Agritourism: the new cash cow for farmers?
11/21/14

During these times of underfed cattle and the crisis affecting the agriculture industry, some farmers have a duty to revitalize the local economy in an attempt to turn things around. Investment in agritourism seems to offer a magic solution. Charline Dubois, a young researcher at the University of Liege, has focused on this subject by analyzing the different types of agritourism that exist in Wallonia and Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg.

B&B farmThe practice of welcoming visitors into the home constitutes the first form of tourism and this kind of activity has existed for a long time. A century ago, farmers in the French and Austrian Alps warmly welcomed visitors from other countries into their homes and this marked the beginning of ecotourism. Today, other countries such as England, Germany, Italy or Slovenia are banking on the idyllic quality of their countryside to attract many travelers.

The rural exodus and the wave of suburbanisation that followed could be described as a phenomenon of rural exodus. This involves a return to basics, the search for authenticity, local encounters, an interest in local products and immersion in the Natural World. The rural World, and more particularly the farming environment, has always formed an integral part of heritage tourism. This is a good reason to encourage farmers to diversify their activities by investing in a new form of tourism: agritourism.

The field is open!

Agritourism is just like the TV show L’Amour est dans le Pré”! was the wry answer of an individual who filled in a field questionnaire issued by Charline Dubois during her doctoral thesis. This surprising assessment requires clarification…At the current time, there is no consensus on the terminology, definitions and concepts involved in agritourism. Many authors have nonetheless tried to clarify the situation. For example, in 2006, Marcotte et al. established a gradation; this included all the terms used to describe tourist activities in the rural environment(1). While rural tourism encompasses “all activities that are practiced by humans in the rural environment”, agritourism, (sometimes called agrotourism) is practiced in an agricultural environment or an environment set aside for agricultural activity. Farm tourism is limited to the boundaries of the farm.  

In her thesis, Charline Dubois concentrates solely on agritourism and defines this as “all activities and services related to tourism and leisure that are present on a working farm”(2). The final words of this definition are of capital importance because they limit the scope of the study to farmers who are still working on their farm. Those who make their living solely from agritourism are therefore excluded from the study; the objective of the researcher was to “be able to link together the problems relating to diversification on a farm that needed it”. People from rural environments who practise rural tourism were also excluded from the study.

The scope of the study includes Luxembourg and Wallonia, two political entities that are related by their agriculture and their tourism market. Any agritourism development in these two places has been marginal; Wallonia boasts only 3% of agritourism farms (that is 380 tenant farmers for a total number of 14,500 farms) while in Luxembourg there are less than 1% of agritourism farms (15 tenant farmers out of a total of 2,200 farms). Despite this low number, the activity remains important for farmers because it is a source of complementary income(3).

(1)  Marcotte P., L. Bourdeau & M. Doyon (2006). « Agrotourisme, agritourisme et tourisme à la ferme ? Une analyse comparative », Téoros, Vol. 25 n°3, 80 p.
(2) Dubois C. (2014). « Quels agritourismes pour les campagnes périurbaines ? Les cas de la Wallonie et du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg ». Thèse de doctorat, Université de Liège, 306 p.
(3) Dubois C. & S. Schmitz (2013). « What is the position of agritourism on the Walloon tourist market ? ». European Countryside, 5(4), pp. 295-307.

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