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Making Agri-Tourism a Sustainable Business
Agri-tourism, once a small niche, is expanding rapidly and getting a big push from the Ministry of Tourism. An enabling environment is required for agri-tourism to thrive and have at least a 15-20% share in the tourism industry.
What is Agri-Tourism?
• Agri-tourism can be defined as a form of commercial enterprise that links agricultural production and/or processing with tourism to attract visitors onto a farm, ranch, or other agricultural business for the purposes of entertaining and/or educating the visitors while generating income.
• It is a non-urban hospitality product, serving an agrarian lifestyle, culture and heritage with an abundance of natural resources. Agri-tourism has gained traction in the tourism industry.
• It is niche and emerging market segment of the tourism industry.
• It was globally valued at $42.46 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach $62.98 billion by 2027.
• The seeds of agri-tourism in India were first sown by the formation of Agri Tourism Development Corporation (ATDC) located in Baramati, Maharashtra.
• Currently, India’s revenue from agri-tourism is growing at an annual growth rate of 20%.
Why Agri-Tourism matters?
• Rapid climate change and tourism induced pollution level and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions have resulted in rising demand for natural and rural destinations as tourist attractions and that can bring ecofriendly tourism experiences such as agri-tourism into the mainstream business.
• India’s agriculture has been under stress due to increased input costs, volatile returns, climatic adversaries, land fragmentation, and so on. Although it is a mainstay of the economy, farmers have shifted to other industries in search of alternative livelihoods and income diversification. Agri-tourism can address the ‘hollowing out’ effect of rural decline and restore farmers’ confidence in agriculture and ecosystem-based services.
• Agri-tourism gives an altogether different perspective to our farmers. It gives them an opportunity to have additional source of income, incentivizes farmers to use the land which would otherwise be left fallow or uncultivated.
• It can be a vehicle for generating additional revenue for local businesses, upgrading/revitalizing community facilities, increasing protection of rural landscapes and natural environments for tourists and residents, help preserve and revitalize local traditions, art and craft.
• Active farmers may tend to ignore their farming activity if their attention and focus shift towards agritourism, if it becomes a more lucrative source of income.
• Insufficient financial support can hinder the tourism potential of the region, which would help the folks to preserve the local culture, traditions, heritage, art forms etc.
• Tourism as a concept is very indigenous in the rural areas. Though attempts have been taken by local youths, but professionalism is lacking.
• Tourists prefer to visit agri-tourism centres with a larger area and multiple fun and recreational activities. This is in contrast with the very purpose of agri-tourism that is to support small and marginal farmers, who are unlikely to have larger agri-tourism centres with several amenities.
How can Agri-Tourism be promoted?
• Agri-Tourism needs greater policy attention in developing countries where major population is engaged in agricultural activities. While the sector remains plagued with issues such as debt-trap, unpredictable impact of climate change, uncertain cash flow, agri-tourism can be promoted as an income-generating activity for farmers and strengthen economic, cultural and ecological resilience of rural regions.
• It is important to ascertain the issue of small/inadequate land to support agri-tourism.
• Promotion of Agri-Tourism needs conceptual convergence with Rural Tourism, Eco-Tourism, Health Tourism, Adventure Tourism and culinary adventures. Research is one of the key factors for development in any discipline as it helps students and practitioners to get involved in their areas of interest and search for all possible solutions for the benefit of local communities.
• Farmers can themselves achieve success in this field by making efforts to understand customer’s demand, charging optimum rents for facilities they provide, small farmers can develop their agri-tourism centres on the basis of a cooperative society and making sincere efforts to publicize tourism centres through newspapers, NGO’s, television etc.