The economic impact of Scottish agritourism is to be measured early next year ahead of a potential explosion of opportunities for the sector.
As tourism leaders predict unprecedented demand for Scottish farm stays, businesses which are offering accommodation, food and activities will be invited to take part in a “growth tracker” to enable the industry to tap in to future funding and development opportunities.
VisitScotland economist Raymond MacIntyre told a Scottish Agritourism virtual conference that the survey would help to shape investment strategies and promote growth.
He added: “Most importantly it will ask businesses about future plans, what are the barriers, what areas are being considered for investment, what can be done to help the sector and kick-start agritourism activities?”
Industry leader, Angus farmer Caroline Millar, welcomed the news and told the conference she had been calling for such a measurement for several years.
“We need to understand clearly what agritourism is offering in all its guises – not just economic,” she said.
“Also hopefully it will enable supply-demand modelling so new farmers coming in to the sector can see where the gaps and opportunities are, or where there is oversupply. People will be able to make informed investment decisions and use the data we will have to get funding from a bank, or grants or other areas.”
The 140 conference delegates – most of them already immersed in farm tourism – heard Vicki Miller, VisitScotland’s director of marketing, predict that demand from domestic markets for farm tourism was set to explode next year.
“People want authentic experiences, to make the most of holidays where they can almost live like a local and really enjoy Scottish hospitality in that way,” she said.
“They want more immersive experiences, slow travel, and that connection with nature.
“It feels like we’ve reached a moment where we can raise the profile of the Go Rural brand to consumers and look at how you can continue to add value to those great experiences you already offer.”
An international perspective was provided by Hans Embacher, the chief executive of the Austrian Farm Holiday Association, who said that farm tourism in his country is worth more than £1 billion to the economy and supports 23,000 full-time jobs.