Scottish agritourism body Go Rural is to stop being a membership organisation.
The body was set up three years ago to bring together and promote agritourism business such as farm shops and cafes, play barns and farm accommodation outlets.
However founder Caroline Miller, who runs a luxury couples retreat business on her farm near Dundee, said the organisation did not have the members to give it enough clout to grow the sector.
She said the body would now focus on providing business and project support to agriculture, tourism, food and drink businesses.
“It is with a heavy heart that we announce the decision to cease being a membership organisation. There are simply too many factors going against us,” said Mrs Miller.
“We have a committed core of 70 of the leading businesses in the sector working with us but this is too small a number at present to sustain an industry body. We require a higher volume of members and while many business owners support and acknowledge what we are achieving in sector development and being a voice, many people are only interested in sales to their own business and not investing in making the existing pie bigger.”
There was a real opportunity to grow the sector but support from existing businesses was not enough to fund this, added Mrs Millar.
She said: “Scotland and the UK just doesn’t even get a mention as a global destination for agritourism and the gap between consumers and farmers in the UK means that significant investment is required in consumer digital marketing even for home markets and we don’t have access to the budget required to make a step change in sales.”
“At a time when farmers are severely challenged by low commodity prices and future lowering of Pillar 1 subsidies, agritourism presents a clear opportunity to keep Scotland’s farming families in business and it is important that government policies are aligned to this opportunity.”
She said she along with Go Rural’s business manager, Sheena Howden, would continue to promote the sector but broaden their work to provide support to other rural businesses.
She also welcomed news that Scottish Enterprise had commissioned a study into agritourism and a move by VisitScotland to begin marketing agritourism businesses on its new website.