Tourism chiefs were in Derry this week to launch a major initiative aimed at putting food and drink at the heart of the Northern Ireland visitor experience.
The Year of Food and Drink 2016 will be a year-long celebration aimed at boosting Northern Ireland¹s reputation as a destination.
The year will see a series of events and industry development programmes celebrating quality, innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship in the food and drink sector.
The initiative, led by Tourism NI and involving a wide range of partners and key organisations in the food and drink industry across Northern Ireland, is intended to stimulate trade, tourism growth and an increase in visitor spend.
Tourism NI is supporting the initiative with the development of masterclasses and mentoring programmes and a series of events and advisory roadshows.
It has also produced an industry toolkit to help anyone who wants to get involved in promoting their food and drink offer in their area.
In addition, its Tourism Event Funding Programme 2016/17 will incorporate the Year of Food and Drink Scheme. A total of £300,000 of funding has been designated within this scheme specifically for food and drink experiences at events.
The year will include a special food or drink theme for each month of the calendar.
Speaking about the initiative, Tourism NI chairman Terence Brannigan said: “In the past few years, Northern Ireland has experienced positive increases in tourism and has made significant progress in building a reputation for excellence in food production and hospitality. This initiative is a major opportunity to tie all of these successes together under the one banner for a year-long celebration of all that is good about our food and drink.
“Food and drink is an absolutely essential part of the visitor experience as it accounts for a significant proportion of visitor spend and is, therefore, a key element of the economy. The Year of Food and Drink 2016 will highlight, celebrate and capitalise on our wonderful food and drink stories. I am confident this will make a large contribution both to the Northern Ireland economy and to the drive to deliver on the long-term aims of the industry to the end of the decade.”