Subscribe to Holyrood updates

Newsletter sign-up


Follow us

Scotland’s fortnightly political & current affairs magazine


Subscribe to Holyrood
by Malcolm Roughead, VisitScotland
03 June 2024
Associate Feature: A growing appetite for  rural experiences

Partner content

Associate Feature: A growing appetite for rural experiences

Tourism is much more than a holiday; it creates jobs, boosts wellbeing, attracts investment and is a cornerstone of the rural economy in Scotland. From hospitality, outdoor experiences and accommodation to natural and cultural heritage, there are many opportunities for visitors to immerse themselves in our rural communities. 

With a growing interest from visitors seeking connection to the countryside and our natural larder, there is a real opportunity for Scotland’s rural tourism businesses to capitalise on recent trends. Our agritourism sector in particular, offers unique and popular experiences for visitors. These include farm stays, farm tours, field to fork experiences and sheepdog demonstrations, as well as food and drink activities. 

Agritourism in Scotland is defined as tourism or leisure on a working farm, croft, or estate which produces food. Diversifying in this way and incorporating visitor experiences into their farm offering can help benefit the wider supply chain, sustain rural communities, and grow the visitor economy. The sector builds demand for Scottish farm produce and can help sustain the future of family farms in Scotland. 

Findings from a 2022 survey revealed that money generated by farm retail increased by almost £50 million during the first year of the pandemic, rising from £62m to over £110million. This demonstrates the significant value and opportunity for Scotland’s farms, rural communities and visitor economy associated with including a food and drink experience as part of Scotland’s agritourism offering.

We’ve been working closely with agritourism businesses to help them develop and market their products. This includes featuring unique rural experiences in global media titles, showcasing them on our social media platforms and supporting businesses to sell to travel trade intermediaries like tour operators and travel agents.

Trends we already know are popular tie in perfectly with what rural businesses have to offer, with themes such as enhancing wellbeing and connecting to nature. Food provenance has become a significant consideration for visitors in choosing destinations and is an integral part of their stay in Scotland. Our 2023 Scotland Visitor Survey found that more than one in five visitors visited a farm shop or farmers’ market, and food and drink was found to be a particularly important aspect of travel for long-haul visitors.

This popularity presents a huge opportunity for businesses, which is why we’ve recently teamed up with Scotland Food & Drink to create a new industry guide. It highlights top tips for businesses to help them market their food business, develop a quality food experience and more. By working with and supporting business, we want to build Scotland’s reputation as a leading global destination for food and drink. 

We know our sector is facing challenges, but there is also much to be positive about when it comes to Scotland’s rural tourism. Our growing reputation as an agritourism destination and the strong leadership of the sector has been endorsed with the recent news that Scotland will host the World Agritourism Conference in 2026. This international conference will showcase the diversity and success of Scotland’s agritourism sector on a world stage, with up to one thousand delegates  due to attend. 

By working in partnership, we’ll continue to support businesses and communities in all parts of Scotland. Together we want to showcase the outstanding product in rural areas, grow tourism, and drive positive impacts, driving our National Tourism Strategy, Scotland Outlook 2030.

This article is sponsored by VisitScotland

Holyrood Newsletters

Holyrood provides comprehensive coverage of Scottish politics, offering award-winning reporting and analysis: Subscribe

Get award-winning journalism delivered straight to your inbox

Get award-winning journalism delivered straight to your inbox


Popular reads
Back to top