Adding an Agricultural Component to Sustainable Tourism in Idaho, USA

Adding an Agricultural Component to Sustainable Tourism in Idaho, USA

Robert L. Mahler Nav Ghimire Ariel Agenbroad

Department of Soil and Water Systems and Extension, University of Idaho, USA

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Over 20,000,000 tourists visit Idaho every year generating more than $3,700,000,000 in income. Over the last decade, tourism revenue has increased at an annual rate of 7%. Tourism directly and indirectly provides 63,000 jobs. A large portion of Idaho’s tourism is considered sustainable as non-consumptive outdoor recreational activities are the primary reason people visit the state. Many of the sustainable activities are associated with the 80+ mountain ranges in the state. Popular tourist activities include: camping/hiking/backpacking, white-water rafting, wildlife viewing, skiing, fishing, extreme sports and viewing natural wonders. Up to now, agriculture and associated food processing, the state’s largest industry, has contributed very little to tourism. Idaho agriculture consists of 25,000 farms and ranches that cover 5,000,000 ha. Idaho produces over 185 different commodities and has a large food processing industry. The purpose of this paper is to explore the potential for agriculture to significantly contribute to sustainable tourism by: (1) using public surveys about the understanding and use of agriculture and its products to promote tourism, (2) understanding the potential and developing strategies to use agricultural commodities to enhance tourism in Idaho and (3) evaluating the agricultural sector’s sup- port for tourism.  Surveys showed that a large majority of Idahoans currently believe that agriculture contributes less than 1% of the monetary value generated by tourism every year. This study showed that many leaders in the agricultural industry strongly back sustainable tourism.  The most viable agricul- tural components that can contribute to sustainable tourism include: the state’s vineyards and wineries (wine tasting and wine sales), the hops and barley commodities (breweries and micro-breweries), the dairy industries (cheese, cheese products and famous yogurts),  specialty commodities, local farmers markets and the nationally famous Idaho potatoes (museums, signage and processing plants). These ideas have the potential for the agricultural sector to become a more important part of Idaho’s sustainable tourist industry.


agritourism, Idaho agricultural products, public opinion, sustainable tourism


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