‘Farmers should consider rural tourism opportunities to enhance income streams’

Farmers throughout Ireland should actively consider developing rural tourism opportunities as a means of enhancing the income streams available to them, according to Teagasc’s Dr Mary Ryan.

Ireland already attracts 7.3m visitors annually and this, in turn, generates €6 billion of turnover every year, she said.

“This figure is likely to grow during the period ahead. Many of these people want to enjoy the rural beauty and activities that can make this tremendous resource more enjoyable for them.

“But for farm families to convert all of this potential into real business opportunities, a commitment to providing a holistic experience for visitors is what will be required.

“The days of simply offering B&B facilities are over. People coming to Ireland want to share and enjoy all of the activities that take place in the areas they visit. And it is up to the people they stay with to ensure that all of these requirements can be met in full.”

Ryan is Head of Rural Tourism at Teagasc Athenry and she was speaking at the launch of the new handbook on rural tourism, which took place on Day One of the National Ploughing Championships.

Funding is available for rural tourism projects under the new Leader Programme. Farm families wishing to explore such opportunities should get in touch with their local Leader company.

At the launch, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine Andrew Doyle said that rural tourism is a perfect way to stimulate real impetus into encouraging footfall out of the towns and cities.

“There is such diversity in rural Ireland’s visitor activities and attractions, as well as in our specialist farm food producers, all of which make a very compelling case to venture out of the city boundaries.

“Over the past few years, fantastic diversified farm and rural businesses have opened up to visitors. There is a genuine focus on providing a great experience and developing unique local features and skills.

“This publication provides important guidance which complements the resurgent interest in Irish food, heritage and holidays.”

The Rural Tourism booklet is available on the Teagasc website.