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Research shows wide-ranging benefits of Scottish agritourism

Kitchen Coos and Ewes in Newton Stewart is an example of Agritourism

NEW research has revealed the unparalleled and wide-ranging benefits of agritourism to Scotland. The Scottish Agritourism Growth Tracker 2021, undertaken by VisitScotland on behalf of Scottish Agritourism measured, for the first time, the potential of the country’s agritourism industry.

It found that as well as the opportunity for strong economic growth, the industry 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.

Key highlights suggest:

  • Agritourism provided an opportunity for multi-generational income, retaining on- farm careers and employment.
  • Agritourism farm retail businesses have more female directors and business partners than farm only businesses.
  • Agritourism provided an opportunity to add value to farm produce by selling directly to visitors, helping lower food miles and raise the profile of quality Scottish food and drink on farms in Scotland.
  • The majority of respondents expressed a desire to promote their own and local produce by either offering eating options on site now or considering doing so in the future.
  • Farm tours and accommodation were the most common activities by those involved in agritourism and those planning to be involved.
  • The sector looks set to grow its farm stay offering with many respondents adding experiences, such as glamping, to their offering within the next three years.
  • A wide range of assets are being used for agritourism activities, ranging from land and panoramic views to crops and historic connection to famous points in history.
  • Agritourism is a year-round activity with facilities widely reported to be open throughout the year.

Agritourism in Scotland is defined as tourism or leisure on a farm or croft that produces food or offers holiday experiences.

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In recent years, particularly during the pandemic, it has become a growing travel trend with visitors seeking out authentic rural experiences that connect them to the countryside and Scotland’s natural larder.

An increasing number of farms, crofts and estates have developed their operations to attract visitors. A growing interest in connecting to nature and an awareness food and drink journeys have also created new opportunities, while offering seasonal events, like lambing sessions and pumpkin festivals have helped inspire visitors to visit and find out about life on a working farm.

The inaugural Scottish Agritourism Tracker was undertaken to gain a better understanding of the sector’s value and potential. It identified potential growth areas within the sector around accommodation, food and drink and event spaces.

A new industry strategy designed to galvanise the country’s agriculture and tourism sectors was launched by Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, Mairi Gougeon at the Scottish Agritourism Conference in November last year.

Scottish Agritourism 2030 – The Strategy for Sustainable Growth 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 these important Scottish communities.

Findings from the Scottish Agritourism tracker suggest that if the strategy targets are achieved the combined value of agritourism and farm retail in 2030 would be around a quarter of a billion pounds (£250m) and support almost 10,000 full time jobs.

Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said: “The agritourism sector provides a quality, unique experience as well as an economic boost to the wider rural community by attracting people to rural Scotland. The sector helps people to understand the important role of farming and food production, and has an increasing part to play in our vision of Scotland as a Good Food Nation – helping ensure that reliable access to nutritious, locally sourced, locally produced, good quality food is a practical everyday reality for everyone in Scotland.  

“The development of the Growth Tracker highlights that agritourism can play an important part in building resilience within rural Scotland. It is very encouraging to see the promising results of this baseline survey, particularly as the survey returns provide some very positive indications of growth potential and the extent to which farm, croft businesses and estates can exploit the opportunities available to them. This will enable the sector to measure progress towards achievement of the aims and objectives of the Strategy for Sustainable Growth and contribute towards growth in the rural and wider economy.”

Rob Dickson, VisitScotland Director of Industry and Destination Development, said: “The attraction of agritourism for visitors has always been abundantly clear and it is pleasing to see this research confirm the benefits this exciting sector brings to our society. Agritourism is helping address important societal issues such as inclusivity, rural employment and depopulation. Its future growth and development offers huge potential for both the agriculture and tourism sectors by creating jobs, helping communities thrive, demonstrating the best in environmental management and contributing to the wider economy.

“From fruit picking to farm stays, adventure sports to lambing experiences, we know that agritourism is a trend that is here to stay. VisitScotland is committed to working with the sector to showcase its exciting offering to audiences across the globe and position Scotland as a leading destination for agritourism.”

Caroline Millar, Sector Lead, Scottish Agritourism, said: “Being able to track the growth and impact of agritourism in Scotland over coming years is essential as we all work to double the number of farms and crofts in the sector and with a focus on increasing food and drink experiences on farms. This baseline study is really important data covering a range of metrics and we hope that even more businesses will take part in the 2022 survey by sharing data and building an even more detailed picture on the impact of this key growth sector for Scottish tourism. We appreciate the support of VisitScotland’s insights team for their support with this essential work and thank all of those who took part.”

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