What is Agritourism?

The Importance and Diversity of Agritourism

Julius Fabini

Benefits and Challenges of Agritourism

Learn more about the definition, types, benefits, and challenges of agrotourism. Discover how this sustainable tourism sector contributes to the economic and social development of rural areas.

Reading time: 4 Minutes

What is Agritourism?

Agritourism or Agrotourism is a form of tourism closely connected with rural areas and agriculture. This tourism sector has gained particular importance in Europe in recent decades as it combines economic, social, and environmental aspects of sustainability. Unlike general rural tourism, agrtourism takes place directly on agricultural farms. The goal is to provide accommodations, food, and recreational activities while offering insights into the daily work and traditions of agricultural life (Robinson).

Differences between agritourism and other forms of tourism

Term & DefinitionDifference to Agritourism
Ecotourism is a nature-based, sustainable form of tourism that conserves the environment, educates visitors and residents, and provides economic benefits to local communities (MDPI)​.Ecotourism focuses on sustainable transport, natural areas, and conserving the environment, often in national parks, while agritourism is more focused on local traditions and supporting cultural heritage. Agritourism encompasses more social aspects than ecotourism.
Green Tourism is another term often used interchangeably with ecotourism, emphasizing environmentally friendly practices.Agritourism is a form of green tourism but encompasses more social aspects than green tourism.
Sustainable tourism meets the needs of present tourists and host communities while protecting and enhancing opportunities for the future. It ensures that resources are managed to satisfy economic, social, and aesthetic requirements while preserving cultural integrity, crucial ecological processes, biological diversity, and life support systems (MDPI, UNTWO).Agritourism is part of sustainable tourism and is likely the most sustainable due to its low pollution, promotion of sustainable lifestyles, and support for local traditions both emotionally and monetarily. Agritourism achieves an impressive 14 of the United Nations' 17 Sustainable Development Goals. 
Responsible tourism and sustainable tourism share many goals, responsible tourism is more focused on the ethical and moral responsibilities of those involved in tourism activities. It emphasizes individual and organizational actions to make a positive impact, whereas sustainable tourism often involves broader regulatory frameworks and policy measures to achieve sustainability goals​ (MDPI)​.Agritourism is more responsible than sustainable tourism as it includes the additional goals of responsible tourism by promoting ethical and moral responsibilities alongside sustainability. Agritourism is a highly responsible form of tourism due to its emphasis on education, lived sustainability, and fostering a deep connection between humans and nature within cultural landscapes.
Geotourism sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place, including its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and residents' well-being (Sci-Hub)​.Geotourism has an educational focus on natural and geographical heritage, while agritourism focuses more on people, cultural landscapes, and the harmony between nature and humans rather than geological features.
Nature-Based Tourism is a form of tourism that is related to visiting natural landscapes and attractions, engaging in activities that allow individuals to connect with and appreciate the natural world. It includes various forms of tourism such as adventure tourism, ecotourism, and wildlife tourism, emphasizing experiences that involve observing, exploring, and enjoying nature (Frontiers)​.Nature-based tourism primarily focuses on experiencing and appreciating natural environments and wildlife. In contrast, agritourism is more centered on agricultural settings and activities, offering insights into farming practices, local food production, and rural life. While both forms of tourism promote sustainability and environmental awareness, agritourism also emphasizes learning from local farmers and engaging with rural cultures and traditions.
Adventure tourism involves travel to remote or exotic locations to engage in physically challenging activities that often include a degree of risk or perceived danger. It is characterized by activities that require physical exertion and skills, such as mountaineering, bungee jumping, rafting, and trekking.​​​ (Frontiers)​.While adventure tourism focuses on thrill-seeking activities and physical challenges in natural settings, agritourism is centered on agricultural experiences and learning about farming practices, local food production, and rural lifestyles. Agritourism emphasizes educational and cultural experiences rather than physical challenges.
Voluntourism is a form of tourism in which travelers participate in voluntary work, typically for a charity or non-governmental organization. It often supports a "white savior" complex where privileged volunteers believe they are "saving" disadvantaged communities. (LSA WordPress)​.Agritourism can sometimes overlap with voluntourism but offers additional respect to locals by providing appreciation for their traditional work. Agritourism is about learning from locals and appreciating their work and traditions rather than necessarily helping them physically.

What types of Agrotourism are there?

There are different approaches in agrotourism:

  • Indirect approaches: Agricultural products are sold to tourist facilities. Examples include farmers' markets where local products are sold directly to tourists.
  • Direct approaches: Providers are engaged in both agriculture and tourism. Activities include visits to wineries, pick-your-own fields, agricultural information centers, farm stays, and harvest festivals (Robinson).

Why is Agrotourism beneficial?

Agrotourism creates added value for small farmers, local communities, and visitors. Through interactions with tourists, farmers can develop new skills, sell their products directly to consumers, and enhance community exchanges. This results in the flow of funds from industrial regions to less industrialized areas. Agrotourism supports the preservation of rural uniqueness and contributes to long-term economic development. It also helps reduce rural depopulation and strengthens the relationship between consumers and producers in terms of global sustainability (Stotten).

Case studies of agritourism projects

Casa Catalin is located in Șirnea. Catalin, who worked in Bucharest and became known as an athlete, decided to return to his native village. There, he combined agriculture with tourism: he opened a guesthouse where guests can not only stay overnight but also enjoy cheese made on his own farm. Although Catalin's project has little online presence and faces a low number of tourists, he and his wife manage to constantly develop the project despite the intense work from sunrise to sunset. However, agriculture has suffered, so now he has only 6 cows and either sells or gives away the cheese. His project impresses with its authenticity and respect for local traditions.

Popasul Morii has an impressive history of 150 years and is now managed by the fourth generation of the Popa family. The mill is often visited, having around 8 visitors a day. It grinds flour for small bakeries using hydraulic energy. An advantage is that the flour can be associated with the grains used, and the low temperature during grinding guarantees high quality. The rich agricultural heritage, combined with warm hospitality, attracts many tourists. However, the place is hard to find and is listed incorrectly on Booking.com, where the price for the entire guesthouse is confused with that for a room. The guesthouse features strong modern influences and tends slightly towards kitsch despite the historic location.

The evangelical parish houses in Movile and Stejărișu are living testimonies of how external community initiatives have managed to achieve a new tourist orientation over the years. With the support of dedicated communities from Germany and Austria, it was possible to integrate local lifestyles with tourism. After communism, the houses remained the property of the evangelical church and were rented by Heimatortgemeinschaft (HOG), the organization of Saxons who left. The guesthouse in Movile was initially open only to HOG members but later to external guests as well. Although it operates without official authorization and relies on donations, it is self-sustaining. Doina, a Roma woman from the village, earns an income from cleaning, and all other earnings are invested in renovating the house. A German association, "Friends of Hunfertbücheln," is heavily involved in the village. Thanks to Paul, a member of this association who moved to the village, various offers have been integrated, and Movile has become a tourist destination. The association also creates Christmas boxes sold in Germany, supporting many families in Movile and Stejărișu with local products.

Emil, deeply rooted in the Roma community of the former Saxon village of Brateiu, has established himself as the keeper of the traditional Roma craft of copper processing. Besides his activity as a coppersmith, he cultivates land and processes copper traditionally. Emil is not only a master of his craft but also a teacher who passes on his knowledge and skills to his children and grandchildren. After being discovered by tourist guides, he was able to expand his activity into tourism. This brings him not only additional income but also increased interest in his creations, which can now be purchased locally. Right in front of his house, Emil runs a small sales stand, waiting for interested passersby.

In the heart of Transylvania, in Viscri, where King Charles also owns a residence, Gabor Matei continues the village's blacksmithing legacy. Although he also practices agriculture, blacksmithing is the center of his activity. He has developed a special talent for attracting tourists' interest by personalizing small horseshoes with their initials. This craft not only allows him to support his family but also to feel part of a community.

Lenuta Florea from Stejărișu found her passion in baking bread for tourists. This experience changed her perspective on her craft, which she now sees in a new light and with increased appreciation. Through tourism, she has managed not only to improve her income but also to increase respect for her work. While she produces traditional felt house slippers, she earns additional income by baking bread for the guesthouse and through baking courses for tourists. This, combined with agriculture, allows her to support her family and enhance her relationship with work through tourism.

Projects like Catalin's or Popasul Morii demonstrate the importance of tourism for preserving cultural heritage, as well as its challenges. Initiatives by Emil and Gabor Matei illustrate how old traditions can be integrated into modern business models. Agritourism offers Gabor Matei the opportunity to preserve his cultural heritage while passing it on to the next generation.


What are the challenges of Agrotourism?

Despite its benefits, agrotourism also faces challenges. Small farmers often lack support from local institutions, adequate business training, and sufficient financial resources. Critics like Devine point out that farmers offering tourist services sell not only their products but also the experience of a place, including its identity, culture, and nature. This can lead to the commodification of people and places, causing conflicts over land and identity (Devine).

Although there are commercial aspects and challenges, agrotourism offers small farmers a viable way to continue their traditional agricultural activities in a changing agricultural sector. It can reduce economic disparities and promote regional growth (Adamov et al.).

Places in the surroundings