Farmers Encouraged to Explore Agri-Tourism for Extra Revenue

photo credit: Cabot Lodge

West Coast farmers are being encouraged to generate revenue through their natural assets with agri-tourism side hustles.

Workshops in Whataroa and Reefton encouraging farmers to explore agri-tourism opportunities were cancelled due to the lockdown. However, Agritourism NZ founder Marijke Dunselman said there was no reason farmers couldn't think about their potential.

There are thousands of farm cottages on Airbnb, but many farmers underestimate the opportunities for value that they already have, said Dunselman. There is a huge demand for off-the-trail places, and people want to learn about farming, where food comes from, and the connection to the land, she added.

Dunselman claimed she knows farmers who charge $600 or more for one night's accommodation instead of $90.

They offer an experience, homegrown food, and they connect with tourism wholesalers and premium online channels.

Cabot Lodge in Fiordland has become a full-time occupation for the young owners. They operate the luxury retreat with five-star Qualmark accreditation, as well as running a beehive offshoot.

There is no denying the pandemic has closed off the country to overseas tourism, but some operators had pivoted, mostly towards Aucklanders who would visit when restrictions lift.

Accommodation could be extended to multi-day experiences like walks or tours of a working farm. Camper van sites, adventure races or concerts are also viable options.

Dunselman said side businesses are often run by younger people, which helps them make a living.

On the West Coast is the Wilderness Trail, which crosses through multiple farms. These farmers could offer accommodation with food, preferably off the farm, said Dunselman.

Some businesses have done well during Covid by being off the track, especially guided walks or bike rides, she added.

Sustainability is a worldwide trend, and Dunselman claimed people want to stay in cottages or shearers' quarters that gather rainwater from the roof or use solar power.