Creating Opportunities in Agritourism
On a recent trip up the West Coast to meet Agritourism service providers, it seemed that most of their business is limited to the flower season. Many farmers are struggling financially and the environment is harsh. So Agritourism should be included in every farmers’ business plan. The distances that many visitors travel are fairly significant and tourists are disappointed when they arrive on the weekend to find shops and restaurants closed in small towns. Although the flowers are indeed the main attraction, after a few days of looking at the daisies, tourists would like to have other experiences as well. Therein lies the opportunity for entrepreneurs to come to the fore.
One of the opportunities that is missed, is that tourists want to buy locally produced products (not items you can buy in Durban/Johannesburg or Cape Town). This is definitely an area where local communities can become involved. On one of the farms that had fields full of daisies, they charged R20 per person to drive around the farm, but they also had a shop where they sold locally produced items at ridiculously low prices, for example, hand knitted bed socks for R45, greeting cards decorated with dried flowers on the front, home-made flower petal soap for R25. There was also a small restaurant where they served traditional food from the area – sponskoek, vetkoek, kaiings, kolwyntjies, slaphakskeentjies and afval curry. The food was an integral part of the Agritourism experience, with many tourists living in cities enjoying a tasty educational experience. The farmer also included a few of the farm children who sang local songs they had learnt at Sunday school. Very basic accommodation was also offered and camping was also available. When I mention that there are significant entrepreneurial opportunities in Agritourism, ideas similar to those above are endless.
When visiting a particular area, tourists appreciate value a professional explanation from the farmer or his staff. Interaction is important and adds to the experience. Tell your story.
With this in mind, the Association of Agritourism will be offering online courses from October this year on the many different facets of Agritourism. Most of the questions asked by farmers are regarding the marketing of their farm – digitial marketing, social media etc. Because of the vast distances involved in addressing these questions, we decided to rather provide the courses online together with a blog to allow for questions that farmers may have. Simply go online www.agritourismsouthafrica.com and send us an email if you want to participate.
We actively encourage Agricultural Educational Institutions to incorporate an Agritourism module in their courses. Training and opening up conversation about how to maximise Agritourism opportunities could prove to be invaluable. Agritourism is desperately needed in South Africa where we can encourage South Africans to get to know their own country and support those who live in rural areas.
In the next column, I will focus on the importance of having indemnity insurance and providing signage on farms. Accidents do occur, so make sure you are ready to deal with them.