The growing agritourism sector – a combination of tourism, hospitality and farming – has reached out to a global audience and showcased the best of Scottish food and drink.
Initially started by a few farming friends to cheer people up during the Covid-19 lockdown, the daily farm tours, filmed live and broadcast over the internet, have stimulated a strong interest in Scottish agriculture and are set to boost visitor numbers.
Almost one hundred farmers have given virtual tours of their operations so far, with more than 750,000 minutes of video, filmed on mobile phones, made available on the Go Rural Facebook page.
The VisitScotland supported project has been an international sensation, attracting viewers from as far afield as South Africa, USA, Australia and Germany, as well as strong viewing numbers from across the UK.
Almost 2.5 million people have seen at least one of the posts on social media, which includes tours, trailers and photos, with many watching the videos on “catch-up” in the evenings.
Now, a new sector body, Scottish Agritourism, will formalise an existing strong network and provide a growth platform for the sector, as well as giving a unified voice to engage with government at all levels.
The organisation will sit within the Scottish Tourism Alliance – the main industry body representing tourism hospitality in Scotland.
The Go Rural brand will be used to signify a real working farm and to profile farms where visitors can go for a day out, buy food direct or have an overnight stay. It will also promote agricultural shows and farmers markets.
Caroline Millar, who played a key role in setting up the daily tours, said: “The hope in streaming the tourism and leisure experiences available is that this will stimulate interest and demand to visit a Scottish farm post lockdown for a day out or holiday, generating benefit for the rural economy.”
The strong interest in food has led to the next phase of the live tours – Come to Lunch on my Farm – with local cooks and chefs now being invited on to farms for a live farm tour and a cookery demonstration using farm produce.
However, the project has also highlighted the need for better rural internet connectivity, with some farmers unable to take part because 4G is not available at their location, or intermittent 4G meant some broadcasts were interrupted.