Future for Agritourism in a post Covid-19 world?
by Rose Wright, Managing Director
It’s hard to imagine what the future might hold for agritourism in regional Australia in a world filled with uncertainty and a tourism and hospitality sector on life support.
The impacts are being felt by many of our farmers who have relied on agritourism and the hospitality industry for sales of their produce in Australia. These markets have literally dried up overnight but farmers can’t go into hibernation! You can’t stop milking cows or stop crops growing. On the back of years of drought, and for many, the fight of their life against horrendous bushfires, COVID-19 is yet another blow to a sector that’s been knocked down again and again and again.
But is it all bad? Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? How can agritourism adapt to this evolving world?
Here’s why I love working in regional communities and, in particular, working with farmers. After all the adversity of floods, drought, fire and now COVID-19, you would understand if they gave up. But farmers and regional communities generally find a way to work through the layers of adversity and with help, many are turning it into an opportunity to adapt and evolve.
More Agritourism Opportunities in Australia Post Covid-19
No one can predict the future, especially now, but we believe there are positive signs emerging that give us hope for the future of agritourism in Australia. We believe there will be increased focus on supporting local and domestic travel following the lock down and I’m going to go out on a limb and forecast the next three years will present some new exciting opportunities for agri-food and agritourism businesses.
As restrictions in various forms look set to continue and supermarkets struggle, at times, to keep up with demand, more of us are taking an interest in where we get our food and what there is to offer in the way of experiences closer to home.
Our work allows us to see some interesting changes in how businesses are operating. Regionality provides a comprehensive range of agritourism, tourism and other business development services for farmers and communities in regional Australia.
We’ve watched how the adaptation of operating models is catering to the needs of customers in these extraordinary times. We are also seeing the way an increased health awareness is forming a big part in the COVID-19 cultural shift, driving consumer interest in the provenance of their food.
The pandemic has created a demand for home-delivered, straight-from-the-farm produce like the service being offered by one of our agritourism business development participants Tommerups Dairy Farm and Farm Stay in Scenic Rim.
Kay and Dave Tommerup can’t offer on site visits at the moment, but they are finding ways to take their products to their customers and using social media to share stories of what’s happening on farm.
The Covid-19 Effect on Agritourism
This farm to front door system is providing farmers with sustained income and a chance to cement relationships with their customer, giving them a significant — and well-deserved— chunk of the value chain. COVID-19 is creating an opportunity to disrupt the food system by connecting more and more people directly with the producers of their food and drink.
The flow on from this incredible surge in the numbers of farms and food businesses providing home deliveries is going to make a big impact on regions and agritourism.
When we are allowed to travel again, I believe this increased interest in provenance, combined with the cultural shift in lifestyle due to the pandemic, will result in a move away from mass tourism, and a surge of customers seeking bespoke regional experiences providing real value for their dollar.
We’re going to be reviving the idea of artisan and local. Travellers will want to book their next holiday in places that will offer space and nature, great food and drink and time to reconnect with family and friends.
People are realising what they need are meaningful experiences. They are becoming more aware of what they will be doing and where they will be going when this is all over. Like a wake up call, the Coronavirus and isolation measures have got us all thinking there’s more to life than working ourselves into the ground.
Consumers are going to be more cautious about how they are planning to spend their money and their health. People will want to be able to access in depth experiences closer to home where they can travel by private car. This will see great opportunities arising domestically, both here in Australia and in countries around the world.
As UK writer Juliet Kinsmen of UK Conde Naste Traveller points out in her article What Kind of Holidays Will We Take When We Can Travel Again, we’re going to travel less, but we will travel better.
Agritourism allows regional economies to highlight what’s good about the region and covers a wide range of activities where tourism and agricultural-related activities merge. Sectors include agriculture, wholesale trade, retail trade, accommodation, food services and recreation.
So whilst we’ve been quietly helping to create agritourism regions throughout Australia for over a decade, Regionality is working now to help our regional communities, agritourism operators and farmers during the pandemic. We’re focusing on helping communities to adapt and innovate during this time, ready to take advantage of the opportunities that emerge from whatever the new normal offers.
Regionality provides a comprehensive range of regional and business development services supporting farmers, individuals, organisations and communities in Australia. If you need to solve a problem or maximise an opportunity within your farm, community or organization, contact Regionality www.regionality.com.au/contact/