Agritourism - Harnessing the Power of Niche Marketing Part 3

By Jim Leonard

Agritourism - Harnessing the Power of Niche Marketing Part 3

As farm, ranch and other agricultural tourism booms, destinations need to cultivate experiences centered around these agribusinesses and related activities if they want to tap into this niche market.

Niche tourism is often seen as a response to the growing numbers of sophisticated visitors seeking out experiences tailored to their interests. Over the past few months, we’ve discussed the economic benefits of catering to Voluntourism and Food Tourism markets. For Part 3 of our niche marketing series, we will share some insight on an increasingly popular and growing opportunity for agricultural producers in your region: Agritourism.

What is Agritourism?

Agritourism can encompass a range of experiences from farm tours for families and school children to winery tours, farmers markets, U-Pick experiences, and even rural weddings. There is immense potential to be found in rural and farming locations that can be easily overlooked if your marketing strategy isn’t tailored to accommodate sustainable travel experiences. Now more than ever before, consumers want to know exactly where their agricultural products come from and seek out farm-to-table experiences that allow them a peek behind the curtain.

Fast-growing niche market

It’s estimated by The National Tour Association that 62 million people across the US visit or stay overnight on farms, ranches and wineries each year – and the revenue generated from these stays is worth noting! Virginia, for example, recently partook in a statewide study of the agritourism industry and found that the economic benefit from this niche travel market amounted to revenue generation of $1.2 billion for their state in 2015 alone. Additional results showed that visitors also spent more than $1.3 billion in surrounding markets. Nationwide, Agritourism is considered one of the fastest-growing niche segments of the travel industry. The National Agricultural Statistical Services reported a nearly 25% increase in revenue from agritourism and recreational services over a five-year period. And with the general uptick of interest in sustainable travel overall, dedicating a portion of your marketing budget to promoting agritourism should definitely be on your radar. Consider the following data: Of 1,000 US travel groups surveyed in 2014:

  • 87% would recommend farm/market visits to friends and family
  • 89% would include agritourism in future travel
  • 61% visit an agritourism destination 1-2 times per year
  • 96% purchase goods at the farm(s) visited

It’s important to note that Agritourism is typically more popular with visitors from drive markets than long-distance travelers. Of the 7.5 million people who visited Virginia farms in 2015, 60% came from less than 50 miles away, suggesting that agritourism is a great way to generate additional revenue from short-stay travelers.

Cultivating agritourism for your destination

DMOs with potential rural attractions who are looking for innovative ways to generate tourism revenue should consider the following starting points:

  1. Connect with folks that have a presence at your local farmer’s market. Sit down with them and discuss the possibility of using their business to attract agritourists.
  2. Dedicate a section of your website to farm-to-table travel experiences. Perhaps even start a blog centered on how local farms, ranches and wineries contribute to the overall health and satisfaction of your local community.
  3. Work with local agribusinesses to plan and promote events, such as winemaking demonstrations, tasting experiences featuring locally-grown cuisine, or equine classes and workshops.

Cultivating agritourism opportunities requires deliberate Marketing Action Planning efforts and sustained stakeholder collaboration. But if you start to take steps now to successfully tap into this rapidly-expanding agritourism niche market, you will help firmly establish your destination within this travel and tourism space.