In most small island states, tourism is among the top contributors to GDP and employment, with many of them having limited natural resources or other significant industrial opportunities. Tourism provides many employment options for women and young people and has low entry barriers for small businesses and entrepreneurs seeking to gain access to the market. At the same time, agriculture – which has traditionally been a mainstay of communities in these regions – has struggled to develop during the past few decades, and has seen its economic contribution drop; productivity tends to be very low, and the volume and quality of the local products is not comparable to those provided by imports. As a result, most ACP Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are heavily relying on food imports, with the tourism sector being a significant contributor to the food import bill.
Travel and tourism are booming sectors worldwide. Food tourism, in particular, is a sector which has grown substantially: food expresses the local cultural heritage and connects tourists with a destination’s landscape and unique way of life. Travellers today are more experienced, have more leisure time and income and are looking for new experiences. Cuisine can be an important factor determining the quality of holiday experiences. Dining is consistently ranked as one of the top three favourite tourist activities: 25% - 35% of tourist expenditures are on food. Food tourists can have significant economic effects in the supply chain in the countries they visit, both when they are there and when they return home.
SIDS would do well to consider this demand and diversify and widen their economic base. Still, there is an urgent need to build the supply capacity in terms of quantity and quality, involving farmers and processors. The hotel industry needs to increase local sourcing, while farmers and other value chain actors need the capacity to meet strict food safety and quality standards, provide a consistent supply, and develop and brand their products. There is a need to focus on the promotion of high-quality fresh and processed products, supporting a healthier food system, while at the same time branding these countries or regions as top food destinations. It is also important to consider promotional and educational campaigns to help elevate the value of local farm products.
Building on the steps taken during the previous years, this project aimed to strengthen the intersectoral linkages between agriculture and tourism, promoting the sustainable use of healthy local foodstuffs by the tourism industry. It worked to create an enabling policy environment for agritourism development and to also leverage funds, investments and public partnerships to promote agritourism and its associated value chains, and in this way improve agricultural productivity, incomes and wellbeing. In order to achieve these goals, CTA worked together with regional and national institutions focusing on agriculture, tourism, trade and health, with producer organisations and the private sector. Implemented between 2018 and 2020, the project considered two major activities:
the organization of agritourism policy setting workshops, focusing on the need to support the necessary frameworks for national agritourism policies, and the need to facilitate dialogues and the exchange of information between the public and the private sector. These efforts were meant to help identify priority areas for policy development and potential agribusiness investments; and contribute to the development of a regional model for agritourism policy development; and,the development of agritourism project proposals, working to attract external funding, and scale-up high-potential business initiatives – particularly those delivering value-added agricultural products aligned with the priorities identified in each region.
The most interesting results of this project include the adoption of policies linking agriculture and tourism and also higher investment levels in agritourism in the ACP Small Islands Developing States. Conducive policies for agritourism development are already contributing in terms of income generation opportunities for farmers and local agribusinesses. The project has also produced functional, replicable and scalable models for the development of agritourism and cross-sectoral policy and business exchanges, as well as market insights for those involved in the tourism sector and in the agritourism value chains.