WITH the spend of every American visitor travelling to take part in the Taste of West Cork Food Festival estimated at €1,000, the organising committee has set its sights on attracting 1,000 US visitors.
Festival chairperson, Helen Collins, said the food festival – which runs from September 7th to September 16th – has grown significantly to the stage that the programme, which will be included with next week’s Southern Star now features 255 events in 41 towns and villages, as well as the seven inhabited islands, throughout West Cork.
But Ms Collins said the festival committee – with the cooperation of Cork County Council, Cork Airport, Cork Convention and Tourism Ireland – has plans to promote it internationally.
Speaking at Castlefreke Castle – a remarkable venue for the launch – Ms Collins said: ‘Imagine if we could get 1,000 US visitors to West Cork, particularly outside of the months of July and August, then we could have a million euro circulating in West Cork that we don’t have now.’
Ms Collins said: ‘This market is there for us but we need to work at getting it.’ In terms of going out and making things happen, the committee’s approach has been strategic: it has already conducted trips to Boston and to Brussels, where Ireland’s EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, gave a commitment to attend this year’s festival.
But Switzerland – which has increased its flights from Zurich to Cork from 8,000 to 22,000 seats this year – is also in the committee’s sights.
Ms Collins said the success of A Taste of West Cork Food Festival is predicated on three principles: the unity of West Cork from Bandon to Beara; the wonderful experiences that West Cork has to offer; and the guest chefs, which adds a whole new dynamic to the region’s restaurants and makes them ‘natural ambassadors’ for West Cork.
The fact that the festival has won the title of ‘number one foodie destination’ has not gone unnoticed. According to Ms Collins, ‘tour operators are hungry for this kind of experience – they don’t want the big coach tours anymore. They want the upfront and personal kind of experience that they get in West Cork.’
The chairperson said: ‘A Taste of West Cork Food Festival is a showcase, and is available for 10 days, but this needs to happen in one form or another throughout the year – we have a fantastic product but we need to be open for business all year round.
‘With that in mind,’ she said, ‘a sister organisation, West Cork Experiences, has been established, offering bespoke tours right throughout the year.’
County Mayor, Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy (FF) said he was pleased that the committee was benefiting from the Council’s decision to put ‘one percent of rates into an economic development fund.’ And Tim Lucey, the CEO of Cork County Council – one of the festival’s main sponsors – described both the chairperson, Helen Collins, and the manager, Fiona Field, as ‘a force of nature’ and praised them for returning the Council’s investment ‘multi-fold’ during the Taste of West Cork Food Festival.
• See West Fork magazine with this week’s edition for more.