Southland farmers are being encouraged to consider how they can take advantage of increasing opportunities in tourism.

Venture Southland is hosting four agritourism information sessions across the region from October 23-26, to highlight potential tourism opportunities for Southland farmers.

The two-hour sessions running  from 12pm - 2pm at each location, including a light lunch, will identify tourism opportunities for farmers, provide insights of current operations and connect farmers with industry resources and advice.

Venture Southland tourism product development coordinator Cameron Richardson said the sessions had been developed in response to growing demand for agricultural and tourism experiences.

“More and more visitors are looking for authentic, rural experiences and Southland’s proud farming history makes the region well-suited to provide them,” Richardson said.

Cameron Richardson - staff profile photo

An ANZ AgriFocus report released in 2017 found that more than a quarter of international tourists visiting New Zealand in 2015 visited a farm or orchard during their stay.

Two-thirds of all Chinese visitors visit either a farm or orchard, or both, during their visit.

Richardson said these numbers presented a key opportunity for Southland farmers with much of the projected tourism growth in New Zealand expected to come as a result of the Chinese market.

Southland tourism has experienced significant growth during the past five years with tourism spend in the region increasing by 34 per cent to $626 million.

Visitor numbers are expected to rise and it was important to identify operators who could deliver great experiences, he said.

“The agritourism information sessions will encourage discussion around agritourism expansion, help Southland farmers to determine if it’s an option for them and connect them with the information and support they need.”

Demand for agritourism products has grown significantly around the world, including in the United States where the number of farms engaging in some form of agritourism increased by 42 per cent between 2007 and 2012.

Richardson said that although the concept of agritourism is not new, its potential is still being discovered in Southland and wider New Zealand as appeal for adventure tourism activities such as horse riding and bush treks continues to grow.

Agriculture is Southland’s largest industry and tourism is the fastest growing, so we’re encouraging farmers to consider combining the two to cater for the growing interest in rural experiences,” he said.

All sessions wil run from 12pm-2pm and are free to attend, but registration is required. To register for the event please contact Cameron Richardson at Venture Southland.