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Home arrow Travel arrow Linking urban and rural tourism : strategies in sustainability
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Community benefits

The benefits of an integrated farm and food tourism strategy can be significant for participating communities. One of these benefits is that farm and food tourism may be less susceptible to recessionary swings in visitation. Many agritourism activities have fairly cheap entry costs relative to other attractions, making them more desirable when budgets are tight. Often these attractions provide benefits that last beyond that day’s experience, such as a history lesson, a holiday decoration (Christmas tree or pumpkin) or food products, which can make the experience a wise investment for a traveller looking for activities that ‘offer more for less’. Tourists may choose a driving vacation over a trip that requires an airfare purchase, to relatively affordable destinations with an abundance of clustered, diverse activities from which to select - especially if they are within comfortable driving distance of an urban market.

As demonstrated by Schilling et al. (2014), agritourism can improve the profitability of small- and medium-sized farms, thus increasing their likelihood of staying in operation. This helps preserve both family and local history and, depending on the operation, may also contribute to a region’s cultural legacy through preservation of historic structures, crop production patterns, livestock breeds or plant varietals. Keeping the land viable in agriculture may yield spillover benefits such as scenic quality, water filtration, habitat provision and pollination. This in turn may benefit off-farm residents through improved scenic amenities and, in situations when natural capital is available to substitute for built capital infrastructure expenditures, lower tax payments. Tourists in other sectors, such as water recreation or bird watching, may also benefit.

Perhaps not surprisingly, this cycle can serve to reinforce the embedded and sustainable nature of the farm and food tourism enterprise. In regions where open space provides scenic quality amenities, residents and visitors alike benefit from, and may be willing to pay for, its protection (Mathews, 2012). Identifying places with these positive spillovers can help a region identify local ‘hotspots’ prime for food and farm tourism. This provides both opportunities for creative financing and additional linkages between key stakeholders that can further protect essential resources (Mathews and Rex, 2011). In WNC, this takes the form of land trusts working with farmers and local governments to finance the purchase of conservation easements on properties that have both significant agricultural production and tourism potential.

 
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