Farm holidays have been proven to strengthen Scotland’s rural economy and encourage equal work roles for men and women, according to a new report.
Agritourism is when tourists stay in the countryside with locals, such as on farms or crofts.
In recent years, particularly during the pandemic, it has become a growing travel trend with visitors seeking authentic rural experiences that connect them to nature and local food sources.
A growing number of farms, crofts and estates have expanded their activities to attract visitors, including offering seasonal events such as lambing sessions and pumpkin festivals.
The Scottish Agritourism Tracker 2021, which was produced to better understand the value and potential of the sector, revealed that farm holidays play an important role in boosting the rural economy.
They create and sustain rural jobs, support family employment, and provide inclusive jobs for men and women of different ages and skill levels, the tracker found.
The research was carried out in June last year and the results are based on responses from 179 farms, two-thirds of which are actively involved in agritourism, and one-third are considering it.
Other key highlights from the tracker showed that agritourism adds value to farm produce by selling directly to visitors, helping reduce food miles and raising the profile of quality Scottish food and drink in farms in Scotland.
The majority of respondents expressed a desire to promote their own local products by offering on-site dining options now or plan to do so in the future.
The tracker also found that farms with on-site retail businesses had more female managers and business partners than farm-only businesses.
Farm tours and accommodation were the most common activities for visitors, which are expected to grow across the sector, with many respondents adding experiences such as glamping to their offering over the next three years.
Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said the industry is important in helping people understand the role of farming and food production, and has a growing role to play in Scotland as a good food nation – a campaign to ensure reliable access to nutritious, locally sourced food, Good quality locally produced food is a practical daily reality for everyone in Scotland.
“It is very encouraging to see the promising results of this baseline survey, especially as the survey results provide very positive indications of the potential for growth and the extent to which farms, small businesses and domains can exploit the opportunities presented to them,” she said. .
A new industrial strategy designed to galvanize the country’s agriculture and tourism sectors was launched by Gougeon at the Scottish Agritourism Conference in November last year.
Scottish Agritourism 2030 – The Sustainable Growth Strategy 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 Scottish communities.
The results of monitoring Scottish agritourism suggest that if the strategy targets are met, the combined value of agritourism and on-farm retail in 2030 would be around a quarter of a billion pounds and support nearly 10,000 full-time jobs.
Rob Dickson, from VisitScotland – who produced the Scottish Agritourism Tracker, said the future growth and development of the sector holds “tremendous potential” for both agriculture and tourism.
“From fruit picking to farm stays, from adventure sports to lambing experiences, we know agritourism is a trend that’s here to stay,” he said.