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chineseambass1.jpgChinese Ambassador to Ireland, His Excellency Mr Luo Liang, visited a number of North Clare locations on Saturday as part of his first visit to the county. The Cliffs of Moher was the first stop and here Ambassador Luo was welcomed by the Mayor of Clare, Councillor Pat Hayes. The Ambassadors party enjoyed a guided tour of the Cliffs by Director Katherine Webster, which included a visit to the top of O’Brien’s Tower and to the Cliffs Exhibition.
 
During the tour Councillor Hayes took the opportunity to talk to the Chinese Ambassador about trade links between Clare and China and the potential for an increase in Chinese tourists to the county. They also discussed the Chinese passion for traditional Irish music – an area in which the Mayor was quick to highlight the strength of County Clare.

During 2011 the streamlining of visa requirements for Chinese visitors to Ireland has increased the ease of travel to this country. Furthermore the Irish food industry has been making great strides in the Chinese market.

“The number of Chinese visitors to the Cliffs of Moher has been increasing in the last few years and 2011 saw a number of Chinese specialist tour groups making regular visits. We want to encourage our Chinese friends to spend more time in County Clare that has so much to offer them.” said the Mayor, Councillor Pat Hayes “I am delighted to have had the opportunity to welcome Ambassador Luo here so early this year and we in the county look forward to doing likewise for many of his compatriots in the year ahead.”

The Ambassador’s next stop on his North Clare itinerary was to one of the county’s most prestigious food brands – the Burren Smokehouse in Lisdoonvarna. At the Smokehouse Ambassador Luo was met by Birgitta & Peter Curtin at the visitor centre, enjoyed a sample of the award winning Burren Smoked Irish Salmon and received an exclusive tour of the factory.

As well as Chinese Tourism there is great potential for Irish Food Exports to China (one of the BRIC countries). With a population of 1.3 bn, China offers huge opportunity to Irish Exporters in the agri-food and Fisheries section.

According to the Irish Exporters Association Statistics for 2011 Irish Agri Food Exports rose by 10,2 %. (www.irishexporters.ie 2011 Year End Review). Irish Exports to China is less than 4% but already last year Ireland exported over €107m in food, seafood, beverages to China and according to Bord Bia Asia manager in Shanghai, Breiffini Kennedy, China will play a vital role in the future growth of Irelands agri-food industry.

Burren Smokehouse have had great success in 2011 winning contracts to International Speciality Food shops like Fortnum & Mason, London, Dean & Deluca USA & Kuwait and KaDeWe in Berlin. China is another possibility for high end Speciality Food shops and Food Service.  

The Ambassador and his party continued on to lunch at Burren Fine Wine & Food near Ballyvaughan and rounded off their tour with a visit to Poulnabrone Portal Tomb in the heart of the Burren. The 5,000 year old monument is one of the iconic sights of the Burren and together with the wild and rocky landscape of the Burren was as popular with the Ambassador as it is sure to be with future Chinese visitors. This was Ambassador Luo’s first visit to County Clare and he expressed his conviction that Chinese visitors would appreciate the stunning vistas of the Cliffs of Moher and the spectacular landscape of the Burren. He also highlighted the warm welcome he had received in County Clare and the remarkable cultural heritage of the county.