Agritourism is a specific type of tourism. In a supply-side approach, it could make sense. Nevertheless, there are precautions to be taken.

Describing the problem

First of all, it should not be confused with “rural tourism”. Agritourism is regulated in France and Italy, with the requirement that the operator must be a registered farmer and actively participate in the service provided to tourists (see Tourism). Rural tourism includes a wider range of populations, not just farmers, retired or not.

Are you more interested in wine tasting, horse riding or making churned butter? Agritourism means direct sales at the farm, but also immersion stays on farms, exchanges with professionals to (re)discover French agriculture, for a weekend or more.

Agritourism, or rural tourism, is becoming more popular among holidaymakers, and there are two main networks in France that list the different types of agritourism experiences available. Examples of these include “Bienvenue à la Ferme”, a brand of the Chambers of Agriculture, and “Accueil Paysan,” an association that promotes traditional farming. Our values include social tourism and pricing practices that make agritourism experiences more affordable for everyone,” says Pierre-Jean Barthèye, co-president of the organisation.

Excerpt from a statement issued on the French Ministry of Agriculture website that illustrates the confusion (viewed on June 23, 2022, posted May 24, 2022).

Resolving the problem

However, just because someone is staying at an accommodation on a farm, it does not necessarily mean that the person is a tourist or that the service being provided is considered tourism. They may be a business traveller or visiting for other reasons. For other services, such as hosting school field trips or open house days promoting farming as a profession, the recipients are not technically tourists.

Even providing meals in a farmhouse inn is not necessarily tourism. If the customer comes just for the day, with no overnight stay, this practice comes under the heading of leisure. In addition, different countries use different definitions. In China, for example, there is no requirement to be a registered farmer, and parks offer farming and gardening work as a leisure activity. Agritourism and “rural tourism” overlap in China, since there is no clear distinction between leisure activities and tourism.

In France, the term “agritourism” is used by professional organisations to encompass all activities that are not related to food production. However, the term “service agriculture” may be more accurate, as it excludes purely communicative events such as open house days for promoting the profession.

Therefore, in a supply-side approach, a distinction could be made between activities that are related to tourists and those that are mainly engaged in by local residents, just like a zoo or an outdoor activity centre, where both populations are present, but with a predominance depending on the case.

Philippe Violier