Burlington, Vermont, United States, April 18, 2023 / TRAVELINDEX / The Global Agritourism Network (GAN) was launched and celebrated online on April 11, drawing some 700 registrants from 81 countries. The formation of the GAN indicates a new beginning for the global agritourism sector, which now has a unified voice to promote, advocate for and strive for the prosperity of the sector.
Dr. Lisa Chase, an agritourism specialist at the University of Vermont Extension in the United States, serves as the first GAN chairperson. Chase was instrumental in bringing the International Workshop on Agritourism to Vermont during the global pandemic in 2022. The event generated huge momentum, following which a key group of individuals continued to craft the framework of an international structure to represent the global agritourism sector, thus the official launch of the GAN.
“We are on our way to creating a truly global network,” says Chase. “GAN’s mission is to support and advocate for a thriving agritourism sector around the world. We have much work to do, but with such a pool of talented professionals so determined and united, I’m confident that GAN will be able to unleash the power to benefit the stakeholders globally.”
GAN comprises three statutory bodies: the Steering Committee, the Executive committee, and the General Assembly. GAN currently operates 10 Auxiliary Committees chaired by international experts from nine countries. The committees include Sustainable and Regenerative Agriculture and Agritourism (chaired by David Gillespie of Canada); Policy and Advocacy (chaired by Rose Wright of Australia); Promotion and Funds (chaired by Rohana Mahaliyanaarachchi of Sri Lanka); Research (chaired by Dave Lamie of the U.S. and Corinne Stewart of France); World Agritourism Day (chaired by Pandurang Taware of India), and so on.
The Sustainable and Regenerative Agriculture and Agritourism Committee attracted nearly 30% of attendees at the GAN launch meeting’s breakout session, indicating the most relevant and critical issues the agritourism sector faces worldwide today.
GAN has 14 regional representatives who cover North America; Central America and the Caribbean; South America; Western Europe; Eastern Europe; East Asia; Southeastern Asia; South and Western Asia; Northern Africa; Central and West Africa; East Africa; Southern Africa; Australia and New Zealand; and the Pacific. Regional representatives serve on the Steering Committee to represent their diverse stakeholders.
GAN represents all agritourism stakeholders (farmers and agricultural producers, agricultural service providers, tour operators, hospitality operators, researchers, educators, community planners, government entities, development organizations, event planners, among others). In addition, GAN collaborates with organizations around the world such as Agri Tourism India, Agritourism Africa, NAFDMA International Agritourism Association, Farm Stay USA, Scottish Agritourism Association, and Community-Based Tourism Initiative of Uganda, and universities with leading agritourism researchers.
The GAN mix also includes a key organization, Eurac Research, based in Italy. It’s a 30-year-old private research entity with 500+ employees. In 2018, it held the first World Congress on Agritourism in Bolzano, South Tyrol, Italy, which Dr. Lisa Chase attended. Chase then partnered with Eurac Research to bring the International Workshop on Agritourism to Vermont with the sponsorship of the University of Vermont. The rest is history—GAN has been created with Eurac Research’s support behind it. More than a research entity, Eurac Research has proven to be a facilitator in the real world of agriculture and agritourism practices. Dr. Thomas Streifeneder of Eurac Research was officially named “Past Chair” of GAN.
The next major event for the sector is the second World Congress on Agritourism to be held by Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, May 16–18, 2024. The event will welcome the GAN family and the broader range of international agritourism stakeholders.
The global reach and diversity of GAN was evident at the launch on April 11. While the Russian-Ukraine war is ongoing and the agricultural productivity in Ukraine is impacted, Dr. Tetyana Kalna-Dubinyuk of the National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine in Kyiv, now a visiting professor at Iowa State University, attended the GAN launch meeting and spoke passionately.
In a post-interview, Kalna-Dubinyuk described that Ukraine has a network named the Union of Green Tourism, which unites the agritourism resources in rural areas. Before the war broke out, she organized training programs in green tourism (agritourism) for the union members and the public. She sees the future potential of working with GAN to develop collaborative programs for Ukraine.
The wide geographic reach that GAN has attained in such a short period of time is truly remarkable. Similar alliances typically begin small and grow gradually, but GAN’s launch is like thunder, with the world’s most influential players onboard carrying clear directions. In addition, GAN is supported by youth and students, who are the future of agritourism. With a robust foundation, GAN will undoubtedly play a significant role in driving the global agritourism industry.
Haybina Hao reporting for Travelindex on travel, agritourism, adventure travel, destinations.
Haybina is an international travel industry journalist and reports in both Chinese and English. Linkedin