Discussing Long-Term Legacy and Prioritising Sustainability at 11th Regions of Gastronomy Platform Meeting

The Regions of Gastronomy Platform celebrated its 11th Meeting on 14-16 June 2017, following the announcement of Kuopio (Finland) as European Region of Gastronomy 2020. Hosted by ProAgria North-Savo in the city of Kuopio, the meeting gathered representatives from IGCAT and the Platform member regions in order to discuss current situation and envision future steps. The Platform also welcomed Tourism Development Manager of Ljubljana Tourism, Petra Križan as observer from the region of Central Slovenia.

Given the strong interest expressed by a number of European regions to join the Platform and bid for the European Region of Gastronomy Award, members proposed to revise Platform’s guidelines, introducing a mandatory requirement for candidate regions to develop a gastronomy plan, in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of the project. This decision, drawing from the successful implementation of a gastronomy plan in Catalonia, European Region of Gastronomy 2016, stressed the importance of knowledge- and good practices-sharing within the Platform that allows members to beneficially learn from each other.

Joint promotion strategies were also discussed, paying special attention to the agreement between IGCAT and the European Travel Commission to be signed on 20 June 2017 and aimed at ensuring visibility of the Regions of Gastronomy Platform in the Visit Europe Portal. Furthermore, a promotional video of the Regions of Gastronomy was officially presented and members asked for Dr Diane Dodd‘s address on Catering for Thrill-Seekers: New Travel Trends to the Kuopio stakeholders to be added as a voiceover so that it can be used in other public forums.

Special focus was paid to the legacy of the European Region of Gastronomy Award, emphasising the significance of regional evaluation to the project and of early establishment of monitoring tools. Prof. Roberta Garibaldi, from the University of Bergamo (Italy), presented East Lombardy, European Region of Gastronomy 2017 case study, showing preliminary results and sharing the evaluation template adopted to regularly monitor the region’s performance.

Sustainability was also at the centre of discussion, especially due to 2017 being the International Year of Sustainable Tourism promoted by UNWTO. In this framework, UNWTO – Themis Foundation International Liaison Officer and IGCAT Expert, Dr. Edith M. Szivas held a workshop on simple sustainability key indicators, encouraging regions to adopt them as a guide in their respective programmes. IGCAT, presented a Sustainability Policy proposal illustrating the Platform’s shared 10 point vision for sustainability and highlighting regions’ commitment in the following focus areas: Feeding the planet; Education; Responsible tourism; Innovation; Globalisation; Digital agenda; Linking urban and rural; Health; Diversity; and Supporting SMEs.

Reports from Platform members on monitoring and current situation highlighted major strengths and challenges faced by regions, with a special focus on legacy planning and opportunities for other regions to learn from their experience. Finally, possibilities for cross-collaboration and joint funding initiatives were also discussed, especially with the aim of giving wider visibility to the Regions of Gastronomy project.

Meeting sessions were interposed with interesting case studies and visits to local stakeholders and events, to give Partners a taste of Kuopio’s culinary and cultural offer. These included Benestatera well-being performance at Kuopio Central Market Square; Kuopio Dance Festival; SATOA Goes Wild Food Festival; and Kuopion Saunalautta.

The next Regions of Gastronomy Platform Meeting will be hosted by Riga-Gauja region (Latvia) in October 2017.

The European Region of Gastronomy Platform and Award aim to contribute to better quality of life in European regions, by highlighting distinctive food cultures, educating for better health and sustainability and stimulating gastronomic innovation. IGCAT (International Institute of Gastronomy, Culture, Arts and Tourism) organises the award with the support of European institutions.

IGCAT is a non-profit organisation established in 2012 working in the fields of gastronomy, culture, arts and tourism. Through its worldwide network of experts, IGCAT aims to empower local communities by guiding, facilitating, and supporting local leaders in cities, regions and cultural projects to understand the potential of their distinct food, culture, arts and sustainable tourism assets. IGCAT is the official secretariat for the Region of Gastronomy Platform and provides the European Region of Gastronomy Award, the European Young Chef Award and the Innovative Food Souvenir Award.