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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Agricultural tourism is a burgeoning field and has become a growth industry among professionals in both travel and farming.
This was evident from the huge attendance at an agricultural tourism conference entitled "Agricultural Tourism or Tourist Agriculture?" held over the weekend at the Golden Tulip Hotel in Tiberias.
Some 400 delegates attended the event hosted by the Fattal hotel chain, including officials from the ministries of tourism and agriculture, academics and practitioners in both fields.
This is the highest number ever for a conference of this kind in Israel, Dr. Amos Ron, senior lecturer in the department of tourism and hospitality studies at Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee, told The Jerusalem Post. The conference is held here every few years.
He said that there was a growing interest on the part of agricultural professionals in tourism.
Agricultural tourism is typically a bed and breakfast lodging where people can enjoy the outdoors and often pick their own fruit or vegetables.
Sometimes, farmers have difficulties making ends meet and decide to develop tourism on the property, Ron said, but this can create a legal problem because the farmers often lease the land under the condition that it is for agricultural use only.
Farmers also frequently build restaurants or ice-cream stands, for agricultural use only, and this creates the legal problem, Ron said.
"The state can sue them," Ron said, declining to provide any further details. "We believe it's a problem that can be solved."
At the conference, members of the Israel Land Administration and farmers met to discuss this issue.
"When you have a rural area and you don't have enough money, tourism is the best solution," Ron said, saying that it allows farmers to keep the land and have an income from their land.
Other key issues with tourism in agriculture include training farmers and providing them with loans, he said.
Ahead of the conference, the Geocartography Knowledge Group released the results of a random survey of some 500 people on agricultural tourism.
There are about 150 agricultural sites to visit in Israel, including farms, orchards, wineries, fishing and greenhouses.
The results showed that 54 percent of them valued agricultural tourism and believe it was important to maintain. Twenty percent said they had visited agricultural sites last year, while 37% said they planned to visit agricultural sites this year.
About 17 percent of respondents who previously visited these sites said they would visit again.