What is AGRITOURISM?
In June, I facilitated the 6th annual Responsible Tourism Dialogue, which is held in Tshwane every year as part of Sustainability Week. The four main topics that were covered included:
- Agritourism as a tourism development opportunity (Jaqui Taylor from Agritourism South Africa)
- The local economic impacts of events (Richard Whyllie from TKZN)
- The role of tourism associations in sustainable tourism development (Niki Glen from STPP and N3 Gateway)
- The triple bottom line impacts of sustainable business practices (Maresa Pretorius from Hotel Verde and Janette Horn from Sun International).
In the next 4 newsletters, I will share the findings from each of these presentation with our members, as I believe that each presenter provided good information educational material, which can be utilised by our associations and their members to support their tourism planning initiatives.
Agritourism is a commercial business at a working farm or agricultural operation conducted for the enjoyment of visitors that generates supplemental income for the owner. Tourism activities can include anything from educational services provided by farmers e.g. bread making, cheese making, olive picking, nature reserve on farmers land, accommodation, camping, hiking, cycling, fishing, petting farm animal, game farms, direct sales to tourists of produce and cultural / historic farms. There is a growing market for agritourism internationally, and typical agritourists include travellers who:
- Seek and enjoy authentic personal experiences they can discuss with others;
- Enjoy exploring the countryside and natural surroundings;
- Involve themselves in holiday activities, are sociable and like to engage with the local people/farmers;
- Are active/adventurous in their pursuits and enjoy a wide variety of experiences;
- Place a high value on contrasting experiences (different from their daily lives);
- Are young couples in their twenties seeking weekend getaways;
- Are mainly self-drive travellers; and
- Are Germans – “self-challengers”
The main aims of agritourism are to attract visitors to rural areas away from major cities, to increase employment and income of farming communities, to help stop the migration of people to the major cities, to enhance community pride, quality of life, rejuvenate regional culture and to support the agricultural industry through reducing impacts of seasonality.
In order to earn additional income, farmers are turning to tourism as an additional source of income. While sustainable agriculture is still the main business activity for small and large farmers, agritourism provides opportunities to diversify income and reduce risks. It is important when considering an agritourism facility, that cognisance is taken of the impacts of agritourists on the farming land and on farming ethics as well as the costs and benefits of establishing a tourism facility on the farm.
Agritourism is also not always straight forward. Some of the key challenges that need to be given some thought include:
- Access to financing for agritourism development;
- Agritourism signage – this is not common practice in South Africa yet;
- Agritourism marketing – this needs to be mainstreamed through current marketing initiatives;
- Quality standards & facility development for agritourism businesses – there are no standards for South Africa currently;
Then it is also key to remember that farmers main priorities are running a productive farm, while tourism often require availability of staff to meet and greet, take visitors on tours, serve food and beverage and so on. Opportunities therefore need to be created for people from the farming community to grow into these positions. Agritourism, like other tourism, requires a number of small touches, such as providing information on where to go, safe parking, cleanliness, local food, locally produce such as soaps and delicacies.
The Agritourism Association of South Africa (AASA) was established to assist farmers to educate tourists on the practice of sustainable farming, to build environmental awareness, including awareness of the importance of biodiversity, to empower farm staff through tourism and entrepreneurship training (SETA’s), educating tourists on the different farming ethics around farming methods, for example, organic farming and making local farm fresh products available for sale directly to Agritourists.
For more information on Agritourism and AASA, contact Jacqui Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org