Success’ is organized by Belfast City Council.
“The aim of the conference is to see what more can be done to maximize the economic benefit of food tourism, not only for Belfast, but the region as a whole,” explained Councillor Deirdre Hargey, Chair of the Council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee.

“It will look at the long term development of food tourism in the city, and is designed to promote Belfast’s food tourism message; inspire the industry to collaborate and create new visitor experiences; engage producers, farmers, fishermen, chefs and outlets to better promote the food message to visitors; encourage the use of local produce and enable those in the industry to share experiences, challenges and opportunities.”

The conference is supported by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), through its Northern Ireland Regional Food Programme.
Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “The 2016 Focus on Food conference will gather together food producers, manufacturers, retailers, writers, chefs and food enthusiasts. It will offer a tremendous range of food expertise and produce in one event and is a unique opportunity for everyone to learn from each other and sell their wares. I would encourage everyone in this business to take this opportunity to attend and reap the benefits of shared practice and experience.

“The conference will provide a great window into the issues surrounding the sustainability of current food production methods, and provide me with a further understanding of the challenges in our industry.”
The conference is also supported by Tourism NI, as part of the Year of Food and Drink 2016. Aine Kearney, Director of Business Support and Events said: “The Year of Food and Drink 2016 is a great opportunity to harness the benefits of our successes in the food and drink sector, to drive quality, innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship and support growth in export food sales. It is also an unmissable chance to showcase the high quality of our hospitality to an international audience who are hungry for new experiences. This conference gives us a platform on which to do all of that, and to inspire our food and drink industry into being the best it can be, and thus boost its significant contribution to our economy.”

Registration for ‘Focus On Food: Our Recipe For Tourism Success’ is still available via Attendees can also keep up to date with developments on Twitter, by following @belfast_food or #belfastfocusonfood.