Over the month of September and early October I worked with clients in Europe, Asia and the Americas. This meant I saw a wide range of cultures and businesses in our post COVID world.
Prior to COVID a lot of my consultancy was focused on creating the experience for the business to attract the visitor. That has all changed, I’m not saying that creating the experience is not important anymore, I am saying the way we think through the situation and what we do to the offer is changing.
Why? Visitors want to have rural experience and more and more tourists are leaving the city for a rural experience.. I was told 20% of tourism visits in the Philippines are now to farms and all these visitors are domestic visitors from the cities. In Ireland they w are also seeing this surge of visitors, but here they are mostly from American cities.
Attracting the visitor is not the issue, it is managing the numbers of them and maintaining the experience that is the issue. To make matters worse we cannot stagger when they come, they all want to come on a weekend and between 10.00 and 4.00.
What is the Solution?
I worked with agritourism operators who have taken two different approaches. One approach is to make the parking lot bigger, promote to coaches and large tour operators and employ more team members to manage the crowds. This also means making the retail operation bigger and ensuring the facility has enough toilets. This approach is the most common and is working as model, but for how long? I came across farmers that are actually discouraging visitors who come as a family in the car as the farm cannot manage these people efficiently and profitably.
The reverse is a farmer who has promoted his business to exclusive tour operators, will not take more than eight visitors at a time and provides them with the ultimate experience. If you just drive up to the farm you are not allowed on a tour, he only takes in bookings. Is it working. He is maintaining his lifestyle and values and charging high fees for the tour and has a waiting list.
Clearly one of the discussions we have to have moving forward is crowd management and maintaining our values as rural businesses.