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Kvarner recommended for the title of European Region of Gastronomy 2026

IGCAT

The Kvarner region is under review for the European Region of Gastronomy 2026, recognized for its commitment to sustainability and quality in food, hospitality, and cultural integration.

An international jury comprising of four international experts, accompanied by IGCAT’s President, Diane Dodd PhD considered the application of Kvarner region for the title European Region of Gastronomy 2026. After reviewing the bid book: Diversity is Beautiful submitted on 5 December 2023, the jury visited the region, 13-17 May 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 72 stakeholders from across the mountains, coast and islands such as local authorities, tourism directors, heritage experts, academics, business representatives, educationalists and local entities concerned with the development and protection of Kvarner as a gastronomic region. The jury was pleased to get to know so 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 Kvarner, European Region of Gastronomy 2026 has been inspired and reinforced by the Action Plan for the Development of Gastronomy in the Kvarner region, which places particular attention on hospitality and responsible destination management. The work of the Kvarner Regional Tourism Authority and Faculty of Tourism and Hospitality Management has been exceptional in this regard and provides a road map for how multiple sectors working together can ensure the sustainable food future for Kvarner and contribute to an excellent European Region of Gastronomy.

In particular, the jury commended the work of the Kvarner Tourism Board in engaging accommodation providers, food and wine producers, heritage managers, citizens, as well as educationalist across the region. The jury witnessed an emerging interest to preserve the wellness of local citizens as well as their landscapes, food and culture and are confident that if all sectors commit to the Action Plan for the Development of GastronomyKvarner will be able to achieve this. In particular, the jury recognised the leadership role of Peršić Živadinov, Director of Kvarner Tourism Board, her team and all the tourism managers from across the region that they met because of their committed to responsible and balanced tourism management. Notable thanks go to all the tourist boards in Kvarner Region, and especially to Opatija Tourist BoardGorski Kotar Tourist Board; Kastav Tourist BoardRab Tourist BoardCres Tourist BoardLošinj Tourist BoardKrk Island Tourist BoardVrbnik Tourist BoardCrikvenica Tourist BoardVinodol Tourist BoardKraljevica Tourist BoardRijeka Tourist Board as well as Primorje-Gorski Kotar County; Fužine Municipality; and Cres Municipality.

The jury also commended the work of the Faculty of Tourism and Hospitality Management for educating on all levels for a higher-quality and responsible tourism. The Faculty’s research work on gastronomy and sustainability has ensured that the Action Plan for the Development of Gastronomy in the Kvarner Region and the concrete action plans contained within are based on knowledge and evidence.

While there is rich and beautiful diversity to be experienced across the region, the jury also appreciated an emerging common theme about health, well-being, vitality and the importance of local food, medicinal herbs, honey and pure water. These were seen throughout the visit and in particularly during the impressive guided tour of Opatija’s Park Angiolina – Botanical Garden; the visit to Collection Olive Grove on the Trail of Centuries Old Olive Grows on the island of Cres, the Agricultural Cooperative Cres; the House of Nature “Kotač” and in Lošinj`s Fragrant Garden as well as through the important activities of the Association of Beekeepers.

The jury were also impressed by the investment, creativity and innovation with regard to heritage interpretation and they applauded efforts made to connect these to food experiences in interesting ways, as witnessed in Apoxyomenos Museum (Lošinj), Nerezinac Lugger Sailing Interpretation CentreFrankopan Interpretation Centre at Nova Kraljevica Castle (Kraljevica) and the Rijeka City Museum – Sugar Refinery Palace (Rijeka). On this note, the jury enjoyed the professionalism and knowledge of all the official guides that shared their immense knowledge and love for the region.

The jury agreed that one of the strongest assets within the region is the quantity and quality of indigenous plants (grapes, olives and herbs) and, in particularly the exclusive grape varieties that they were able to discover. The jury were impressed by the exceptionally high-quality wines and congratulate the wineries for their dedication and collaborate through the Association of Wineries and Winemakers and were impressed by the general consensus that wineries can support their local communities more by making sure their wine is exclusive for locals and visitors.

The jury noted the great role that the hospitality sector is playing, and the role that Kvarner Quality Labels will play in helping visitors to identify where they can buy local. The jury expect many more restaurants, wineries, accommodation providers and events across the region will be recognized for their quality and commitment to local food in the future. The jury were pleased to see that Kvarner’s new labels will ensure that good food, across the range, is available for everyone.

On this note, the jury wish to thank everyone that provided incredible food, hospitality and generosity throughout the visit and especially: Bitoraj Hotel & RestaurantHeritage Hotel and Restaurant KukurikuPlavi Podrum restaurantNavis Boutique & Design HotelAgricultural Cooperative CresEVOO MacmalićDairy Farm Loznati and Bukaleta tavernMoby Dick GelateriaRužić WineryPlovanić WineryWines KomadinaNada Restaurant and WineryKatunar Estate WineryGospojaŠipun WineryAgricultural Cooperative Vrbnik“šurlice” home-made pasta presentationEva restaurantLošinj Hotels & Villas – Villa Alhambra; Alfred Keller Restaurant; Dida RestaurantNa Kantunu tavernHeritage Hotel Imperial, OpatijaBoutique Hotel Esplanade, Crikvenica; and Boutique & Design Hotel Navis, Opatija.

The jury noted the important role of the ambassadors for their commitment to protecting and promoting the regional food, as well as their efforts to raise the visibility of the candidacy.

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 Kvarner’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 Kvarner, the culture and indeed harmony of culture, heritage and well-being makes Kvarner’s application extremely strong. Therefore, based on the written application and visit to the region, the jury decided that Kvarner region should be recommended for the title European Region of Gastronomy 2026.

The jury will submit in the coming weeks their recommendations to the region and IGCAT will approve this recommendation at the next IGCAT Advisory Forum scheduled for 26 June 2024. The jury very much hope to see preparations unfold for the region’s Award Ceremony this year, which will be an opportunity to share Kvarner’s food treasures with the world.

Jury composition

Dr. Diane Dodd, IGCAT President accompanied the independent jury to ensure that all financial, governance and legal aspects will ensure a long-term legacy for the region. The independent jury members were:

  • Barbara Zmrzlikar, from Slovenia European Region of Gastronomy 2021 and IGCAT expert on tourism focussed her attention on innovation, creativity, tourism and job opportunities;
  • Jaume Gomila, from Menorca, European Region of Gastronomy 2022 and IGCAT Expert on Culture and Education who focussed his attention on culture, citizen engagement, empowerment and educational initiatives;
  • Jens Storli, from Trondheim-Trøndelag, European Region of gastronomy 2022 and IGCAT expert on Local Strategy Development and Communication, focussed his attention on visibility, communication, marketing, legacy and evaluation
  • Sari Kaasinen, Executive Manager Saimaa, European Region of Gastronomy 2024 focussed her attention on environment and sustainability.
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Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.

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