SUDDENLY the eyes of the country have turned to Malton.

I have noticed this more and more as I have travelled around the UK. There is a new positivity, a new optimism and new visitors in town this summer. We are on the map.

People now understand that Malton is also a tourist destination. This is fantastic news, something that we have been striving for, but it does mean we also have a challenge and a considerable opportunity before us.

As more people look to Malton to deliver on the food town message, as a community we must be even more ambitious, more daring, more professional and better at meeting the expectations of our visitors.

Before I look to the future challenges, let’s just remind ourselves what has changed. Eight years ago we had quite a few problems and no real direction for the town to take.

Now we have one of the North’s biggest food festivals, an award-winning monthly food market, Malton Cookery School, our amazing growing community of "Made in Malton" producers, which is about to welcome Y-O Bakehouse to the family when they open up on Market Street later this week, and the Malton food tours are about to start.

Above all we have a clear and simple message that any visitor in the country can understand - Yorkshire’s Food Capital (YFC).

Yes Malton does so much more too, but the YFC message promotes Malton in three words and gives people a reason to visit us.

Thank you Antonio Carluccio for it was he who bestowed that inspiring title upon Malton during one of his many visits to the town. Incidentally, Mr Carluccio is coming back to Malton next month for the Game and Seafood Festival on Saturday, September 10, so don’t miss that.

So to the challenges and opportunities. We must keep getting better at what we do. We must offer better products, better customer service and above all we must offer high quality.

Groovy Moo has lead the way in this department and we must all follow their example. And yet there are still some massive gaps in Malton’s offer.

Generally Sunday opening is a big problem. It is a growing trend in Malton, but there is more to do. Nationally, it is one of the biggest shopping days and I’m afraid we’re turning people off every seven days when they visit and we’re dead. Malton’s restaurant scene is good, but it could be better. There’s room for a top quality fish and chip shop and a gourmet burger joint too.

There is still a dearth of good B&Bs with visitors having to stay outside town.

On the markets we must try and up the quality and variety; the food festival must continue to attract national names. The outside eating areas in the centre of town could be much more ambitious over the summer months and that could truly transform the way the town feels.

So together, the community of Malton and Norton, let’s take up the challenge for the next few years. We have an amazing base to start from; people are listening so let’s go for it and make the town the destination of choice for thousands of British holiday makers. It’s already happening, let’s give them what they want.

Malton Monthly Food Market returns on Sat 13 August with live demos, music and some amazing stalls.