People are spending more on experiences than on material items and that is where the South Dakota Department of Tourism thinks the state’s agricultural sector could shine.
Kirk Hulstein, Industry Outreach and Development Director with the Department of Tourism says he and his colleagues are looking to put a bigger emphasis on agri-tourism in the near future.
“The new trend in travel is people wanting to get in and experience life like a local. They want an experiential vacation,” Hulstein says.
The millennial generation alone will spend $1.4 trillion on travel by 2020. Eighty-six percent of them want to be fully immersed into a new culture with 50 percent of them choosing the destination for this reason.
Working farm/ranches, bed and breakfasts, Hutterites colony tours, and farm to table suppers, are just a smattering of what agri-tourism includes.
Hulstein says of the 32,000 farms in South Dakota 606 of them generate some type of agri-tourism income. “There is still lots of room to grow,” Hulstein says.
The Department of Tourism believes increasing agri-tourism in the state will help both the tourism and the agricultural industry by increasing profits, but also by allowing farmers and ranchers an opportunity to share and educate others about food and production agriculture.
Hulstein says the Tourism Department has begun to look into other states’ efforts and they have found great success in educational agriculture events and ventures where hands-on learning is found.
“In Indiana a large dairy offers educational tours and in Nebraska an attraction there offers year round ability for visitors to learn about production agriculture. Lots of different states are doing things we can learn from,” Hulstein says.
Currently Hulstein is working on putting a stakeholder group together to offer guidance and direction for the agri-tourism emphasis the Tourism Department is pursuing.
Also two employment positions have been opened – and Industry Outreach Manager and a Destination Development Manager – to help facilitate what might come from the stakeholder group.
“There is a lot of excitement out there already about this. I am receiving calls and messages weekly from people about agri-tourism opportunities,” Hulstein says.
In 5 to 10 years Hulstein is hoping the Department of Tourism has tapped into existing channels and producer groups to help farmers and ranchers develop agri-tourism businesses, including working with the USDA to secure funding.
When those businesses are fully operational they would be promoted through the Department of Tourism via a broad agri-tourism campaign to help bring visitors to South Dakota.
Those interested in learning more about the future of agri-tourism in South Dakota should email Kirk Hulstein at Kirk.Hulstein@travelsouthdakota.com.