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Culture vital part of agritourism, Farmers Association say

New research into the potential of agriculture tourism (agritourism) in Samoa has the Samoa Farmers Association S.F.A. suggesting culture will be a major element of what visitors want from their holidays here.

This month, the University of the South Pacific (U.S.P.) will begin research into foundations for a thriving agritourism industry in Samoa. It is being led by the School of Tourism with support from the School of Agriculture here in Alafua.

S.F.A Chairman Afamasaga Toleafoa said he imagines tourists want an “insight into village life,” and so the Samoa Tourism Authority (S.T.A.) should consider investigating which villages are equipped to receive tourists and how.

“I think people will be interested in an insight into village life and how people live. You hear a lot of people saying they never get there, they continue to be tourists without experiencing life here firsthand,” Afamasaga said.

A global interest in subsistence farming in the wake of climate change induced food insecurity means Samoa’s plantations hold a lot of tourism potential, he added.

Family farming and ‘agroforestry’ or multi-cropping is proving to attract growing interest, because of how much more sustainable it is for the soil.

“I think there will be more interest to see how that all works,” Afamasaga said.

Getting a look into subsistence agriculture and having tourists work alongside farmers could work, with enough support, he said. One sector he thinks could take up tourism is the floriculture industry, with well-established growers in Samoa who could readily accept guests.

Women in the handicraft sector could be engaging tourists to make their own woven or printed souvenirs too, he said. 

Among the agriculture sector there is interest in growing tourism but from a select few, wealthier businesses who have the capacity to set up what tourists want, said the Chairman.

“The interest is there, but amongst a select group. It needs to be picked up by the more business oriented ones (farmers), and we don’t have many of those.”

But even then, agritourism will only succeed if tourism as a whole continues to grow. The S.T.A. and Samoa Bureau of Statistics report rising arrival figures, which Afamasaga said is a good sign.

In the last decade, tourist arrivals have grown by 33 per cent, with more than 170,000 people coming to Samoa in 2018.

“It’s just another form of tourism, so its growth and potential will depend very much on how tourism grows,” said Afamasaga.

“People who come here, they say, they want to see something different, more natural, less commercialised, with culture and all that kind of stuff. So I think agritourism would fit into that very nicely.”

Food will likely be a major component of any agritourism, so farmers need to consider ways to let tourists prepare and enjoy fresh produce cooked in the Samoan style, Afamasaga said. 

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