The wide benefits of Scottish agritourism

A key aspect of agritourism involves farmers selling directly to the consumer, minimising food miles and raising the profile of high quality Scottish food and drink. Photo: Craig Stephen Photography.

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New research has revealed the wide-ranging benefits of agritourism to Scotland.

The Scottish Agritourism Growth Tracker 2021, undertaken by VisitScotland on behalf of industry body 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.

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

In recent years, particularly during the pandemic, demand has grown with visitors seeking authentic rural experiences that connect them to the countryside and Scotland’s natural larder.

This has created new opportunities, while offering seasonal events like lambing sessions and pumpkin festivals have helped to inspire visitors to visit and find out about life on a working farm.

The research also suggests that agritourism provides the 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 offering eating options on site now or in the future.

Farm tours and accommodation were the most common activities, while many respondents intend to add experiences such as glamping to their offering within the next three years.

Assets used for agritourism activities range from land and panoramic views to crops and historic connections to famous points in history.

A new industry strategy Scottish Agritourism 2030 – The Strategy for Sustainable Growth was launched last November by Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands Mairi Gougeon.

This 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 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 £250m, supporting almost 10,000 full-time jobs.

Ms 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 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.

Caroline Millar of Scottish Agritourism said: ‘This baseline study offers 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.’