A vision of 1000 Scottish farmers offering high level tourist facilities by 2030 has been unveiled by Rural Affairs Secretary, Mairi Gougeon.
Describing the sector as a “huge area for growth and opportunity”, Ms Gougeon told the Scottish Agritourism conference in Perth that the Scottish Government was committed to driving it forward in partnership basis with rural organisations.
Launching the Scottish Government’s Agritourism Growth Strategy, Ms Gougeon said the sector offered farmers valuable diversification opportunities alongside the potential to help visitors connect with farming in a new way.
Pressed on whether or not the strategy came with any form of new funding support such as specific capital grants, Ms Gougeon said that she didn’t have “that level of detail” at the moment.
However she insisted the agritourism initiative would be given the Scottish Government’s “support” as well as additional assistance through such measures as monitor farms.
“It’s not all up to Government,” added Ms Gougeon.
According to Caroline Miller, sector leader of Scottish Agritourism, there are already 500 Scottish farms offering some form of tourist facilities..
“While this is probably an under-estimation of the actual figure of farms involved, our goal is to raise this registered number to 1000 by 2030,” she said.
The new strategy is geared to increasing the “value offer” of Scottish agritourism by providing visitors not just with the experience of being on a farm, but also enjoying local produce and learning how the farm works in terms of crops and livestock.
“Surveys of the travel trade, for example, reveal that very few rural packages include farm tours or visits,” Mrs Miller said.
“We need to be offering this trade the opportunity for visitors to be shown how to make a scone in a farm kitchen, and then taste the product, or be introduced to an Aberdeen-Angus herd, told all about the breed’s origins and then invited to take part in a barbecue.”
VisitScotland marketing director Vicki Miller added: “This strategy marks an important stage on the journey to sustainably develop one of Scotland’s most exciting tourism experiences. In recent years, visitors from all walks of life have really embraced agritourism and are actively seeking out authentic rural experiences.
“The sector is filled with passionate storytellers that can bring to life the unique aspects of our history and heritage, while at the same time educating others about the need to protect and respect our natural assets. VisitScotland is committed to working with the sector, stakeholders and the Scottish Government to position Scotland as a leading destination for agritourism.”