Agritourism helps revive travel, hospitality sectors
Global agritourism is on the rise, in part thanks to the pandemic, which has people seeking out more secluded destinations. The market is expected to expand by $4.33 billion between now and 2025, according to Technavio, and other driving factors of the trend include interest in local food and family-oriented activities.
SmartBrief TravelPro reader Terry Reagan, a Chile-based travel agent originally from California, weighed in on our survey question “what made you decide on your travel specialty?” Reagan said she became interested in the agritourism sector because she saw an unmet need.
"Travel agents and tour organizers can be very good at putting together an itinerary but usually have little to no idea of what farmers, graziers, foresters, etc., are looking for in their travels and even less idea of how to find what they need," Reagan said. "The people within the agriculture sector, who know what they want to see and do and to whom they want to talk, usually have no idea of how to get to those places or how to handle all the details around their narrow focus."
Reagan's late husband was a farmer who was "active in agricultural education and lobbying," and the pair combined their expertise.
"We were able to start organizing visits for foreigners to see the agricultural sector in Chile," Reagan said. "Our contacts enabled us to set up technical programs for Chilean farmers in other countries."
Beyond catering to farmers, agritourism has an important role to play in educating people about where their food comes from and preservation, offering a range of activities beyond the better-known activities such as corn mazes and pumpkin picking. Some farms are offering "you pick" dining, winemaking and even food festivals in addition to educational programs.
The state of Maharashtra in India has recognized the benefits of this segment. Agri-Tourism Development Corporation Baramati, with the aid of Directorate of Tourism, Maharashtra, recently held a virtual conference on the subject.
Aditya Thackeray, minister for tourism and environment of Maharashtra, said that 60% of India’s citizens participate in the agricultural industry, noting that linking it with tourism was essential.
"Agritourism is instrumental for employment generation and economic improvement especially in these pandemic times when people have lost jobs, livelihoods, etc.," Thackeray said. "The current pandemic offers an opportunity for agritourism to grow as one of the fastest growing sectors in India. One of the safest ways to enjoy travel right now is to visit rural areas, experience rural life and enjoy a clean environment."
Reagan finds that some of her clients are interested in learning extensively about a specific field, while others seek an overview or are "farmers on vacation."
"We can sometimes even get a few people who have nothing to do with agriculture but who come on this type of tour because they know that they'll get off the typical tourist path and visit places that 'nobody' has heard of before and meet 'real' people," Reagan said.
Curt Arens, who experienced agritourism to his family's farm before it was ever called by that name, shared the tangible and intangible benefits of the sector, including friendships made along the way.
"There are certainly many business-related decisions that need to be made when taking on a new agritourism enterprise, along with the regular farming operation," Arens writes. "From our standpoint, however, such enterprises offer many benefits that are even beyond a new income stream."
Agritourism opens the door for new businesses and sources of income, including using agricultural settings to create lodging, and event venues for weddings or corporate retreats. Overall, agritourism brings visibility to the agricultural sector while enabling farms to diversify income streams. Beyond these benefits, agritourism is also increasing interest in travel during a time when the industry as a whole needs a lift.
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