WITH agritourism now contributing more than
$11 billion to the Australian economy, Australian Regional Tourism believes the time is right to develop this growing industry and empower rural and regional communities to reap the social and economic benefits it brings.
Agritourism is a tourism-related experience or product that connects agricultural products, people or places with visitors on a farm or rural land. Dramatic increases are already being seen in the number of visitors to farms.
According to Tourism Research Australia data, there has been a 56 per cent increase in domestic day trip visits to farm gates, a
14 per cent increase in domestic overnight visits to farm gates and an 81 per cent increase in the number of international overnight visitors visiting a farm gate.
Australian Regional Tourism has launched its discussion paper, Boosting Regional Australia through Agritourism, in the Senate Courtyard of Parliament House, which paves the way for boosting regional and rural Australia.
Chair of Australian Regional Tourism, Simon McArthur, said it was vital for rural and regional communities to strategically develop their agritourism sectors to draw visitors out from capital cities and metro areas, and showcase what is good about their region.
“Consumers have a growing desire to know where their food, drink and fibre comes from, enjoy a regional food-based experience, and get up close and personal with farmers,” Mr McArthur said.
“Agritourism presents a real opportunity for Australian farmers to diversify and build resilience and showcase the products and ingredients that rural and regional Australia are famous for. They need support to do this, and a strategic approach is vital to ensuring this sector is developed in a sustainable way.
“Structural and market adjustments have forced many farmers to consider additional sources of income to help make their business more resilient and more profitable.
“Other factors such as industry restructure, declining terms of trade, drought, and economic impacts also influence farm businesses in making the decision to diversify into agritourism and food tourism.
“Increased consumer interest for these types of experiences, combined with the need for diversification on farms, presents the ideal opportunity for agritourism throughout Australia”
Farmer and owner of Turalla Truffles near Bungendore NSW, Damian Robinson, is one such farmer who has diversified into tourism with great success.
“Turalla Truffles started in 2000 on our family’s multi-generation cattle farm in the Bungendore region thanks to an idea that sparked after I was reading about this exciting produce,” Mr Robinson said.
“We realised there was a real opportunity to diversify the farming business and provide a unique food-based experience for visitors. Visitors are given a boutique experience where they meet the farmer, harvest the truffles and eat as much truffle as they want. It is a very immersive experience.”
What started as an opportunity to build brand profile, value-add and educate people on truffles has resulted in a high-demand visitor experience for not only Turalla Truffles, but many other farmers in the region.
“This venture into tourism has been perfect for us because we can balance the winter truffle season with cattle business that tends to quieten down in winter. The truffles only have an eight-week season, so we focus on tourism in these eight weeks and have grown from a few visitors each week to over 50 visitors every weekend, plus private hunts. We book out well in advance, and now offer a farm-based B&B experience,” Mr Robinson said.
It is clear that Agritourism is offering growing opportunities for regional Australia and farmers just like Damian to embrace the growing demand for on farm experiences.
❝ Consumers have a growing desire to know where their food, drink and fibre comes from...
— Simon McArthur