New strategy drives ambitious growth for the Scottish Agritourism tourism
By Charlotte Gilfillan, Senior Associate, Bell Ingram Highland
Scottish farming culture and food are at the heart of a growing consumer trend for agritourism, creating opportunities for farming businesses to diversify their operations.
The key distinction between agritourism and other types of rural diversification is that agritourism is defined as ‘a tourism or leisure activity on a working farm, croft or Estate which produces food’. The focus is on delivering an authentic visitor experience that centres around farming, food and drink, while sustaining the future of family farms and supporting the economy of fragile rural communities.
Agritourism is by no means a new concept, having resulted from a long and successful history of hospitality on Scottish farms and crofts. It can take many different forms, from on-farm accommodation and experiences like lambing and ‘be a farmer for a day’ to farm shops, cafés, events and even outdoor sports.
At the end of last year, Scottish Agritourism 2030 - A Strategy for Sustainable Growth was published, which set out a shared vision for the sector. This vision is one that aims to sustainably develop the rural economy, protect family farms for future generations, build consumer awareness and loyalty towards local produce, and celebrate the history and heritage of Scottish farming communities.
It is a collaborative approach from the public and private sectors both in Scotland and internationally, with the goal to increase Agritourism businesses to 1,000 by 2030. The aspiration is that Scotland will become a leading destination for agritourism, on an international scale. To achieve this, a staged action plan is currently being developed, which will prioritise actions and identify the lead supporting partners with specific responsibility for the delivery of each action.
In March 2022, Visit Scotland, on behalf of Scottish Agritourism, published the results of the inaugural Scottish Agritourism Growth Tracker 2021. The tracker found that as well as prospects for strong economic growth, the sector played an important role in sustaining and creating rural jobs, supporting vital family employment, and providing equal and inclusive roles for men and woman across various ages and skill levels.
With more consumers interested in food provenance and sustainable tourism, diversification into agritourism presents some exciting opportunities. Even the smallest of family farms and crofts can benefit, at a time when building resilience and adding value to existing farm businesses is so important in the face of changes to farming support.
If you are considering diversifying into agritourism, here are some keys things to think about:
Review Your Existing Business – Consider who your business needs to support, what you want to achieve and what assets you have to help deliver this. If your farm is tenanted, have discussions about diversification with your landlord at an early stage.
Market Research – Do your homework and see what others are doing in the local area and where there is demand for certain products and services.
Workforce – Assess what time and skills family members involved in your new enterprise already have and where there are gaps. If you need external staff, are there enough staff locally to meet requirements and logistically, can they get to you when you need them?
Design & Planning – Whether you have existing buildings or are looking to build new ones, consider if they need planning permission, listed building consent, change of use, etc. Access can sometimes be an issue so consider things like visibility splays onto roads and weight limits on bridges.
Adding Value – Think how you will add value to the visitor experience by making it authentic. This should focus on farming food and way of life and provide the opportunity for visitors to make memories, that they can then share with others.
Resilience – Look at how you will future-proof your business through targeting shoulder months, get pricing of products and services right and delivering quality marketing.