The Mayo North Promotions Office along with Ballina Chamber and Tourist Office were delighted to welcome representatives from over 60 local businesses to the first Mayo North Food Tourism Seminar on Tuesday 28th March. Kindly sponsored by Michael Carr Foods and Bunzl McLaughlin, and hosted by Great National Hotel Ballina, the event was designed to highlight the value of food tourism to the local economy and emphasise the importance of providing visitors to Mayo with a real sense of “place on a plate” when they visit.
Speaking at the event, Failte Ireland’s Shane Raftery presented recent research indicating that visitors to Ireland spend over €2bn on food annually, accounting for over 35% of their total spend and that increasingly, tourists are seeking “authentic food experiences”. These can range from visiting local producers in their place of work, to enjoying meals created with locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients.
Pictured with some local food produce are as follows:
Back row l-r: Anne-Marie Flynn, MayoNorth.ie and Paul Regan, President, Ballina Chamber of Commerce
Front row l-r: Shane Raftery, Failte Ireland Food Tourism Unit, Olivia Duff, Boyne Valley Food Series, Anthony Gray, Restaurants’ Association of Ireland, and Michael Carr, Michael Carr Foods.
Outgoing President of the Restaurants’ Association of Ireland, Anthony Gray chaired the event, and spoke passionately about the need for local businesses to collaborate in order to provide visitors with these experiences. Speaking about the success of Sligo Food Trail, in which he is heavily involved, he credited the success of the initiative to the role of locals championing local food, and pointed out that ultimately, job creation is one of the net benefits to communities of such collaborations.
Similarly Olivia Duff, Chair of the hugely successful Boyne Valley Food Series charted the success of the initiative in Meath and Louth from humble beginnings, the importance of the series to the local economy and the need to have belief in product, landscape and people. “Quality” is a lynchpin of the Boyne Valley Food Series, and Duff referenced the clear quality of the food offering in North Mayo as a recipe for future success.
Denis Quinn of Wild Atlantic Cultural Tours pictured with a selection of locally foraged plants, sea plants and shellfish. Also pictured are Mags Downey-Martin of Ballina Chamber and Tourist Office and Anne-Marie Flynn of MayoNorth.ie
Commenting after the event, Anne-Marie Flynn of MayoNorth.ie said: “We were delighted to see such a strong turnout of local businesses at this first Mayo North Food Tourism Seminar, not just from Ballina but from all across North Mayo and West Sligo. We have a fantastic range of food producers and dining experiences in this region, and as with every aspect of tourism we just need to work together to provide authentic , enjoyable experiences for our visitors. What we take for granted here, including where our food comes from, is what our visitors want to see, touch and feel for themselves, and working together we can very easily make that happen.”
Mags Downey Martin, Ballina Chamber said: “‘The Mayo North Food Tourism Seminar illustrated the great array of independent food producers in the region. Connections were made, stories and experiences were shared and it proved to be a great networking event. It is the aim of Ballina Chamber of Commerce to continue to highlight the importance of food in Mayo North, showcase our great food venues available to visitors and the potential that food tourism has to the local economy.”
It was great to see a range of artisan food producers represented at the event, including Dozio’s of Mayo, Cuinneog Dairy, Clarke’s Salmon Smokery, Achill Island Sea Salt, Carr’s Seafood, Wild Atlantic Cultural Tours, Achill Island Brewery, Foxford Woollen Mills, Moran Butchers and Deli, the Connacht Whiskey Company, Reel Deel Brewery, as well as a number of local hotels, restaurants and cafés.
Head Chef Stephen Lenahan from Belleek Castle Kitchen pictured with French students Dylan Vanmaele and Samuel Cordon, and a selection of Belleek Castle’s range of artisan food products and some freshly picked vegetables from the Castle’s own garden