Agrotourism – challanges and development perspectives
STRATEGIC VISION AND OBJECTIVES
Analytical paper presented by “Uluchay” Social-Economic Innovation Center aims at provision of advisory information for institutions responsible for this field by means of analysis of problems regarding strategical goals and aims and development of agritourism in the region.
First, it should be noted that there is no perfect and uniform agritourism concept all over the world. However, notwithstanding with that, agritourism in most European countries has been developing rapidly for many years and become an additional source of income.
In order to form additional income source for those who work in agrarian sector, development of agritourism in villages of highland and piedmont regions is of great importance. Those who use this type of tourism most of all are people of financially medium class. Generation of income from agritourism in rural areas is possible within the concept of sustainable development. According to Ch. Gulaliyev, specialist in agriculture, employment in agritourism provides incentive for development of agriculture. In other words, people employed in agriculture could create agritourism industry by establishing exemplary organizations and demonstrating their biologically pure products to people. Obtained achievements have contributed to new and large-scale investments into the development of agrarian industry in many European countries. Based on this, it can be concluded that agritourism has an effective microeconomic model and is considered prospective from economic point of view.
Starting from the 80’s of the last century agritourism began to develop rapidly in countries of Western Europe. The state’s support for the improvement of infrastructure of the village and, in particular, rural roads, has increased. Due to incomes from the development of agritourism, renovations in agriculture has been carried out and promising jobs of new directions have been created. It should be noted that local government (municipalities, local execution powers) has a very special role in development of agritourism. Because it is they that is key to adoption of incentives and various normative document for development of agritourism in regions. For instance, in order to develop agritourism in different Italian provinces, laws used to be adopted by local government previously, and then by central government. As a result, infrastructure for comprehensive development of agritourism in Southern Italy, economically weak developed regions (Kalabri, Sicily, Sardinia, etc.) has been developed.
Researches have shown that, as the first step in the development of agritourism special state or local organization should develop special program. The study of foreign practices (e.g., Germany) shows that rapid development in agritourism is more effective within the framework of the special program prepared by the state and based on the flexible management.
It’s worth pointing out that notwithstanding with the fact that “Strategic Road Map for the Development of the Specialized Tourism Industry in the Republic of Azerbaijan”, approved by the Decree of the President of AR on December 6, 2016, consists of 98 pages, this document reflects the overall development of tourism in the country as a strategic goal and target. At the same time, flexible impact mechanisms for rapid development of agritourism are described very simple in this document. Although it is planned to establish Tourism Council in this field, there is no reference to the use of other practices. Most attention in this paper is given to the development of tourism on the level of national parks. However, along with this, it is possible to develop this field by referring to the Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan on Family Peasant Household, which was signed on 23.11.2005 until a special agritourism law was drafted. So, the aim of this law is to support the development of family-based farms in rural areas, promote self-employment and improve efficiency, expand alternative sources of income and accelerate development of rural places. Referring to various experiences, we can see that in some European countries agritourism industrial subjects operate in the form of associations. For example, general confederation of landowners (Agriturist -Confagricoltura), natural agritourism and environment operate in Italy, associations uniting agritourist civil, farm and rural hotels operates in Spain. And state agritourist agencies operate in some countries. For instance, it is preferred to operate as united rural tourism agritourist agency in Hungary, as agrarian associations in regions in Poland.
Researches show that citizens of Azerbaijan still show low level of interest to this field. The main reason for this is the lack of awareness among the population, as well as the lack of local infrastructure (roads, gas, light, water, etc.). At the same time we should note that the number of firms engaged in agritourism is also little. Although this case is typical for many former Soviet countries, but in recent years, Belarus and Georgia has been paying much attention to this field. For example, regardless the fact that this field is new in Belarus, whose economic and financial opportunities are less than Azerbaijan’s, it has already achieved some successes. In this country the state submits 7% annual loan for 7 years, cheap land property and necessary technical support to those who want to be engaged in agritourism. Cost per one person for 1 day of staying in these houses with normal living conditions, including meal, is about 20-24 manats. All necessary conditions are created for normal rest of tourists. This business field is considered profitable. Due to the development of this field new job opportunities have been created and the flow of labor force from villages has been prevented. Unemployment in villages of the country is 1.3%.
However, there are enough natural and economic resources for development of this field in Azerbaijan. We believe that given the foreign experience for the strong development of this field, our country should focus on the development of agritourism. For this purpose necessary infrastructure, management center for the development of agritourist services, data base for travel agencies on central and regional levels should be established. Along with the promotion of labor skills of local population, selling craftworks to tourists, acquaintance with historical monuments, it’s possible to achieve the development of villages, increase in incomes of rural population.
As we have mentioned above, there are a lot of favorable conditions for development of agritourism in Azerbaijan. So, there are necessary geographical and climate conditions for comprehensive development of this field in many regions of the country (northern, southern, north-western). Mentioned regions are surrounded by high mountains, fascinating forests, mountain rivers, cool springs and waterfalls. Together with the nature, rich cuisine of these regions also makes them more attractive and significant.
By developing agritourism, it’s possible to arrange not only recreation of people in rural places, but also their harmony with the nature. In other words, recreation of people means their direct contact with either plants and domestic animals in houses where they stay. Moreover, it means ecologically pure products they use, walking in the open air, being isolated from the noisy life although for a short time. Surely, financial factor also plays a significant role here. Considerably lower prices in comparison with hotel prices will make this field even more attractive, because prices in this field are affordable and accessible for all social groups.
Our state and society can achieve the following positive fallout from the development of agritourism field:
- By creating new work places in selected villages for the development of this field, additional source of income leading to reduction of social tension emerges;
- Decrease in national and international migration process;
- New insights and approaches lead to additional investments, that stimulates the comprehensive development of agritourism;
- Revenues to state budget increase;
- Entrepreneurial spirit of people is strengthened;
- Living standards increase and etc.
- Preparation of service packages for ecotourism;
- Creation of electronic database;
- Improvement of transportation services;
- Use of various support mechanisms for development of the field;
- Increase of core capital, knowledge and skills for the development of this field.
- Analysis of current situation in the north-western region of Azerbaijan:
According to official statistics, 72.4% of population of the north-western region of our country live in villages, and 27.6% of population live in cities. Economic analysis of the agrarian sector of this region shows that although our villages are engaged in production of various types of agricultural products, income of the most part of population is not sufficient for normal family maintenance. Those who are engaged in this field, are trying to get out of this situation due to government subsidies. Low living conditions and lack of work places (mainly, for youth) result in population flow to other cities and abroad.
From this point of view, “Uluchay” SEIC presents its recommendations to relevant government agencies for the development of agritourism.
Based on researches, “Uluchay” Social-Economic Innovation Center concluded that notwithstanding with the fact that there are a lot of geographical opportunities for the development of agritourism in north-western region of our country, this field has not been developed yet. Long-term and a large amount of financial investment should be provided for the establishment of appropriate infrastructure in villages that have real opportunities for the development of agritourism. It is advisable to give the main directions to be supported by the state on the following areas:
- To prepare and start target state program for the development of agritourism;
- To prepare appropriate laws and orders for the development of this field;
- To select, repair, restore proper houses in villages for the development of this field, as well as to purchase consumer equipment, to provide target-specific, long-term and low-percentage loans;
- To apply tax deduction for a certain period of time to those who are engaged in this field;
- To hold educational campaigns to improve knowledge and skills of people in above-mentioned areas.
Development of this field as an additional income-generating business, has a comprehensive impact on the economic development of these villages and is of great importance for the recognition of our country’s provinces.
For this purpose, proper infrastructure should be created first in villages located in the north-western region of our country, having historical monuments, fascinating nature, pure springs. Researches show that development of agritourism in the north-western region of our country can be more effective and efficient from economic point of view:
Sheki region: Kish, Bash Kunjut, Bilajik villages.
Oghuz region: Bash Dashaghil, Khal-Khal villages.
Gakh region: Ilisu, Gakhbashi villages.
Zagatala region: Jar, Yukhari Tala villages.
Balakan region: Katekh, Mahamalar villages.
There are a lot of villages in north-western region of Azerbaijan with necessary potential for the development of agritourism and all these villages have similar opportunities and problems. We, “Uluchay” ESIC, consider that pilot projects regarding the development of agritourism in above-mentioned villages will be successful and will provide a comprehensive incentive for the development of agrarian sector in other villages by implementing this experience.