Agritourism is a niche/specialized tourism sector that appeals to visitors who are looking for an authentic farm tourism experience that is also educational. The scope of activities is wide; from farm, accommodation to harvest festivals to direct sales from farms, for example, a ‘pick-your-own’ farm experience.
In most cases Agritourism provides an additional source of income for farms that allows them to keep farming while offering tourism type activities particularly during the post-harvest period. Agritourism also provides a direct marketing and communication approach that can be very effective in building brands or introducing new products. The growth of wine routes and the world class wine tourism destinations is an example of how successful Agritourism can be to farmers.
Collaboration with other farmers is the start of any Agritourism marketing efforts. This can be done by forming a Local Farmers Agritourism group that decides where the focus areas should be for their marketing programmes, for example, should farmers in Elgin focus on Deciduous Fruit Routes or Festivals.
Agritourism initiatives are not suitable for some types of farmers – if remote, one would need more than one Agritourism attraction or interest in the surrounding areas. Proximity of the farms to other destinations is obviously a consideration, as are time constraints and manpower.
Start by writing down a list of the possible types of Agritourism enterprises that could be developed, then narrow down the list bearing in mind costs and the volume of work involved. Get advice from others to ensure an objective opinion. Do you have socially oriented, enthusiastic family members who would enjoy tourists? Maybe this is an opportunity to involve some of your farm workers?
An Agritourism attraction may be the same activity the farm does anyway. The only difference is that the activity needs to be ‘packaged’ to attract the public. Once you have decided what areas to focus on that provide an authentic experience, prepare a detailed action plan and budget. With plans it is best to work backwards from the date of the launch/event. Start small so you can gain confidence and remember that word of mouth is the best way to build a business, so organise it correctly first time round! Always remember to ask for feedback!
It is also important to remember right at the start of your planning to identify the type of visitor you want because they will have specific expectations.
Remember to offer something to buy! Collect all names and contact details to add to your database for direct marketing purposes.
Margi Biggs, Managing Director of Specialized Tours & Events had this advice to offer: Be authentic in your Agritourism initiative; Focus on the personal element/story; Charge appropriately for goods and services; Identify target markets; Offer a spread of goods and services; Focus on all elements of communication; Consistency will attract repeat visitors and assist with word-of-month advertising; Always get feedback and Keep on Innovating!
Further topics and insights in this series of columns will include: Inbound tour operators (those companies that bring in tourists from overseas); Creating your Marketing message and plan; Dealing with visitor expectations; Developing a Customer relations and Sales strategy; Maximising income sources; Communication and Social Media Plan; How to start a Farmers group; How to start a Farmers market or route and any other topics that you as readers would like advice on.
Written by Jacqui Taylor.