Ireland ‘much more than just potatoes and Guinness’

Fáilte Ireland has launched a major new drive to convince potential tourists that Ireland’s food offering is more than just Guinness and potatoes.

The strategy aims to change the perception among overseas visitors about Irish food and drink and their reaction from being a pleasant surprise to becoming one of the compelling reasons to visit the country.

Last year, revenue from overseas visitors totalled €6.5bn with about a third spent on food and drink. With targeted investment and effective promotion of the quality food and drink available, the strategy hopes to increase tourism revenue up to €400m over the next five years.

According to data from the World Food Travel Association, when people who have never visited Ireland were asked what stands out in terms of the country’s food and drink offering, 32% said beer followed by potatoes (15%); whiskey (14%); Guinness (10%); and corned beef and cabbage (10%).

However, the feedback among those who had visited was far more positive. For example, while just 50% of Spaniards and 62% of French visitors expressed themselves satisfied with the cuisine, 95% of Chinese and 94% of Mexicans said they were happy with Ireland’s food and drink offering.

Following consultation, the strategy highlights a number of weaknesses in what is on offer. These include poor knowledge around the country’s food heritage and that the story of Ireland as a place with great food and drink experiences “is not being articulated well, if at all”.

Restrictive legislation surrounding sale of products and the lack of good-quality food offerings in many high-density tourist sites and some accommodation sectors were also cited as factors. The absence of, or poor food offering, in some Irish pubs was also listed as a weakness.

Director of commercial development at Fáilte Ireland Paul Keeley said the industry as a whole needs to work to change the perception of Irish food and drink among potential visitors.

“We undoubtedly have the product and expertise, we have natural produce, fresh ingredients, and great fish and meat but we need to ensure that our food and drink offering gains a global reputation that matches the reality on the ground.”

“To raise our game, we need to develop our capacity and performance within food in tourism businesses so that operators deliver a world-class offering that is consistent and profitable.

“As part of this, we need to ensure our visitor attractions use local foods to deliver an offering representative of place, we need to enhance our national menu in areas such as the Irish breakfast, support pubs in bringing authentic experiences to life, and assist the tourism industry in tailoring Ireland’s local food story,” he said.

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