The sustainable development of linkages between the tourism and agri-food sectors involves policymakers across several ministries, not just from agriculture and tourism. Both agribusiness and tourism are driven by trade, investment, innovation and technology. They are also underpinned by conservation of environmental resources, preservation of traditions and cultural heritage, the responsible development of rural communities, the existence of reliable health services, a well-trained workforce, and responsive financial services sectors. Moreover, given the heavy private sector focus on both agriculture and tourism, policy is inevitably driven by the needs and demands of commercial providers of goods and services throughout the value chain. As such, a holistic and coordinated approach by policymakers is what is needed to facilitate stronger links between local agriculture and tourism.
Agrotourism success stories
Over the past 15 years, initiatives undertaken by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and CTA have resulted in increased attention by policymakers to issues affecting the promotion of linkages between the agri-food sector and tourism. These include the approval of a Regional Strategy for Agrotourism by The Council for Trade and Economic Development and the Alliance of Ministers of Agriculture in 2012; the establishment of a memorandum of understanding between IICA and the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), under which a Caribbean Food Tourism Strategy was developed in 2013; and an IICA Agrotourism award was established in 2017 as part of the CTO Sustainable Tourism Awards.
Under the EU-funded Agriculture Policy Programmes in the Caribbean and the Pacific, CTA and IICA have hosted three agribusiness forums in Barbados, Grenada and Trinidad, with the participation of officials from the ministries of agriculture and tourism and the public and private sectors in the Caribbean and the South Pacific, to discuss policy support for linking food production and fisheries with tourism and the hospitality sector. These forums also allowed for the sharing of successes and best practice models from both regions.
Linking key industries
CTA and IICA also launched a, ‘Chefs for Development’ platform for small island developing states in 2016. This platform uses a ‘cluster approach’ focussing on the private sector, primarily culinary professionals from ‘farm to table’, as advocates and champions for food and nutrition security, and as the entry point for linkage between agriculture and tourism through the utilisation of indigenous foods in cuisine. In 2017, a Caribbean Culinary Alliance was launched with support from IICA, CTA, CTO and the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association.
Individual countries in the Caribbean are also in the process of implementing policies to strengthen linkages between tourism and the productive sectors (agriculture, industry etc). One very successful initiative in Jamaica is the establishment by the ministry of tourism, of a Tourism Linkages Hub in Montego Bay which aims to strengthen the relationship between tourism and other sectors of the economy, and, more recently, a second project to develop gastronomy initiatives including a gastronomy centre at Devon House, a 19th century mansion in Kingston, and the Blue Mountain culinary tour. In nine countries under the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), policies for agrotourism development are laid out in the OECS Agricultural Plan of Action 2012-2022, and work is being undertaken to establish Agrotourism Resource Centres and National Linkages Committees to implement policies and action plans.
What more can be done?
What is now needed is targeted policy support for: infrastructural strengthening of the agriculture value chain (production, post-harvest handling, transportation, processing); innovative financing and investment options, especially for small farmers and rural tourism entrepreneurs; training and capacity building with a focus on the application of technologies for increasing competitiveness in agricultural production; and the use of ICTs for facilitating trade and networking of all stakeholders across the tourism value chain.