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Article published 25/03/2022

Research shows wide-ranging benefits of Scottish agritourism

The Scottish Agritourism Growth Tracker 2021 was undertaken by VisitScotland on behalf of Scottish Agritourism. It measured, for the first time, the potential of the country’s agritourism industry.

The tracker 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.

Findings include:

  • Agritourism and farm retail businesses provide important employment opportunities in rural areas
  • Agritourism provided an opportunity for multi-generational income from farming, retaining on-farm careers and employment
  • Agritourism provided an opportunity to add value farm produce with the producer selling direct to consumers, helping lower food miles and raise the profile of quality Scottish food and drink grown on farms in Scotland
  • Agritourism farm businesses have more female directors and partners than farm-only businesses
  • Agritourism and farm retail businesses reported strong growth future potential
  • The industry is making strong contributions to sustainable working practices, with a large proportion of farms actively improving energy efficiency and working practices
  • Future projects planned included accommodation projects, particularly glamping style accommodation but also around a third of people were planning a farm tour or farm café business
  • Four in ten businesses (42%) not selling farm produce, plan to start selling direct
  • 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

Agritourism in Scotland 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, 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 of field to fork or bottle / food and drink journeys has also created new opportunities for farming businesses, while offering seasonal events, such as lambing experiences and pumpkin festivals have helped inspire visitors about life on a working farm.

Agritourism Tracker potential growth areas

  • Most common activities

    It found that farm tours and accommodation were the most common activities by those involved in agritourism and those planning to be involved.

  • Accommodation

    The survey also revealed the sector looks set to grow its farm stay offering with many respondents set to add experiences such as glamping to their offering within the next three years.

  • Food and drink

    Similarly, most 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.

The attraction of agritourism for visitors has always been abundantly clear but it is only recently, through this research, we’ve understood the benefits this exciting sector brings to our society. Agritourism is helping address important societal issues such as inclusivity, rural employment, and depopulation. Its sustainable development offers huge potential for both the agriculture and tourism sectors by creating jobs, helping communities thrive and contributing to the wider economy.

The results of this tracker create a foundation and by measuring performance year-on-year, and including a broader range of respondents, we will gain a better understanding of how to support and grow the sector in the future.

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 industry to showcase its exciting offering to audiences across the globe and position Scotland as a leading destination for agritourism.

Rob Dickson, Director of Industry and Destination Development at VisitScotland

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 insight team for their support with this essential work and thank all of those who took part.

Caroline Millar, Sector Lead at Scottish Agritourism

Industry strategy

A new industry strategy designed to galvanise the country’s agriculture and tourism sectors was launched in November last year.

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

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