AGRICULTURAL regions looking for an economic kick-start now have a template to value-add their activities by moving into agri-tourism.
Cairns-based CQUniversity Australia Associate Lecturer in Tourism Dr Michelle Thompson recently completed her thesis which investigated the keys to successfully transforming agricultural resources into food tourism experiences.
Dr Thompon was in Rockhampton in the last month to explain to locals how agricultural regions can work to add economic value to the area.
Dr Thompson researched areas including the Barossa Valley and Margaret River regions which have successfully moved from traditional agricultural regions to now be renowned for their wine production and their appeal as food tourism destinations.
“Some sectors of Australia's agricultural industry have struggled to remain economically viable as the industry is susceptible to ongoing changes in the market environment,” Dr Thompson said.
“With the decline in some of regional Australia's traditional, agricultural industries, the development of tourism offers an opportunity to diversify and revitalise the economy. What we have developed is a conceptual framework that can act as a model for regions to emulate the success of areas like the Barossa or Margaret River.”
Dr Thompson identified six critical steps in that transition: understanding the local geography, as well as proximity to target markets; ability to adopt innovation; passionate and motivated people; a community culture that supports change; developing a regional brand that appeals to tourists; and tapping into a collaborative network that can provide the specialist skills and expertise needed.
“There’s growing demand for food tourism globally and from a farmer’s perspective it’s about transforming your product into something that people can come and experience, either at your own farm-stay, or through a local B&B or restaurant, or for sale at the local farmers’ markets,” Dr Thompson said.
“But the successful transformation of a region's agricultural resources into tourism experiences really requires an in-depth, conceptual understanding of the relationships between the drivers, barriers and regional context within which tourism is being developed.”