We have always emphasised that the travel and tourism industry stands to gain a lot by leveraging technology and social media. Of course we have seen a huge boost in the number of online travel startups and they are trying to contribute in one way or the other. But in the sea of all the new businesses that are coming up, we feel that some innovative ideas in the offline space aren’t getting the traction they deserve.
While we were interacting with various exhibitors at SATTE Mumbai West, we came across Mr. Pandurang Taware at the MTDC (Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation) booth. He introduced us to the idea of AgriTourism in India and how it is helping hundreds of farmers make more out of their farmlands.
AgriTourism broadly includes the agriculture based activities that bring visitors to a farm. This niche tourism segment is growing very fast in many parts of the world like United States, Australia and Canada. A wide range of activities from ploughing and harvesting to picking fruits and milking cows are covered under the tours to offer the visitors an experience of the farm life.
Agritourism in India
Agri Tourism Development Corporation or ATDC started in 2004 under the guidance of Mr. Taware. They started operations with a few farms by offering tours and activities for travellers. To gain more traction, they invited various schools to bring their students to these tours apart from the usual sightseeing tours they host. It was not only a new experience for the students but also had an educational value. Now they have over 200 affiliate farmers that run AgriTourism centres in their respective villages and the activities are carried out by them. They offer camps, bed and breakfast, day trips and other options.
The initiatives under ATDC fetched multiple awards including National Tourism Award 2008-09 for most innovative tourism project, Virgin Responsible Tourism Award- WTM London 2011 for conservation of Cultural Heritage and Responsible Tourism Award 2012 by Wild Asia, Malaysia.
With more people getting on the internet, platforms like Airbnb and Vayable have started to make a lot more sense. Farm operators of various AgriTourism centres can leverage the power of these platforms to increase their reach. While word of mouth is working well for them, using websites like Vayable will help them grow the number of visitors exponentially. This is because they will be able to reach wider geography and it might click with the increasing number of young travellers who look for non-touristy things to do. Apart from the P2P services, there are platforms like Byond Travel that specialise in experiential tours and can also serve as a companion.
ATDC’s activities are limited to Maharashtra for now and while they have a presence on social media platforms, the accounts aren’t very active. There have been similar initiatives in some other parts like Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Social media platforms can be used to create buzz about AgriTourism and further spread the word. This could serve as an inspiration for others and we might see similar initiatives in other parts of India which in turn will help various farm operators add another income source.
How else do you think this segment can benefit from the use of technology? You can read more about ATDC’s projects and initiatives on their website www.agritourism.in