Farm Tourism in Australia: A Family Business and Rural Studies Perspective
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This research examines the Australian farm tourism sector within both family business and rural studies research paradigms. It analyses which farmers in Australia establish farm tourism businesses, and why. It extends previous research on farm tourism both in breadth, by covering an entire continent; and in depth, using qualitative approaches to determine the internal and external triggers for individual decisions, as well as quantitative approaches to establish the operational structure of the sector and the overall motivations of its operators. There were three separate stages to this study, with an increasingly detailed focus. In the first, a national database of farm tourism operators was constructed from publicly available sources. In the second phase, a 92 item questionnaire was mailed to every operator, with a response rate just below 50%. In the third phase, detailed interviews were conducted with 43 farm tourism operators either on site or by telephone. There are over 650 working farms which offer farm based tourism products in Australia. A few are large, remote and luxurious, but the majority are small, family priced and close to major population centres. There are around 14,000 beds, with mean occupancy rate 35%, and total annual turnover AUS$115 million. Only 0.2% of Australian farmers have taken up tourism, as compared with 10-20% in some European countries. There are four major groups of farm tourism operators in Australia: full time farms, part time farms, retirement farms and lifestyle farms. There are statistically significant differences between these groups in the make up of their income streams, and in their motivations and family structures. Australian farm tourism operators attach slightly more significance to social than financial gains. Particular groups of operators, however, do indeed rely on farm tourism as a key income stream. For lifestyle operators, the farm component is principally a lifestyle luxury and a tourism attraction, with tourism generating the principal income. For retirement farmers, farming is no longer at a commercially viable scale, and tourism provides the cashflow to keep the operators on their farm property during semi retirement. For part time operators, tourism provides an income stream in addition and, where possible, in preference to off farm employment, for farm families having difficulty making ends meet. For full time farmers, tourism is not seen as a long term important income source, but as a diversification option which enabled them to survive external economic shocks caused by changes in commodity prices or government policies. Whereas an income from farm tourism seems to have been an important stopgap or supplement which allows the operators to maintain their farms and farming lifestyles, it does not necessarily generate sufficient income to support two generations on the same property. At least to date, therefore, it appears that farm tourism cannot be relied upon routinely as a new lifeline for rural communities in Australia. It does indeed have a role to play, but the role may be different in different parts of the country. In the more remote areas, farm tourism can provide a buffer for an older generation of farming families, helping to maintain stability in rural communities and land tenure. In areas popular with amenity migrants, however, farm tourism may act as an agent of change, part of a package which brings former urban professionals to a rural semi retirement.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
School of Environmental and Applied Science
Item Access Status
family farm business