Holiday goers flock to farms for health and fitness

Agritourism is growing in popularity in South Africa, and this past December saw an influx of holiday goers seeking adventures on farms.

Holiday goers flock to farms for health and fitness
Agritourism is gaining traction in South Africa, and farms that offer hiking trails are set to benefit from the increase in demand for sport-related agritourism experiences.
Photo: Lindi Botha
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The increase in interest for hiking, mountain biking, fishing and walking activities bodes well for those without large budgets for erecting the traditionally sought infrastructure like guest houses on farms.

Jacqui Taylor, managing director of Agritourism Africa, told Farmer’s Weekly that it was especially since the COVID-19 outbreak that attitudes towards nature, health and mindfulness changed, creating a demand for experiences on farms.

READ Agritourism basics: Could you make it work?

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Numerous pathways had also sprung up, where most of the walking is done on farms. She noted that interest in agritourism overall was growing in South Africa.

“There are a variety of reasons for the increase. From an economic perspective, the cost of international travel, particularly airfares, have led to increases in domestic tourism. Over the festive season, cities also become significantly more expensive, so holidaying in the countryside is more affordable.”

Educational visits where visitors are able to touch farm animals, join in the harvest or identify bird species are one of the fastest growing agritourism trends in the world.

Locally, the Western Cape leads the pack with the most agritourism experiences, with the wine industry being early adopters of the concept. Taylor however noted that this was also due to climate, and road conditions.

“The abundant sunshine and lack of rain over the December and January holiday makes the Western Cape more attractive than provinces on the east coast, for example. Agritourism on farms close to tarred roads is also one of the reasons why the Western Cape is doing so well. If the roads are in a poor condition, visitors are reluctant to use their cars to drive to farms.”

READ Ensuring the success of your agritourism business

Western Cape premier Alan Winde said the past holiday season was a bumper period for the province as there were an estimated 200 international flights with tourists landing in December, most of which were likely to visit wine farms.

Local holidaymakers also provided their own boost to this segment of the economy. Department of Tourism spokesperson Tasneem Carrim noted that South Africa had a wealth of diverse tourism and cultural offerings nestled in small villages and townships.

“This part of the domestic market is the backbone of the tourism sector, playing a crucial role in addressing the holiday and leisure needs of our visitors, while creating much needed employment for rural populations.”

Taylor believes that South Africa holds tremendous potential to expand agritourism experiences.

“We are an agriculture-based country, and there are many farmers seeking to diversify agricultural activity to minimise the risk caused by climate change. There are also numerous economic incentives to encourage biodiversity on farms and smallholdings, which further lends itself to agritourism ventures.”