According to Australian Tourism, only 26% of our tourists associate our destinations with food and wine. Yet we have some of the best food and wine offerings in the world, with over 65% of our food being exported per year and agricultural products making up over 15% of our total exports. So what are we doing wrong?
In an era when consumers are looking for authenticity and local experiences, and when agritourism is expected to reach US$10,220 million by 2024, we are still focussing on the same icons we have promoted for decades. Google “visit Australia” and you will see the same things you saw in 1999 – promotions of sites like the Sydney Opera House, the great Barrier Reef, Surfers Paradise, Melbourne Art and Museums, and Kakadu National Park. Don’t get me wrong, these are worth the visit! We do however need to think beyond this. In an era where travellers seek information through social media, restaurants, cafes agribusinesses and rural towns have the opportunity to step up and make their mark.
Restaurants and cafes should grab the opportunity to embrace indigenous foods and transparent paddock-to-plate ingredients. Diners love menus that tell the story of where their food came from and how far it has travelled. They will actively seek out dining experiences that are local, reflect the region they are in, and offer them an authentic experience that gives them social media bragging rights. Indigenous bush foods are not only unique and full of flavour, they are environmentally sustainable and truly tell the story of our land. Add these to foods that can be traced directly to small, sustainable food producers in your immediate region, and tell your diners the story about the food on their plate, through the menu and through conversations with staff who are passionate about what they are serving. Do it well, and social media will spread the word.
Agribusiness owners have an opportunity to diversify without taking massive risks with current operations, by stepping in to Agritourism. The vineyards are a great example of how you can create additional income by offering visitors an combination of education and experience, then upsell with wine clubs. The truffle industry is following suit, and there are ample opportunuties for other food producers to do the same.
We do however understand that some councils have a way to go in cutting the red tape that can surround agritourism, so if as an agribusiness you find the red tape is more effort than it is worth, there are options just outside the box.
Food markets and food events are a burgeoning industry, with many making it onto the International Event calendars. Whilst the Melbourne and Sydney Food and Wine Festivals often come to mind, regions are making their mark, with the Orange F.O.O.D Week going from very humble beginnings to a massive 10 day gala event attended by visitors from around the world, and about to enter its 29th year. For small regions, a successful event like this can be the difference between a thriving town and a town whose economy has been crippled by drought and a diminishing population.
If you would like help with your food business, email firstname.lastname@example.org We have experience creating events, expos, symposiums, and strategies in the Canberra and Southern NSW region.