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How to capitalize on  Agritourism  Opportunities

How to capitalize on Agritourism Opportunities

Farmers who start Agritourism businesses are entrepreneurs and as such need to acquire solid marketing and communication skills.

“The specialties of the region are what attract the modern traveller, and none more so than the food and the cooking of the region. This is why regional Agritourism is the tourism of the future, because it allows the visitor to truly understand and appreciate the complexity and inimitable character of a region.” John McKenna, Irish Times.

There are many case studies worldwide linked to the successful ‘farm to fork’ Agritourism trend. Meals do not have to aspire to ‘cuisine’ or ‘gastronomy’ experiences. What the Agritourism market is seeking, is authenticity. Gastronomy experiences are often linked to the formal Hotel/Restaurant industry, which is a different target market.

What are ‘farm to fork’ Agritourism experiences? The answer is simple “Produce sourced locally from farmers in a particular region.” Because agricultural production is seasonal, menus will change, so I would advise Agritourism farmers to keep their ‘farm to fork’ meals as simple as possible. Never underestimate the excitement and genuine appreciation by visitors of a braai, farm baked bread and fresh vegetables/salads.
These simple Agritourism experiences provide the opportunity for a farmer and his family to interact socially with his guests. People relate to people and the value of storytelling is often the best ‘word-of-mouth’ free marketing a farmer can utilize successfully. Charles Back, Hannes Myburgh, Julian Melck and so many other farmers are experts in the art of storytelling.

Interestingly, in a recent research study conducted in Europe, it emerged that farmers did not see themselves as entrepreneurs. In fact, when the researcher asked whether farmers saw Agritourism as a diversification of their agricultural business, they replied that they viewed Agritourism as ‘soft farming’ which could possibly occupy their time while earning additional income.

Every farmer has different character traits and personalities, but successful Agritourism farmers are entrepreneurs who add networking, innovation, risk-taking and marketing skills to his or her responsibilities on the farm.

The interest in Agritourism is more prominent amongst the young farmers who understand the value of developing a brand for their farm. I encourage these young farmers to work together to form “Agritourism Routes” to attract self-drive visitors to a region that can be viewed as a destination.

The challenge of those in the Tourism Accommodation business is to increase the stay of their guests (bed nights). The fewer bedrooms requiring housekeeping, the more efficient the management operation. This applies to Agritourism as well. A range of activities and/ or experiences is essential to attracting repeat business of guests and the sustainability (increased spend) of the Agritourism farm.

The concept of Agritourism routes refers to an “initiative to bring together a variety of activities and attractions under a unified theme”. Agritourism Routes is a market-driven approach for rural tourism destination development.

The “How to” Steps to successful Agritourism Route development

1. Compile an audit of attractions/activities that you want to include in the region.
2. Develop standards so potential Agritourism Route members understand what they are committing too.
3. Identify Unique Selling Experiences/Activities/Products of the Agritourism region, this can include seasonal events.
4. Develop an Agritourism Business Plan, which includes a Strategic Marketing Plan and Budget.
5. Decide on a Plan of Action/Time frame in which to achieve objectives of the Agritourism Route.
6. Start small and do research on the Target Markets, for example, the self-drive visitors who attend Agricultural Exhibitions and Shows.
7. Develop an Agritourism Brand Identity (logo) for the Route.
8. Re-evaluate your Agritourism Route Plan every six months.
9. Work together with your local Tourism office.

What are the types of Agritourists?

1. Hourly agritourists – these visitors watch specific activities, for example, milking of cows.
2. Daily agritourists – these visitors do not stay overnight, they partake in activities, for example, mountain biking.
3. Overnight agritourists – these visitors stay in farm accommodation/camping facilities for a minimum of one night.
4. Weekend agritourists
5. Destination agritourists who spend a significant amount of their holiday on the farm or on several farms within a specific region.

The purpose of the visit to an agritourism farm is also important: leisure; educational or farm produce direct purchasing.

Target Markets
Statistics South Africa released a report in June 2023 which showed the significance of ‘age’ in the tourism market: The age distribution indicates that out of all tourists, [43 379 (6,3%)] were aged less than 15 years; [76 749 (11,1%)] were aged between 15 and 24 years; [160 288 (23,2%)] were aged between 25 and 34 years; [204 489 (29,5%)] were aged between 35 and 44 years; [127 802 (18,5%)] were aged between 45 and 54 years; [54 677 (7,9%)] were aged between 55 and 64 years and [24 684 (3,6%)] were aged 65 years and above.

If we analyse the above figures and aggregate the ages from 25 until 44, we can identify the age of the target market which is 41,5%. This reflects well for the Agritourism market as this is also the self-drive market.

Characteristics of Agritourists:

Obviously, agritourists want to experience life on a farm, but the reasons for doing so, are numerous. Many visitors were born on farms or in rural areas and remember elements of farm life from their childhood.

More recently because of the Covid pandemic, many agritourists seek more psychological reasons for visiting a farm, whether to ‘detox’ from urban lifestyles by immersing themselves in peaceful environments or to re-evaluate their lifestyles and values. Many visitors are not only nature lovers and environmentalists, but also change seekers. They value authentic experiences and activities.

What are the minimum standards required to manage an Agritourism farm?

1. Accessibility and Signage to enable visitors to reach their destination safely and easily. If the farm is situated over 50 kilometres from a Diesel/Petrol garage, please inform your guests upfront.
2. Facilities on the farm include a reception area (opening hours need to be communicated before the guest arrives); a Parking area; Signage to dining areas; farm staff who are trained to answer questions and a farm shop or area where, for example, wood could be bought for a braai. The easiest way to identify the guest experience is to ask a friend in the tourism industry to visit the farm. Alternatively, Agritourism Africa offers training to those wanting to professionalise and personalise their Agritourism experience.
3. The minimum Infrastructure requirements include internal roads; clearly marked walking/hiking/cycling paths; electricity (or alternative sources of power); water and ablution facilities.
4. Safety and Security is a concern amongst all visitors and safety measures need to be highlighted prior to the visitor arrival to contextualise any negative perceptions. Signage is essential on an Agritourism farm to prevent visitors becoming lost or requiring assistance. If there are ‘No Entry’ areas these must be clearly demarcated.
5. Firefighting plans and rescue places of safety should a fire start in an accommodation unit or on the farm. Visitors must know what to do, otherwise they will panic.
6. First-aid facilities within accommodation units and on the Agritourism farm are important, particularly if there are animals or reptiles on the farm. Education of visitors is key to responding to any crisis. Agritourism farmers need to remember that what their perception of a ‘normal occurrence’ is not necessarily the same as a visitors’ view of the same experience.
7. Sanitation is important and the cleanliness of accommodation and/or visitor areas is one of the top 5 important areas mentioned on visitor sites like Trip Advisor.
8. Garbage areas must be clearly demarcated, and many visitors enquire about recycling bins.
9. WIFI and stable internet connectivity are important to 92% of all visitors to and within South Africa. Make sure visitors understand upfront if there is no connectivity or problems in this regard. Plug points to charge phones and or computers are also important.

To summarise, Agritourism is not a ‘pastime’, it requires a business approach and professional marketing to attract and meet the expectations of Agritourism visitors. Fortunately, the nature of Agritourism visitors is not as demanding as urban tourism products and services, however Agritourism visitors have needs and these must be met, particularly in the age where complaints are aired on social media.

Agritourism Africa provides a range of services, and more information can be found on the website Agritourism Training is provided by Jacqui Taylor and her LinkedIn profile is on https://www.linkedin. com/in/jacqui-taylor-0331a817/

AgriAbout No 127 November 2023

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