The concept of agritourism (sometimes spelled agrotourism) involves bringing visitors to a property where agriculture of some kind takes place. So a smallholder might want to seriously consider using the desire of townsfolk to get into the country as a way of making additional income.
One might automatically think that this involves providing accommodation, but there is much more to the concept. One might also entice people to come to one’s plot for courses on subjects such as jam or cheese making, activities such as birding, camping, hiking, cycling, fishing, horse trails or off-road driving (if the plot is big enough) or art activities such as pottery, jewellery making, photography or painting.
Perhaps your smallholding is of historical or cultural interest?
However it is the focus on the agricultural activity that should be uppermost, as opposed to ecotourism or rural tourism.
The Association of Agritourism South Africa (AASA) is a non-profit organisation that promotes sustainable agritourism development in South Africa by creating an environment in which farmers and smallholders can implement agritourism initiatives with the assistance of the association.
“Start by writing down a list of the possible types of agritourism enterprises that could be developed, then narrow down the list bearing in mind costs, your time and the volume of work involved, “ advises Jacqui Taylor, CEO of Agritourism SA. “Get advice from others to ensure an objective opinion. Do you have socially oriented, enthusiastic family members who would enjoy tourists? Maybe this is an opportunity to involve some of your plot workers?” She also recommends collaborating with others in your area.
Do a feasibility study first before you embark on this journey.
You need to consider the target market that you want to attract. Think about the kind of people who would be attracted to this kind of experience: normally, agritourism appeals to individuals who enjoy authentic personal experiences that they can discuss with their friends and colleagues on their return. These visitors enjoy exploring the countryside and involve themselves actively in activities that are provided by their hosts. They are adventurous, ‘self-challengers’ and self-drive tourists.
You need to approach it the way you would any business, which means drawing up a business plan.
Security is always going to be an issue that your visitors will need to be reassured about. Yes, there is as much crime in town as there is in rural areas, but the perception is that people who live outside of urban areas are more vulnerable. Take all the measures that you can afford and tell your visitors about them.
If your guests are going to take part in agricultural activities such as milking cows or grooming horses, you will also need to ensure their safety. Make sure that you understand your legal responsibilities and provide indemnity forms for visitors to sign if necessary.
Make it easy for your visitors to find your smallholding. Signs will have to be put up on all the possible routes to your property. Provide your GPS co-ordinates or be able to drop a pin on WhatsApp. Warn visitors if your plot is on a gravel road.
If you are offering accommodation, Taylor says many visitors would prefer self-catering.
You also need to consider the environmental impact of having frequent visitors on your land.
This can be regarded as an opportunity for people in your community to be trained and given employment. You can also provide practical experience for agricultural students.
Agritourism, like other tourism, requires a number of small touches, such as providing information on where to go, safe parking, cleanliness, local food, and local produce such as soaps and delicacies.
The staff at Agritourism Association of South Africa (AASA) are eager to see people in the agricultural sector and in rural areas develop their potential as agritourist destinations. Contact Jacqui Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org and check the website for more information – www.agritourismsouthafrica.com.