Whether you’ve ‘glamped’ in the Great British countryside, squished grapes between your toes in southern France or carved pumpkins at a local farm, you’ve (perhaps unknowingly) taken part in agri-tourism.
It’s an industry that’s expected to see continued growth as we return to being more connected with our environment and the origins of products.
What is agri-tourism?
In its most basic sense, agri-tourism can be thought of as just that; the integration of tourism and agriculture.
More precisely, it’s defined as a form of commercial enterprise that links agricultural production or processing with tourism in order to attract visitors, with a number of financial, educational and social benefits for tourists, producers and communities.
With the rise in consciousness of sustainable living, we hope that through our Greek retreat Aroha, we can show how an agri-tourism holiday can benefit a wider community.
And agri-tourism don’t have to be big, complex ideas. Cut-your-own Christmas tree farms, on site farmers’ markets, winery tours, rural B&Bs, animal farm parks – all examples of agri-tourism.
Why is it on the rise?
The way people travel is evolving as explorers seek memorable, immersive experiences and there is also a growing demand to get back to nature and escape the noise of daily life.
It’s not enough to fly to a warmer climate and lie poolside, fuelled by Pinterest, well thumbed Lonely Planet guides and exotic Instagram feeds.
Travellers are stepping off the beaten track and treading new paths, embracing local culture, food, flora and fauna.
Agri-tourism caters to this rising demand for valuable experiences, by offering insight into (often otherwise unseen) industries. In doing so, it can also become a key contributor to the local tourism economy, attracting a higher volume of visitors and increasing the length of their stay (and therefore spend). This isn’t just great for local businesses, but it feels great to be contributing to smaller, local economies.
Agri-tourism is the next step in eco-aware living, it’s an opportunity to educate and influence buying and lifestyle choices
Who benefits from agri-tourism
Everyone! Travellers, small agricultural businesses and in some cases, the planet.
Agri-tourism can offer guests new insights and experiences that in most instances, strengthens their connection with the environment.
Whether it’s cut-flower gardens offering bouquet workshops, dairy farms inviting guests to milk cows, or those with idyllic unused land converting it into space for tents or temporary accommodation facilities, it’s a great way to fuse travel experiences for guests with agricultural benefits for businesses.
Agri-tourism is the next step in eco-aware living, it’s an opportunity to educate and influence buying and lifestyle choices.
Opening the gates to the agri-curious for interactive farm tours and workshop will, we hope, spread a better understanding of the importance of sustainable farming practices.
Millennials are increasingly receptive to more sustainable ways of thinking and research shows they look to industry leaders to support them in this.
In a 2018 survey of 1,000 UK and USA consumers by Futerra, 88% said they would like brands to help them live more sustainably – and that shouldn’t exclude travel and tourism.
Is an agricultural escape just for summer?
It’s likely that what you get from agri-tourism will evolve depending on seasonal activity – but this in itself, can create an incentive to return.
Christmas tree farms are a great example of a seasonal operation with a limited consumer offering, but animal farms for example often have something exciting happening all year around, offering a variation of seasonal experiences.
For us, guests who visit our Greek retreat Aroha in autumn will have the opportunity to join the harvest and spend time with farmers learning about their techniques, trees and soil maintenance and the biodiversity and eco-systems of the olive groves.
Visit in the winter or spring and the local community will share traditional oil pressing and soap making techniques in interactive workshops.
In respecting the natural order opportunities emerge to generate income, educate and inspire.
Why is agri-tourism important?
What’s important is that these additional revenue streams can be fundamental for the continued success of small, sustainable farms and producers.
They’re now competing in a global market space (opened up by international transport and communication) and face competition from industrial operations, that are often able to produce more at less cost, aided by extensive machinery and modern technology.
In contrast, the input costs of sustainable farming methods can be substantial, with less consistent, guaranteed yield (and therefore income). This can cause major financial strain, which agri-tourism can help alleviate.
The cost and scope of an agri-tourism model really varies by agricultural business taking into account varying factors to create a unique business model.
A dairy farm might decide to make site tours available to schools at a small subsidy, giving children the chance to see milk coming from cow’s udders and apply classroom learning through interactive experiences.
Alternatively, it might be a complementary enterprise that see’s a portion of your produce allocated to wholesalers, while the remainder is reserved for onsite activity – ‘pick your own fruit’ for example, or cheese making workshops at a farm.
Some have found the latter to be so successful that it’s become their primary enterprise; a number of UK farmers are now generating significant income through a rapidly growing ‘staycation’ market.
Camping, shepherd’s huts, yurts and compact pods have a small set up cost and can generate significant profit per square foot.
Why are we so invested in agri-tourism?
This industry is the perfect example of how we can amend our consumerist habits to benefit others. We are looking to use this as a bedrock to pioneer a community backed, community funded and community benefiting retreat.
Believe Tribe is the name we give those who are building and crowdfunding Aroha, our retreat in Greece which we plan to launch towards the end of summer.
The project is led by South African philanthropist couple Michelle and Vaughan Nicholls, we bring together those that are passionate about people and planetary health with agri-tourism and ‘paying-it-forward’ at its core.
The site will be set among traditionally farmed olive groves that have been maintained by the local community for generations. It’s important to us that our presence doesn’t disrupt the natural order and we’re keen for olive farming to continue on the land.
Fortunately, it’s not a choice between the two; and we’ve discovered a multitude of models worldwide, where agriculture and tourism coexist in harmony.
Find out how the Aroha agri-tourism project is progressing and how to become a member of the Believe Tribe here.