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Gozo recommended for the title of European Region of Gastronomy 2026

IGCAT

The jury will submit in the coming weeks their recommendations to the region and IGCAT Board will take a final decision based on the region’s response. Subject to the region’s response, the jury expects that IGCAT Board will approve Gozo’s title at the next IGCAT Advisory Forum scheduled for 12 June 2024. 

An international jury comprising of four international experts, accompanied by IGCAT’s President, Diane Dodd PhD considered the application of Gozo region for the title European Region of Gastronomy 2026. After reviewing the bid book The Island of Gozo: An Eclectic Journey submitted on 14 December 2023, the jury visited the region, 12-14 February 2024. The aim of the visit was to assess the region’s appropriateness and readiness to host the title in 2026. The jury will prepare a comprehensive report with recommendations to support the region’s journey.

During the visit, the jury met with more than 30 leading stakeholders and organisations from across the islands, including city leaders, academic institutions, and local entities concerned with the development and protection of Gozo as a gastronomic region. The jury was pleased to get to know many stakeholders from public, private, third sector and academic institutions and applauded the efforts of all involved from many sectors in the strategies and plans for the region.

General comments

The jury was impressed by how the vision for Gozo, European Region of Gastronomy 2026 has been inspired and reinforced by the Regional Development Plan which places particular attention on agriculture, environment and social-cultural growth. They witnessed an emerging concern to protect species and traditional food production that considers nature, culture, crafts and wellness of local citizens.

In particular, the jury recognised the leadership from Gozo Regional Council, President Dr. Samuel Azzopardi, Executive Secretary Rita Mifsud Attard, Cultural Manager Naomi Galea, EU/Local Funds Manager, Fabian Galea, Projects Manager Peter Ray Said, IT Manger Baskal Saliba, Environmental Manager Nicky Saliba, the support of Communications Coordinator Darren Cassar, and Arc Research and Consultancy (Elaine Falzon and Davinia Galea) and the many great examples of good practises, not forgetting the three Gozo Ambassadors – Anna Marie Galea, George Borg and Amand P. Veranneman – that other regions could learn from including:

  • Gozo Regional Council’s capacity to bring together all the stakeholders to develop a concise and consistent marketing strategy for the European region of Gastronomy;
  • Gozo Regional Development Authority’s Research and Strategic Plan for Rural Development that included all the stakeholders and we value partnership and cooperation, the consultation process is very positive;
  • Tourism and Economic Development Directorate of the Ministry for Gozo’s commitment to develop audio-visual material about Gozo’s food heritage (storytelling capacity);
  • Gozo Tourism Association’s visionary, creative and supportive of businesses;
  • Magro Food Tour Experience, a private sector initiative that underlines core values related to safeguarding the heritage of food-making and provided a valuable and emotional visitor experience;
  • Gozo Artisan Network’s commitment to developing food gifts and food experiences for the World Food Gift Challenge and their commitment to a quality label to identify real local crafts;
  • Xwejni Salt Pans a heart-felt visitor experience, sharing the intangible heritage passed from generation to generation, and an opportunity to learn about the fragility of working with nature;
  • Gozo Business Chamber’s dedication to encouraging young entrepreneurs;
  • Gozo NGO Association that is bringing civil society together, promoting sustainability in events including the importance of local food;
  • Institute of Tourism Studies’s forward looking dedication to climate change and their commitment on youth policies in the hospitality sector to retain talent and ensure trained professionals to provide an excellent service for visitors.
  • Institute of Earth Systems of the University of Malta (Gozo Campus) research and application of AI to find solutions for climate change and working with universities at an international level and recovery of autochthonous varieties resistant to climate change;
  • Friends of the Earth Malta that are restoring the Comino Bakery as a socio-cultural and environmental project;
  • Gozo Action Group Foundation implementing the leader programme and a great partner to work with other European Regions of Gastronomy for sustainable rural development;
  • Heritage Malta‘s exceptional job in preserving and promoting seven heritage sites in Gozo. The jury was particularly impressed with the two visited sites: Ġgantija Archaeological Park and Ta’ Kola Windmill.

Above all, the jury want to compliment the human capital that is truly special in Gozo, the individual stories, passion, love and willingness to share their story was felt and especially they would like to say a thanks to chef Christopher Pace of Al Sale restaurant, John Magro, Chairperson at Magro Brothers Group, Fr Gerald Buhagiar, Salvu Vella one of the last remaining Comino residents, Josephine Xuereb from the Xwejni Salt Pans, chef Rosina from Ta’Rosina, Rikkardu Zammit and Alex Debono, sheep farmers, Mathew and Nancy Buttigieg from Mekren Bakery, the fisherman Angelo Meilak.

Finally, the jury noted the great role that the hospitality sector is playing and wished to thank everyone that provided incredible food, hospitality and generosity throughout the visit and especially: The Duke Hotel (Victoria), Al Sale Restaurant (Xaghra), Café Jubilee (Victoria), Ta’ Rosina (Sannat), Mekran Bakery (Nadur), Il-Kartell Restaurant (Marsalforn), ITS students and staff (Qala) and Ta Frenc Restaurant (Xaghra).

Recommendation

The jury appreciated that the bid:

  • integrates the six different focus areas of IGCAT;
  • has had a genuine development with multiple stakeholders participating;
  • Includes plans for Gozo’s participation in IGCAT joint projects that show a commitment to the European dimension
  • presents a long-term lasting legacy for the region;
  • shows a strong commitment from the regional partners to sustainability and quality food products;

The jury agreed that the exceptional food and hospitality found in Gozo, the quality of local products, commitment to traditional methods of food production, the culture and indeed harmony of cultures, arts and crafts makes Gozo’s application extremely strong. Therefore, on the basis of the written application and visit to the region, the jury decided that Gozo region should be recommended for the title European Region of Gastronomy 2026 and pass to the final phase of the application process.

The jury will submit in the coming weeks their recommendations to the region and IGCAT Board will take a final decision based on the region’s response. Subject to the region’s response, the jury expects that IGCAT Board will approve Gozo’s title at the next IGCAT Advisory Forum scheduled for 12 June 2024. The jury very much hope to see preparations unfold for the region’s Award Ceremony in October 2024 which will be an opportunity to share Gozo’s eclectic food treasures with the world.

Jury composition
  • Diana Hounslow, Ambassador for Hauts-de-France European Region of Gastronomy 2023 and expert in tourism focussed her attention on jobs, creativity, tourism and entrepreneurship.
  • Jaume Gomila, promotor of Menorca, European Region of Gastronomy 2022 and President of the Adult Schools of Menorca who focussed his attention on culture, citizen engagement, empowerment and educational initiatives in the region.
  • Levan Kharatishvili, Founder and CEO of Creative Strategies Lab (Georgia), founder of the first Gastronomy Academy in Georgia, as well as expert for the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe focussed his attention on visibility, communication, marketing, legacy and evaluation.
  • Emanuela Panke, General Manager of Sicily, European Region of Gastronomy 2025 and President of Iter Vitis Cultural Route of the Council of Europe focussed her attention on environment and sustainability.
  • Dr. Diane Dodd accompanied the jury to ensure that all financial, governance and legal aspects will ensure a long-term legacy for the region.
Co-Founder & Chief Editor - TravelDailyNews Media Network | Website | + Posts

Vicky is the co-founder of TravelDailyNews Media Network where she is the Editor-in Chief. She is also responsible for the daily operation and the financial policy. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Tourism Business Administration from the Technical University of Athens and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Wales.

She has many years of both academic and industrial experience within the travel industry. She has written/edited numerous articles in various tourism magazines.

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