It's the time of year when, for some of us, thoughts turn to holidays. If inspiration is required then the publication by sector body, Scottish Agritourism, of their Go Rural map may provide welcome assistance.

The map was launched last week in the Scottish Parliament when it was presented to Deputy First Minister, Shona Robison and marks this May as Scotland's first ever national agritourism month. The aim of the map is to assist people visiting multiple destinations across Scotland and to drive up tourism spend in rural Scotland. Scottish Agritourism's definition of agritourism is 'tourism or leisure on a working farm, croft or estate which produces food' and the map shows the locations of agritourism businesses throughout Scotland.

Agritourism is a growing consumer trend in Scotland and there is a growing number of businesses looking to diversify their operations. Staying on farms enables people from non-farming and urban backgrounds to have a glimpse into farming life and how the food they eat is produced, linking the public to the food grown in a particular area and the people behind its production. These experiences not only bridge the gap between people and food by educating consumers about where their food comes from, but it also provides a welcome addition to on-farm revenue streams which assists with building resilience in the agricultural sector and the wider rural economy.

Tourism and food and drink represent two of Scotland's most successful, and growing, industries. Domestic tourism and the rise of the 'staycation' drives demand for rural experiences that connect people to the countryside. And Scotland also has an international reputation for the quality and provenance of our food and drink products, so with record numbers of visitors coming here, there is a solid foundation to further grow the nation's food tourism industry.

The findings of Scottish Agritourism Growth Tracker 2022, undertaken for Scottish Agritourism by Visit Scotland, highlighted the value and opportunities arising from a high quality visitor experience centred around agriculture and food and drink. The work was undertaken to monitor the progress and potential of the sector, and significantly the timescale for the survey (April 2020-March 2021) was during the period that travel, tourism and hospitality were directly impacted by COVID-19 restrictions. Despite that, it found agritourism was worth around £60 million to the Scottish economy, which was similar to pre-pandemic values - demonstrating the value of the sector to the local/domestic market.

A major ambition of Scotland's Agritourism Strategy is to grow the sales of produce onsite and provide a more comprehensive food experience. Four in ten agritourism businesses currently sell their produce directly to consumers so that they can be enjoyed as part of a holiday experience, in an on-site café or after a tour of the farm, croft or estate. About a quarter of respondents said that they see this as an opportunity for their business and would like to develop facilities to do this in the future, with one in five who do not have their own products available, looking to provide locally produced food and drink to guests.

Farm retail, which is described as selling produce directly from the farm via a farm shop, farmers market, local food hub or an equivalent outlet, showed a significant boost from £62m to over £100m. This reflects the boom in consumer awareness of the economical, ethical and environmental benefits of sourcing food locally and in season, reducing food miles and cutting down on unnecessary packaging. More than half of respondents said they sell their produce online (55%), in an on-farm shop (36%) or via an on-farm honesty box (29%). Other methods identified include delivery to local residents, restaurants and caterers, produce boxes of vegetable, meat or dairy via subscription schemes and pop up shops and seasonal pitches such as pumpkin patches.

Scotland is already renowned internationally as a tourism destination and our reputation for food and drink continues to rise. Combining these brings opportunity to our food producers and businesses and benefits our economy, particularly our rural economy.