Rural tourism, also called agritourism, take place when rural residents and farmers add tourist attractions to their properties and open their doors to receive visitors looking for moments in nature and countryside knowledge.
We like to say that rural tourism is where nature, agriculture and leisure meet in a place for learning and exchanging experiences.
What is Rural Tourism
The UWTO defines Rural Tourism as “a type of tourism activity in which the visitor’s experience is related to a wide range of products generally linked to nature-based activities, agriculture, rural lifestyle/culture, angling and sightseeing”.
For this reason, rural tourism or agritourism is very comprehensive, encompassing activities that range from the offer of accommodation in farm hotels (rural hotels) to walks on nature trails, or even the participation in milking and fruit harvesting.
Examples of Agritourism Activities
- Lodging in rural areas (farm hotels, inns, campsites, etc.);
- Traditional breakfast and typical meals with fresh products;
- Tasting sessions with products made on the property and surroundings;
- Workshops on homemade cheese, jelly, etc.
- Harvesting fruits and other foods;
- Visits to vegetable gardens, orchards and vineyards;
- Picnic in the field with products from the region;
- Horse riding, wagon, etc;
- Food and animal care;
- Milking and other livestock activities;
- Trails and nature walks;
- Rafting, tree climbing and other adventure sports practices;
- Museum with historical items from the property and region;
- Pedagogical activities for school groups, etc;
- Professional workshops on agricultural techniques (agroforestry, permaculture, organic cultivation, etc.);
- Dining experiences with the concept “farm to table”;
- Gastronomic events in the countryside;
- Arts and Cultural Festivals, etc.
The list doesn’t stop there, it depends on the creativity and the physical structure of the place. The key thing is that the activity should value Rurality and Nature.
Who are the travellers who seek Rural Tourism?
Now, not all people are interested in country life and even among those who are interested, there may be different motivations when searching for agritourism experiences. To develop these experiences, it is essential to know the profile of travellers interested in this type of tourism.
It’s natural to conclude that urban people who live the hustle and bustle of city routines are the main target audience of this segment, so let’s see some examples of more profiles:
- Family with children looking to spend leisure time in contact with nature and animals during the weekend;
- Group of friends who enjoy expeditions through the countryside by bicycle, motorcycle or 4×4 and look for attractions and different accommodations during the trip;
- People under stress and want to spend their holidays in a serene and peaceful place close to nature;
- Couples, without children, who have always lived in the city and are thinking of moving to the countryside, they want to know more about the day-to-day life on the farm.
The activities of interest can be very different for each of the public described in the examples above. A practical tip to better understand the profile of customers is the creation of personas.
Agritourism Development: Mutual Benefits
The interesting thing is that in addition to being a way of diversifying income for the local community, the rural experience as a tourist activity reveals new traditions, ways of life and knowledge inherent in rural life, quite different from those perceived in urban daily life.
In this context, it is possible to understand the importance of agritourism as a means to capture messages of environmental sustainability, ecology and create awareness about food systems.
Moreover, when the activities are developed in an integrated manner with the locality, rural tourism can be a great ally for the development of alternative tourist routes, bringing economic growth to more remote regions.
In the world
Rural Tourism started to be developed as an economic activity initially in Europe in the middle of the 20th century. Italy was one of the pioneer countries and even today the accommodations in Agriturismi are a world reference. Another example is the WWOOF platform, which promotes volunteer exchanges in organic farms, starting its activities in 1970 in the UK, and today it is present in more than 150 countries.
Currently, the growth of the sector is promising. According to a study (pre-COVID) from Future Market Insights, the agritourism growth estimate is 11% per year (CAGR 2019-2029).
Rural Tourism in Brazil
The beginning of rural tourism activities in Brazil took place during the 1980s in Lages (Santa Catarina). The country’s rural vocation led to an expansion of these activities to practically all states.
However, the ‘Preliminary Study of the Rural Tourism Productive Chain in Brazil’, published by IICA Brasil, shows that it is possible to identify differences in the maturation stage between destinations and products.
This fact can be explained by the lack of a specific national legal framework for the sector. Its development depends mainly on regional programs, efforts by associative groups and individual business, often family-owned.
Despite this situation, we can highlight regions that have developed routes and reference projects in the Brazilian national scenario, such as Vale dos Vinhedos (Wine Route) in Rio Grande do Sul state, the platform Acolhida na Colônia (Accommodation in family-owned farms), the Circuito da Frutas (Fruits Route) in São Paulo state and the Coffee Route in Paraná state, among others.
I have a rural property and want to start an Agritourism business, what should I do?
If you have a rural property and want to adapt it for tourism, first you need to understand the niche of your property and what it can offer in terms of activities. Still, the capacity to receive tourists should be taken into account, so as not to cause environmental impacts, to promote a special contact with renewable resources for a responsible and sustainable experience with the local biodiversity.
Rural tourism must also be aligned with municipal initiatives to encourage local tourism or even personal resources through private institutions. In this case, entities such as the UNWTO, Tourism Boards, NGOs and other support institutions can be instrumental in the process of structuring a business plan.
Extra tips for a good service to the traveller
- Always try to understand the history and geography of your region and use these elements to captivate visitors. It is the differential that the customer seeks when telling the experience to his friends and family thus activating the best marketing: the recommendation.
- Draw attention to the special values of your community, in the subsistence and economic development activities, showing ways of selling products and services in the region. The sale of “handmade souvenirs” is a good example of this.
- Partner with other tourism service providers, for example, adventure tour operators, agencies, etc. In this way, it is possible to promote your business and offer complementary products for guests.
Investing in rural tourism is providing a versatile type of tourism that covers all age groups, genders and economic classes: great for people who appreciate nature and its interactions!