European Region of Gastronomy 2020 title was recommended to be given to Kuopio Region (Finland), on Wednesday 14 June 2017 at Kuopio City Hall, after the presentation of the region’s bid book to an appointed jury. The announcement took place in the framework of the 11th Regions of Gastronomy Platform meeting, held in Kuopio, 14-16 June 2017.
Katri Kostamo, from ProAgria PS opened the event, followed by Head of Unit of the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment for North Savo, Jan Blomberg, and Marketing Director of the City of Kuopio, Kirsi Soininen who warmly welcomed the audience.
President of IGCAT, Dr. Diane Dodd presented then the European Region of Gastronomy Award and Platform, holding an inspiring speech on the importance of cross-sectorial dialogue in regions to develop creative solutions aimed to cater for new trends in tourism, especially the so-called foodie generation. Dr. Dodd highlighted that “it is Europe’s lesser-known regions that are providing a treasure trove for the more adventurous creative and food loving travelers” who “love new combinations” and long for being “surprised or delighted.” In order to meet the needs and preferences of these “thrill-seekers” who “are more concerned with healthy foods and where their ingredients come from” than previous generations, she claimed that agricultural, hospitality, agrifood, and creative sectors must work in synergy “to rethink the way we present and serve not only our food but our terroir.” Dr. Dodd also stressed the importance of adopting smart technology solutions, since foodies are “a generation embracing social media platforms” to communicate “good experiences.” She stated that “IGCAT watches closely these trends and has come to the conclusion that by stimulating sustainable and ethical food travel” a contribution is made “to local economies in many more ways than conventional mass tourism.” She concluded emphasising that the European Region of Gastronomy “Award can be a catalyst to: nurture sustainable and ethical tourism; preserve European’s rich cultural and food diversity; bring back pride in regional cuisine and traditions; and innovate for new foodie generations.” The full speech is available here.
Kuopio Region’s bid book was presented afterwards with contributions from Antti Iire (Savonia University of Applied Sciences), Annaleena Hakatie (Verso Brands), and Ilona Sares (ProAgria PS).
The European Region of Gastronomy title was endorsed by an international jury, based on the bid book and the jury visit that took place on 13 June 2017. The evaluation panel included IGCAT experts as well as other international professionals with expertise in several fields.
International Liaison Officer at UNWTO – Themis Foundation and IGCAT expert on sustainable tourism, Dr. Edith M. Szivas (UK) chaired the jury and officially announced jury recommendations to Kuopio. Director of the UAE based SeaStar Consultancy, Dr. Szivas is a tourism development specialist with 25 years of international experience. Her expertise bridges industry and academia. She has been working on advisory projects for the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), EU, USAID and AFED (Arab Forum for Environment and Development) in the area of strategic tourism development, tourism policy and planning, national level tourism education and human resources development and luxury hotel management and branding in Africa, Asia, then Caribbean, Europe and the Middle East.
Prof. Roberta Garibaldi, expert on gastronomy tourism and evaluation from the University of Bergamo (East Lombardy, Italy) and Anton Rombouts, Mayor of s-Hertogenbosch (Noord-Brabant, Netherlands) acted as Vice Chairs of the jury, which further included: Anna Blaua, from Riga Tourism Development Bureau (Latvia), expert on tourism marketing; Blanca Cros, from the Catalan Tourism Agency (Spain), expert on external tourism promotion; and Jacinta Dalton, from Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (Ireland), expert on food development strategies.
Finally, Claire Brightley (UK), expert on sustainability and the environment; Carlos Fernandes (Portugal), expert on hospitality services; and Eric Sejersen (Denmark), expert on regional development strategies, formed part of the panel as external evaluators of the bid book.
The jury was impressed with the work carried out by Kuopio Region in preparing and presenting its bid, stressing that it:
- integrated the key focus areas of the European Region of Gastronomy into the programme.
- showed a strong commitment from the stakeholders and the bid book impressively showcased a wide range of relevant stakeholders, particularly SMEs
- demonstrated a strong sense of place
- showed a strong connection to the rhythm of nature
- conveyed a strong pride in local regional products and heritage
The panel also recommended that the region should:
- think further about the specific measurable objectives and consider how the award will help the region achieve these objectives and develop a fully outlined plan of activities in line with these objectives
- formalise the governance of wider stakeholder structure so everybody that wants to be involved can be involved
- outline and guarantee the necessary budget and ensure cross-political support
- consider how the message will be communicated throughout the tourism value chain and be integrated with the development and marketing activities
Finally, the jury claimed to be looking forward to seeing:
- how the programme outlined in the bid book will create economic value, strengthen SMEs and create jobs from the existing rich portfolio of local products and resources
- the independent evaluation results based on sustainable indicators
- the region grow and develop through work with all the other European Region of Gastronomy Platform regions.
The presentation of the bid book included a tasting of products from Kuopio Region offered by Chef Aki Hiltunen, from VS Restaurant and was followed by a press conference.
Kuopio is the 10th member of the Regions of Gastronomy Platform to be recommended the title and will be officially awarded in October 2017 at the Finnish Embassy in Brussels, in the framework of the European Week of Regions and Cities.
About the European Region of Gastronomy
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. Candidate regions are invited to join a knowledge-exchange platform of European regions in order to further cross-border collaborations and develop shared initiatives.
IGCAT (International Institute of Gastronomy, Culture, Arts and Tourism) 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 furthermore 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.