Fun fact: agriturismo is how you say agritourism in Italian. It is an enormously popular enterprise in Italy, so much so that the first International Workshop on Agritourism was hosted there in 2018. (The most recent one took place in Burlington, VT; it returns to Italy in 2024.)

However, as the desires of consumers change, so does what agritourism has to offer. Since Italy has been more involved in the enterprise for longer, this was addressed by Dr. Thomas Streifeneder, Eurac Research, Institute for Regional Development, Bolzano, Italy, in Vermont this past summer. His talk was titled “The Future of Agritourism? A Review of Current Trends of Touristic Commercialization in Rural Areas.”

While in America, many visitors to rural regions expect more rural lodging – cabins, farmhouses, even campers and tents. In Europe, tourists are increasingly expecting more modern housing and even hotel-like amenities (such as pools or saunas). It’s creating a divide in tourism in rural areas – there’s authentic agritourism and then there’s countryside tourism.

Authentic agritourism involves a working farm, the structures and activities corresponding to the setting of an active farm (such as barns and cows being milked), accommodation in farm buildings and enabled interactions with the farmers. Agricultural activities predominate agritouristic ones.

Countryside tourism, on the other hand, is more about “getting out of the city.” It can mean stays on non-working farms or a visit to a traditional, cultural or other event in a rural area. It can involve commercial agritourism, with a focus more on boutique lodging and activities staged for touristic purposes – not necessarily linked to the agricultural lifestyle and practices.

As this separation becomes more stark in the States, Streifeneder said it’s important to clearly distinguish what your operation is and does.

“In our research we found that ‘agritourism’ businesses on farms rarely used the right keywords on their homepages,” he said. “Touristic enterprises had much more detailed information and imagery.” Those more interested in simply attracting tourists and not concerned about ag education also often utilize professional advertising and website images.

What is a farmer to do when a rural getaway has clear strategic positioning as a touristic business and not as a farm offering touristic services? These places tend to focus more on products than on agriculture and farming experiences, so Streifeneder suggested those truly involved in agritourism do the following:

  • Always put agriculture first – on your website, in your social media posting and in any advertising you do
  • Put a spotlight on stories and narratives of the farm and the landscape
  • Focus on appealing to actual nature lovers and those interested in agriculture

Streifeneder even presented an idea to use a flower classification to rate agritourism experiences similar in nature to the star-rating system of hotels and Airbnbs – with the spotlight on the agriculture. Maybe you could implement that kind of rating system for your visitors.

by Courtney Llewellyn