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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » April 30, 2014
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New Trends in Agritourism
April 30, 2014   
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It is no longer enough for agritourism and home-stay farms to provide simple accommodation and country-style food. Visitors are becoming more demanding and the future belongs to agritourism farms that can tempt tourists with a creative package of attractions.

In many countries agritourism is considered an important segment of the economy and plays an important role in tourism, contributing to the development of individual regions. The situation is similar in Poland, where even though this type of tourism is relatively new and less developed than in many other countries, there is a growing tendency to support such tourist services and make the most of their potential.

Experts say agritourism should be a seen as a useful way for farmers to supplement their income.

Recent years have brought significant progress in the quality of agritourism services in Poland. Many original ideas have appeared and the way the segment is developing reflects global trends. Tourists staying in rural areas can increasingly expect not only to relax in pleasant natural surroundings but also to be provided with a range of attractions and a high standard of service. Attractive rooms with facilities such as a TV and internet access and a separate bathroom are almost standard and not a luxury as once was the case.

Regional and traditional products have become another part of the recipe for success in terms of bringing in the tourists. Tasty, natural local food is the trend today, along with attractions such as generous, tasty meals by the bonfire, cycling, horseback riding and other outdoor pursuits, along with the opportunity to hire sports equipment.

Innovation in the broad sense of the word is an important new trend in agritourism. According to a report entitled Rural tourism including agritourism as an element of sustainable and multi-faceted development of rural areas by Agrotec Polska and the Polish Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Geography and Spatial Organization, innovation in rural tourism can mean creating an original tourist product from scratch (such as dinosaur parks and theme villages), or professional marketing focusing on existing local natural or cultural resources. Innovation can involve a tourist product in the form of a site (facility, area, route), event (festival, cultural event), service or group of services (organized excursions).

According to the report authors, innovative ideas in tourism can also mean accommodation reservation and tourist information management, using innovative methods of promotion, and blending rural tourism with, for example, so-called medical tourism in rural areas.

One example of innovation at the local level are theme villages. To establish one requires a good idea and cooperation from local residents. Such projects may be eligible for European Union funding. One example is the Sierakowo Hobbit Village. The inspiration came from the similarity of the local landscape to that described in J.R.R. Tolkien’s books. Local residents designed special outdoor games for tourists, demonstrations of the art of blacksmithing and ceramics workshops. There is also a Troll Inn, and various festivals and fairs are held. Visitors can also meet fantasy characters from Tolkien’s books.

Another example of this kind of tourist attraction is the village of Ruda, the theme here being flour, bread and healthy living. A theme village called Chleb z Przygod± (Bread with Adventures) offers visitors an outdoor game, an old kitchen that tourists can visit and where they can make their own bread, art workshops and games involving exercise.

Local and regional innovations can include themed routes if these are prepared in an original way that is attractive to tourists. Many specialist routes have been set up in Poland in recent years, for example the Podlasie Folk Art Tradition Route encompassing six localities where traditional artisan workshops show visitors the arts of weaving, carving, spoon making, pottery making and metalwork. Other original initiatives include the Oscypek (cheese) Route in Podhale, the Tatar Route in Podlasie and the Pottery Route in Podkarpacie.

The number of agritourism farms and other rural facilities offering innovative products in Poland is growing. There are plenty of examples of sites whose owners have built tourist products based on local traditions, for example pottery classes, basket making, herb collecting and wood carving. Visitors can also sample the delights of regional taverns, enjoy kayaking trips, horse-drawn cart rides, bonfire parties with a wide selection of local delicacies, climbing walls and powered hang-glider flights. Ideas can come in all shapes and sizes, but all of them contribute to tourists’ growing interest in a given region.

In EU countries, one in 10 rural farms makes a living from agritourism. This form of leisure activity is getting more popular every year. In Poland, up to 1.5 million people decide on a rural vacation each year. There are more than 10,000 agritourism farms across the country, with new ones springing up all the time. A growing number of people are deciding to give up their current occupations and to work in agritourism, including urban dwellers—setting up an agritourism farm can be a new way of life.
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