Big Island Group Helps Agents Sell Agro Tourism

A Big Island association is cultivating a new market niche with growth potential for Western travel agents: The recently formed Agricultural Tourism Association provides agents with information about touring the farms, factories and fields of the Big Island.

By: Marty Wentzel

A Big Island association is cultivating a new market niche with growth potential for Western travel agents: The recently formed Agricultural Tourism Association provides agents with information about touring the farms, factories and fields of the Big Island.

“With all the changes in the travel industry, we want to give agents new revenue-making opportunities, creating a win-win situation for everyone,” said Charlene Cowan, owner of Macadamia Meadows Farm Bed & Breakfast, and head of the association. “Agricultural tourism is a great new option.” The association plans to man a booth at the upcoming ASTA World Congress on Oahu.

Agricultural tourism appeals to travelers who have been to Hawaii before and think they’ve done it all, Cowan said.

“It’s great for folks looking for a learning or cultural experience, people who want to come away with an understanding of the place they just visited,” she said.

“It appeals to clients with a scientific background and to travelers looking to get back to the earth and a more natural way of life. Also, guests who come to the Big Island for a conference may want to tour a farm during their down time.”

Because of its size, the Big Island is particularly ripe for agricultural tourism.

“The Hawaii Agricultural Statistics Service lists a total of 5,500 farms in the state of Hawaii,” Cowan said. “The Big Island has 3,300 of those farms. If you’re talking agriculture, we’ve got it here.”

Farms and attractions on the Big Island provide visitors with a close-up look at such homegrown goods as Kona coffee, tropical fruits and flowers, honey, dairy products, livestock, aqua-culturally grown seafood, cocoa, vanilla beans, macadamia nuts and wine grapes.

“Year-round, something is always in season,” Cowan said. “After a day of agricultural experiences, you can lie on a black-sand beach, visit a volcano or go on a horseback ride through paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) country, making for a very full and rich vacation.”

Cowan is setting a good example of how to turn agriculture into an appealing tourist attraction. Guests of Cowan’s five-room bed and breakfast are invited to take a complimentary orchard tour of her organic macadamia nut farm. Along the way, she chats about such topics as the origins of macadamias in Hawaii, the latest research on the nutritional value of the nut and the challenges of macadamia farming in Hawaii.

“We usually gather some nuts as we go along,” Cowan said. “At the end of the tour, guests have the fun of shelling and cracking their nuts fresh from the farm in our 60-pound macadamia nut husker/sheller machine, or our new smaller hand version. I find very few guests have ever tasted a macadamia nut fresh from the shell.”

Guests who stay at Cowan’s bed and breakfast at least three days may pick nuts and run them through the machine, after which Cowan dehydrates and packages them in time for checkout.

Macadamia Meadows Farm Bed & Breakfast is located 45 minutes from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Call 808-929-8097.

Four brochures connecting tourism and agriculture are available from the Hawaii Island Economic Development Board.

Call 808-966-5416. Web site: www.hawaiiagtourism.com.

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