Two business students from the University of Stirling are aiming to revolutionise the agritourism industry in Scotland after devising a new web platform linking holidaymakers with farm hosts.
George Benson and Mats Zachariassen, who are both studying for a MBA with Stirling Management School, are hoping their Airbnb-style website will help the sector realise its predicted £200million worth.
George, who is originally from Ghana, said: “Agritourism is currently a really niche market in Scotland. Not many agriculture businesses are aware of the potential revenue that could be generated by hosting tourists and those who do provide holiday experiences don’t advertise well. As a holidaymaker, it isn’t easy to find and book a stay or working holiday on a Scottish farm.
“Our website ‘Tour My Farm Experiences’ aims to change that by providing a central platform linking farm hosts and experience providers across Scotland with consumers, for the first time.”
Agritourism is a trend currently booming elsewhere in Europe, with Italy boasting 20,000 registered farms and an estimated value of €1.2billion (£1.04billion).
By encouraging more agritourists, bookings through the new website could also provide a further boost to Scotland’s already burgeoning food and drink industry. Research by VisitBritain and the Office for National Statistics found that 40 per cent of visitors to Scotland buy food or drink to take home with them, and VisitScotland’s “Scotland Visitor Survey” found almost half wanted to try local food while on holiday.
Mats added: “There is a huge trend around sustainability and provenance - knowing where food comes from and how it ends up on our plate. Food and drink is already a vital part of the overall tourism product in Scotland and, by making it easier for visitors to enjoy an agriculture-themed holiday, there could be an added boost for both sectors.”
The Stirling students devised the idea after attending a workshop run by the Scottish Institute for Enterprise (SIE) and later entered SIE’s national student entrepreneur competition, ‘Fresh Ideas’.
Impressing judges with their simple but potentially lucrative business plan, George and Mats made it through to the second round and now have the opportunity to win up to £20,000 of start-up funding. They are the first University of Stirling students to reach this stage.
George hopes they prove successful and can push on with their business idea. He said: “We’re hoping to win the competition and use the funding to officially launch the platform.
“Failing that, we’ll be on the hunt for investors as we really believe in this business. It could easily be expanded to cover the whole of the UK, Europe and the rest of the world, revolutionising agritourism, much like Airbnb has done for short-term stays.”
Professor George Burt, Director of MBA at the Stirling Management School, said: “From day one, our students are encouraged to be open to new ideas, think laterally and act like an entrepreneur.
“I am absolutely delighted for George and Mats, who had never met prior to joining the Stirling MBA, and I am confident they will be successful."