Tourism and agriculture industries join forces to drive growth
A new industry group with a remit to deliver a national agritourism strategy was launched today (7 Feb) at the Scottish Agritourism Conference at Loch Leven’s Larder, Milnathort, Perthshire.
The Farm & Estate Diversification Group (FED) - chaired by Alan Laidlaw of The Crown Estate with secretariat support from agritourism membership organisation, Go Rural – has attracted widespread support and participation from politicians, public bodies, national tourism groups and leading agricultural organisations.
Working collaboratively, FED’s vision is to develop a robust agritourism sector, establish Scotland as a credible agritourism destination and deliver a sustainable future for the hundreds of businesses operating in rural communities across Scotland.
Central to its success is the drive to connect consumers – both tourists and those living in Scotland - with diversified farms, estates and crofts. This falls under the remit of Go Rural with two major consumer campaigns – Rural Gold and Harvest Homecoming – being developed.
Economic impact surveys to determine the sector’s significant contribution to the Scottish economy also form a key part of the strategy, as does understanding opportunities for growth through research.
Promoting the interests of the sector will also be a focus for FED with a watching brief and lobbying on new and existing local, national and EU policies which impact on tourism, leisure and food and drink. Skills development will also be offered.
Bringing together owners and managers from leading farms, estates and crofts, the conference, entitled Action on Agritourism and sponsored by Campbell Dallas, attracted almost one hundred attendees who heard from Caroline Millar from Go Rural; Crown Estate’s Alan Laidlaw; Riddell Graham, Director of Partnerships from Visit Scotland; James Withers, Scotland Food & Drink and Marc Crothall, Scottish Tourism Alliance.
Representing the diverse range of agribusinesses operating in Scotland including outdoor attractions, accommodation and food were Alan Laidlaw, New Mountain Bike Investment at Glenlivet Estate; Steven Melville, St Andrews Country Cabins and Andrew Booth, The Store Farm Shop, Aberdeenshire. Showcasing the warm welcome and high standards of customer service on offer from rural businesses were hosts Robin, Emma and Mike Niven from Channel Farm & Loch Leven’s Larder.
Speaking at the Scottish Agritourism Conference, Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs & the Environment said:
“Tourism ploughs an estimated £3.1 billion annually to the Scottish economy and is crucial in our remote and rural areas. Many farmers have already successfully diversified their business - branching out into walking and cycling, adventure tourism, food and drink, and local history and culture – and I am keen to see this success replicated across Scotland.
“I am delighted that Scottish Enterprise, with grant funding through the Scottish Rural Development Programme, is looking to establish and support agri-tourism monitor farms in the south and east of Scotland by this spring. I encourage businesses to nominate themselves for this exciting initiative and look forward to hearing more about how our rural enterprises are working together to release their potential.”
Caroline Millar, co founder of Go Rural, spelled out the vision for Scotland’s agri-tourism industry.
Caroline said “’Working with the Best’ is one initiative designed to drive growth. By showcasing Scotland’s top 50 farms, estates and crofts already running successful tourism and leisure businesses, operating at the highest levels of quality, service and authenticity, we are confident we can inspire other rural businesses to reach new levels of success and bring this sector to the attention of consumers.
An additional 50 businesses, which demonstrate the skill, offer and ambition to succeed, will also be given support in 2014 to achieve their goals as part of a focused drive to develop the sector.