Agritourism & Local Economies
Updated: Jun 14, 2021
In Conversation with John Salazar
In our second expert interview, we interviewed John Salazar on the benefits of agritourism on rural economies. John is the Associate Professor and Coordinator of the University of Georgia Hospitality & Food Industry Management program. John is a hotelier by trade with an extensive career in tourism & hospitality throughout the West, Midwest, & Southeast. During the course of his career, he has done research and development within the resort & agritourism markets. Our discussion centered on how farms can leverage collective storytelling and local tax revenue collection to enhance their farm experiences and support the economy of the communities in which they reside.
The Art of Story Telling
In the Travel & Tourism Section of the 2021 Georgia Ag Forecast, John wrote, “tourism at the community level is driven by a visitor’s affinity for a destinations unique set of experiences.” I asked John, in what ways individual farms or entire communities could collaborate to create a distinctive experience for visitors in their area. He shared that each farm, just like each community has its own history and unique story. In the tourism industry, the goal is to maximize the distinct product and then align it with other experiences. The opportunity for farms in rural communities is to partner with larger markets to build a unique collective experience that visitors want to learn about. Building those partnerships is how a farm can leverage their farm story or the story behind their farm’s on-site attraction to market their farm experience to a broader audience.
Once a community has defined their collective story, their local Designated Marketing Organization (DMO) can frame the story as a part of the destination experience. DMOs aide in the promotion of local destinations. John noted that DMOs come in many forms and are named differently across each county. They may be represented as the local Chamber of Commerce or visitors bureau. Each DMO has its own promotional calendar. The key is to find out when they release their promotional calendar. It’s best to contact them ahead of the release so that your farm experience can be included. By having your farm experience on the DMOs promotional calendar it can expose your farm experiences to new visitors. What entices those visitors to seek out local attractions like a farm experience is the unique story that's shared.
Tax revenue collection - Benefiting from the local revenue cycle
John shared that almost every state has a lodging tax and that it is paid by visitors that stay in hotels. Though most states have a lodging tax, the specific tax policy will vary for each state. Some state policies will take a portion of the tax revenue collected and allocate it back out to the counties for tourism attractions and campaigns. When funds are allocated for the purposes of tourism attractions and campaigns, the local DMOs are then in charge of curating how those funds are managed for their area.
As mentioned, DMOs have promotional calendars and the funding for their promotions are directly related to the local tax revenue collections. Their promotions help to draw more people to the loca area. Visitors that stay overnight will pay a lodging tax. After the state collects all local tourism related taxes they may then redistribute a portion of that tax revenue that was collected to the local DMOs to use for promotions. The potential benefit to a farm and surrounding community's inclusion in the DMO promotions is increased visitorship and revenue. John also shared, that the lodging tax isn’t the only tax that visitors may pay. There may be a hospitality tax for local restaurants and an admission tax on attractions that all contribute to the tax revenue collection. Developing a partnership with your local marketing organizations has the opportunity to create a cycle that drives continuous promotion & revenue for your farm experience.
While our conversation centered around the economic benefits of agritourism in rural areas, the framework can be applied to farms in any area that is looking to market their farm experiences on a broader scale. Now more than ever opportunities to strengthen local economies is critical. So, tell your farm experience story and build on those local partnerships and then tell us about it. We'd love to hear your success stories.