Agritourism brings Additional Farm Income Streams
The Irish Self Catering Federation in conjunction with Teagasc Rural Development hosted members of farming families at an Agritourism conference at Teagasc, Ashtown on 22 May. Setting up farm holiday accommodation, in the form of bed and breakfast or self-catering cottages is a popular choice for diversification. There are now many other choices of accommodation such as glamping, pods, cabins, shepherd’s huts, and yurts. There are opportunities for farmers to complement existing accommodation providers by developing complementary activity businesses such as kayaking, fishing boats, gillie services, cycling, heritage talks, walking tours, artisan food shops, etc. This conference called “Agritourism 2023” provided a guide to rural dwellers on diversification opportunities in agri-tourism.
The event was opened by Minister Pippa Hackett, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Minister of (DAFM) and moderated by Barry Caslin, Rural Development Specialist at Teagasc. Minister Hackett stated Agritourism can play an important part in building resilience within rural Ireland and has opportunities for farm families to develop on-farm tourism businesses. Agritourism has a long-term sustainable future in Ireland that delivers a high-quality, authentic visitor experience and also helps support the future of family farms and the wider rural economy, bringing vibrant sustainable income to families. This brings together tourism, heritage, culture, and local foods. She also referenced the importance of bio-districts where different businesses work together for sustainable management of local resources based on social environmental, ecumenic, and ethical standards.
A wealth of information on a range of topics was provided at the day-long event, including Funding, Planning Permission, Insurance for farm diversification, Renewable energy options, and the role of state agencies in developing a business plan as well as a Register for all STR accommodation.
The first of two Champions of Farm Diversification discussions was chaired by Máire ní Mhurchú, where businesses discussed the lessons learned from setting up and running a business. Con Quill (Blarney Caravan and Camping) CEO of Camping_Ireland was joined by self-catering business owners Noelle Casey (Kerry), Niall Heenan (Fuchsia Lane Farm, Tipperary), Niamh Byrne (Abhain-Rí, Wicklow) have changed their businesses in past 30 years. Glamping pod business owners Veronica Kelleher (Curragh Farm) and Chris O’Sullivan (Goats Pod Park, Sheep’s Head) discussed how they developed and managed their businesses. Barry o Brien, a farmer from Monaghan built Little House on Baragh Log Cabin in early Covid with the aim of bringing more tourists to Monaghan’s Lakeland region
Maire ni Mhurchú suggested that we bring a visitor to the family farm who can look at it with fresh eyes and see the beauty and peace of remote and off-the-beaten path places in rural Ireland that we take for granted.
Agritourism has been an important rural income source in Germany, Austria, Italy, with Scotland joining the movement in the past 10 years. Covid has changed the priorities of the consumer with more outdoor living and activity as well as sustainability and a customer-focused service essential to this sector. The consumer is the heart of the business and it is paramount that the personal touch is understood to be the cornerstone of these Agritourism enterprises. There needs to be more accommodation in Agritourism to make up for the shortfall in hotel accommodation, with 37-50% of beds gone to Government contracts. Ireland now has an opportunity to develop tourism offerings in rural areas, giving sustainable family incomes to those who have a clear vision of their offering. Consumers are looking for authentic experiences. Máire added “A holiday is quite an expense for people so they want, and demand, better than they have at home. Tourists want the personal experience of living in close proximity to the family farm and being a part of the experience. For some regions, tourism is a fundamental part of the local economy. Today’s visitor demands high-end fixtures and fittings and luxuries ranging from hot tubs to pizza ovens, but they are willing to dig deep for that experience”. The ISCF members follow a Code of Ethics and provide support for members with a corporate and consumer-focused website.
Barry Caslin Teagasc, Rural Development Specialist said; “Rural Tourism is a perfect way to stimulate real impetus into encouraging footfall out of the towns and cities. There is such diversity in rural Ireland’s visitor activities and attractions, as well as in our specialist farm food producers, all of which make a very compelling case to venture out of the city boundaries. Over the past few years, fantastic diversified farm and rural businesses have opened up to visitors. There is a genuine focus on providing a great experience and developing unique local features and skills. This conference provides important guidance which complements the resurgent interest in Irish food, heritage and holidays.”
Con Quill of Camping_Ireland stated ‘This is an opportunity to look at the family farm to see how diversification can help the economic viability of the enterprise, with the involvement of each member of the family in the decision-making process.’ Agritourism is now on the map for Ireland with many more champions in the making attending the event. Further details from Teagasc and the Irish Self-Catering Federation.
Own a Self-Catering property or want to set up a business – Contact the ISCF for more Details or for Membership.