Ireland is on route to become the next major culinary destination of the world. But with some major challenges ahead .
Over the past few years I’ve seen the growth of more Michelin Star Restaurants than ever before. Not only that, we have the best ingredients in the world. We have the lushest lands, finest dairy, coldest waters and produce amazing fish and crustaceans. Beautiful small artisan producers who take such pride in promoting our sustainable produce. It’s just simply to showcase the island of Ireland food and that’s why we are the new culinary destination of the world.
But we certainly need more restaurants to take this lead and we need to see the name of our wonderful producers included on menus and chefs singing this from the rooftops. This benefits everyone and we keep jobs in small businesses in Ireland . Everything has helped us get here; the amazing Wild Atlantic Way, the Ancient east and with the help of Failte Ireland with initiatives such as Taste the Island, etc, we are certainly on track .
But with a note of serious caution : The government need to realise the amount of money we contribute to the national economy and the amount of jobs that have been created in all local small towns and villages across the country.
Saying that I believe we are in worrying times. We as a nation must never go back to 2007 when Ireland was shown to be a poor value for money destination and better known as Rip off Ireland. With the increases we as business owners are seeing we have no option but to pass this on to the consumers. But we as a country have come too far for the same mistakes to be repeated so let this be a warning. Unfortunately the government seem to forget this .
Tourism is a long-term sustainable source of jobs in Ireland. Tourism cannot be off-shored or out-sourced. It has the potential to provide jobs in all parts of the country. Capital investment by the state is not enough and needs to be addressed. It is too low and not appropriate for a sector that is so important to the economy and the country. For some unknown reason tourism budgets continue to be reduced year after year, this leads to one startling fact, visitor numbers will slowly decline in future years if not addressed.
Furthermore Ireland is uniquely exposed to Brexit and consumer confidence has fallen back, after months of strong growth, restaurants in border counties have said the positive momentum before Brexit has came to a halt due to the dramatic fall in sterling. The government must also take decisive steps as we see cancellations across the board mounting due to Covid 19. It certainly is worrying times and I’m afraid we are on course for another global recession.
Written by Anthony Gray
Owner of Eala Bhan & Hooked Restaurants in Sligo
Former President of the Restaurant Association of Ireland