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Agri-tourism: a glance at potential Advantages and limitations of developing agri-tourism Vitality

document type: article
keywords: tourism / agri-tourism
source: LEADER technical dossier
last update:3/95

Tourism on the farm enables farmers to diversify their activities while enhancing the value of their products and property.

The operating terrain of agri-tourism is agriculture. It can play a vital role in preserving the rural way of life:

- as an economic activity, agri-tourism contributes to the survival and growth of agriculture and stock-rearing and to forestry, hunting, fishing, fruit, mushroom growing and so on;

- the rural landscape has been shaped by agriculture; it is a contributory factor to the variety of crops and farms, houses and architectural styles (villages, rural housing and buildings, hedgerows, terraces, low walls, etc.) and to a historical and cultural heritage which merits preservation;

- agri-tourism enthusiasts are also buyers of natural agricultural products or craft produced products which are typical of the region. Agri-tourism thus contributes to value enhancement for local products;

- agriculture has been provided with an abundant ethnological heritage: tools and agricultural machinery, craft professions and workshops, smithies, joiner's workshops and quarries, dams in places where there is a risk of flooding - all of which may be of interest to tourists - highly varied architecture, rich folklore, wide-ranging culinary traditions and, last but not least, a broad cross-section of men and women;

- finally, agri-tourism helps reconcile farming interests and environmental protection through integrated land management in which farmers continue to play a key role. Rural tourism "consumers" are attracted by a variety of agricultural and rural landscapes and fauna and flora. Their conservation is a prerequisite for the attraction of tourists to rural areas, but this often implies farming practices which are more costly or less profitable. Agri-tourism can offer a means to the farmer of obtaining a return on investments in favour of environmental management and benefiting the community as a whole.

  • Advantages and limitations of developing agri-tourism
Agri-tourism still makes up a very small part of both rural tourism (around 2% of the turnover of rural tourism) and agriculture (0.3% of agricultural turnover). The recent development of tourism on the farm is due to the emergence of certain constraints and new opportunities. For example, the acute crisis in stock-rearing in mountainous Mediterranean regions obliges farmers to diversify their activities and improve the exploitation of their products and heritage. Tourism on the farm is one of the rare activities which meets both of these requirements while raising added value through the direct sale of agricultural products (at prices two or three times higher than on the wholesale market) and the generation of revenue from occupation of otherwise empty farm buildings.

The first experiments with tourism on the farm appear however to suggest that high investment is needed and that the profitability of this hinges upon the mastery of a new profession by the farming family. Although agri-tourism can offer opportunities in many regions, the prerequisites for its success must be well understood: study of the level and profitability of the investments required, professionalism in accommodation provision, integration into local and national marketing and promotion networks, and development of new tourism activities on the farm or through networking with other structures. The ongoing organisation of this economic sector, focusing on quality and a wide range of services for tourists, the training of farmers, access for the latter to technical specialists and the national promotion of tourism "products", would appear to be a key factor in its future success.

  • Vitality
A few figures suffice to give a measure of the vitality of agri-tourism as a factor in development: since the development of this activity in the 80s, the number of participating farms has doubled in countries like Italy, the United Kingdom and France. The number of agri-tourism accommodation units exceeds 600 000. The percentage of farms offering some kind of tourist accommodation stands at 8% in (west) Germany and the Netherlands, 4% in France and 2% in Italy.

Spain, undoubtedly one of the main tourism centres in the world, does not yet have a highly developed agri-tourism sector: a mere 0.5% of its farms are involved. By way of contrast, in certain countries which are not members of the European Community, the proportion exceeds 10% (Austria) and even reaches 20% (Sweden, Switzerland).

(*) The texts in italics are taken from the publication "Les facteurs de résistance à la marginalisation dans les zones de montagne et défavorisées méditerranéennes communautaires" (Factors helping to prevent marginalisation in mountainous and disadvantaged Community Mediterranean areas), the report of a study conducted in 1992 on behalf of the European Commission's Directorate-General VI (Agriculture) in which the authors participated.

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