Source: The Hindu
Planet, people, and profit are three important factors in sustainable businesses and the development paradigm. In search of sustainability, agriculture and rural ecosystem services remain a Greenfield without much depreciation or value erosion, notably agri-tourism.
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.
Agri-tourism could be thought of as the crossroads of tourism and agriculture.
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.
What is the Growth Rate Scenario of the Industry?
Agri-tourism is a niche and an emerging market segment of the tourism industry. The agri-tourism market globally was valued at $42.46 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach $62.98 billion by 2027, registering a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 13.4% between 2020 and 2027.
The seeds of agri-tourism in India were first sown by the formation of the Agri Tourism Development Corporation (ATDC) located at Baramati in Maharashtra.
The ATDC was founded in 2004 by Pandurang Taware, an entrepreneur from the farming community.
Currently, India’s revenue from agri-tourism is growing at an annual growth rate of 20%.
Why is Agri-tourism Increasingly Significant?
Eco-Friendly Tourism: 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 eco-friendly tourism experiences such as agri-tourism into the mainstream business.
Addresses Rural ‘Decline’: 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.
Manifold Benefits to Farmers: Agri-tourism helps in supporting incomes of farmers.
It also acts as both a promoter and inhibitor to changing farmers’ attitudes or preferences to farming.
It incentivises farmers to use the land which would otherwise be left fallow or uncultivated.
In contrast, it also prevents a portion of farmland available to a farmer engaged in agri-tourism from cultivation, and instead uses it for tourism activities.
Benefits for Communities: From a community perspective, agri tourism can be a vehicle for:
generating additional revenue for local businesses and services from tourists;
upgrading / revitalising community facilities for residents and visitors;
increasing protection of rural landscapes and natural environments for tourists and residents;
helping preserve and revitalise local traditions, art and craft;
promoting inter-regional, inter-cultural communication and understanding.
Benefits for Tourism Operators: From a tourism industry view point, agri tourism can be a means of:
diversifying the mix of tourism products and services available to visitors;
increasing tourism flows into attractive rural regions;
increasing season length during traditionally off-peak business periods;
uniquely positioning rural regions in key tourism markets;
Bringing more non-local currency to local businesses.
What can be the Underlying Challenges?
Active farmers may tend to ignore their farming activity if their attention and focus shift towards agri-tourism, if it becomes a more lucrative source of income.
The tourists prefer to visit agri-tourism centres with a larger area and multiple fun and recreational activities.
This contrasts 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.
Linguistic challenges have been found to be one of the barriers in the enhancement of the tourism potential.
People are found to be lacking proper fluency in Hindi, English or even local dialect, for interaction with the tourists.
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.
The whole tourism concept is very indigenous in the rural areas. Though initiative attempts have been taken by the local youths, yet the professionalism is lacking.
They are lacking proper training to project in a manner suitable from a tourism perspective.
Some regions have great potential as an upcoming agri-tourist spot. However, lack of business planning skills is another big obstruction in this path.
What can be Done to Promote Agri-Tourism?
Policy Attention: Agri-tourism warrants greater policy attention in developing countries where a majority of the populace is either directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture.
With perpetual adversities like uncertain cash flow, recurring debt trap and unpredictable climate, agri-tourism can be promoted as an income-generating activity for farmers and strengthen economic, cultural and ecological resilience of rural regions.
Addressing Land Issues: It is important for the government to address the issue of small/inadequate land to support agri-tourism.
One way to serve the tourist market is land consolidation through cluster-based farming or One District One Crop services.
Role of State Agencies/Investors: The state agencies can account for farmers’ economic dependence on farm operations and the perceived popularity of agri-tourism activities in order to enable business environments for agri-ecosystem-based services.
Social or impact investors can mobilise private equities into agri-tourism based on the stage of the business and business model adopted by agri-preneurs.
The ATDC can attract start-ups and impact investors to harness the business potential of the agri-tourism landscape in India.
R&D for 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.
How can Farmers Promote Agri-tourism?
In order to achieve success in the field of agritourism, the farmers should:
Give a wide publicity of their tourism centre by newspapers, television etc. and develop contacts with the schools, colleges, NGOs, clubs, unions, organisations etc.
Train their staff or family members for reception and hospitality of the agri-tourists.
Understand the customers' demands and their expectations and serve them accordingly.
Charge optimum rent and charges for the facilities/services on the commercial base.
Develop a website and update from time to time to attract foreign tourists and take their feedback and comments about the service and suggestions for more development and modification.
Develop different agri-tour packages for different types of tourist and their expectations.
Small farmers can develop their agri-tourism centres on the basis of cooperative society.