Saturday, April 13, 2024

Agritourism gets its own academy

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Offers online courses for farmers who want to begin an agritourism business.
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Agritourism NZ has launched an agritourism academy.

Founder Marijke Dunselman said the accelerator programme workshops that Agritourism NZ hosted across the country have come to an end.

Farmer’s Weekly previously reported the Regional Agritourism Accelerator Programme covered all aspects of starting an agritourism business with a focus on planning, product development, marketing and health and safety. 

Dunselman said the academy is more comprehensive, with pre-recorded courses for farmers who want to begin an agritourism business as a way to diversify.

The academy covers agritourism topics such as social media tutorials, how to set up email marketing, Qualmark application and documentation, working with the NZ Tourism Sustainability Commitment, in-depth tutorials on different needs of international tourists,  how to grow your domestic market and employment.

The courses include weekly live sessions with other agritourism operators where relevant topics are discussed, she said.

Dunselman said the most popular way to begin an agritourism business is to put a farm cottage on Airbnb.

Once farmers see such an enterprise is successful, they often became more hands-on and will offer farm tours, begin hiking routes on their farm by connecting with farm neighbours, promote their own website, or team up with operators, she said.

Dunselman said the “community side” of the academy is “big”, as farmers can connect with others who also have agritourism businesses.

The academy invites experts to talk in their live sessions, she said.

The academy gives farmers the chance to learn and then “hit the ground running” once they begin operating an agritourism business, she said.

Dunselman said Airbnb models are becoming more popular, with Southland for instance having 500 farmstays listed.

Farmers often do not realise what value farm stays have, she said.

CEO of PurePods Stephanie Hassall said farmers are often reluctant to begin an agritourism business because it can detract from the core business of farming.

PurePods are five-star accommodation units that are built on farms in a profit-sharing accommodation deal.

Hassal said other factors that can make farmers reluctant are the initial set up costs, setting up a new business, dealing with councils and health and safety requirements.

However, tourism has additional income potential, she said.

Occupancy for PurePods is around 75%+ with some seasonal fluctuations, she said.

The annual income from each pod, “typically ranges from $52,000 to $80,000, based on a typical average annual occupancy rate of 50% to 77%. Even at just 50% occupancy, each pod can generate $52,000 per year, resulting in a 26% return on investment.”

Country manager for Airbnb in Australia and New Zealand Susan Wheeldon said travel in NZ has become more dispersed and this means more economic opportunities for small communities where there are little to no traditional accommodation options. 

“Airbnb categories such as Farms, Countryside and Off-Grid have remained popular for travellers,” Wheeldon said.

Airbnb supports initiatives to help farmers diversify their offerings and a Farmstay Hub has recently been launched on Airbnb, offering advice and resources for those interested, she said. 

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