The recreational agriculture industry combines farming, forestry, fisheries, and animal husbandry production with rural culture and farm lifestyles to provide citizens with recreational travel and experiential learning opportunities. It is a new focal-point industry that enhances value-added to traditional agriculture. In order to promote innovative usage of primary production, secondary processing, and tertiary experiential services, in combination with elements such as local rural scenery, rural culture and creativity, and concepts of food and agricultural education, the Council of Agriculture (COA) pro-actively assists recreational agriculture areas and leisure farms to develop thematic special features, upgrade the quality and quantity of industry services, and build a more travel-friendly environment. Moreover, the COA promotes higher professional standards in the leisure farm industry and training of high-quality manpower. The COA also works to enrich diverse elements of rural travel, including experiential activities, souvenir and special agricultural product, and rural cuisine, in order to satisfy demand from travelers to eat, enjoy, and buy products with special local character. In addition, the COA assists leisure farm businesses to participate in domestic and overseas travel expos, to hold promotional activities, and to build diversified brick-and-mortar and virtual sales channels. The COA also has promoted use of recreational farm facilities for outdoor education, enterprise meetings or education and training, and international and Muslim guests, to increase the number of visitors participating in rural travel on non-holiday and non-weekend days.
For the purpose of constructing a travel-friendly environment for the leisure farm industry, the COA innovate “sixth industry” (combining primary, secondary, and tertiary industries) value-added integrated experiential rural itineraries, upgrade the quality of manpower and service capabilities, and move the industry in the direction of having themes, having special local features, regionalization, internationalization, and being “smart.” As of the end of 2020, the COA had designated a total of 96 “recreational agriculture areas.” Evaluation scores have been steadily increasing and the COA has adopted guidance based on a system of different grades and categories, in the hopes of comprehensively upgrading the overall standard of leisure farm operations by farmers in each area and developing in the direction of regional themed travel and tourism. Also as of the end of 2020, the COA had guided 486 leisure farms in getting licenses, and utilized the resources of farms to develop experiential niche agricultural activities and provide travelers with the opportunity to have an up-close and personal experience with agriculture. In addition, the COA had guided the founding of 114 “Tian Mama’s cuisine units,” to provide travelers to rural areas with delicious cuisine and snacks unique to the locality. Finally, as of the end of 2020 the COA had selected 30 rural souvenir and special agricultural products to add to the special local character of agro-tourism destinations.
The COA has promoted the idea of Taiwan fruit travel to create travel destinations, and has promoted 69 themed itineraries, including seafood, flowers, and “Rural Kitchen,” as well as 283 ticket packages for independent travelers, and has developed regional travel activities that incorporate rural festivals and events. Also, the COA has set up a responsive recreational agriculture and agro-tourism information platform (ezgo.coa.gov.tw) and Facebook and Instagram social media to provide abundant information about agro-tourism year-round and increase the convenience of mobile access and interactivity on social media. The COA has furthermore integrated and strengthened English and Japanese language content and obstacle-free website functions, effectively reaching a variety of target customers. Moreover, the COA effectively uses online social networks and cross-domain integration and cooperates with virtual and real sales channels (including convenience stores, online stores, group buying networks, travel agencies, company welfare committees, and travel Apps) to market and sell agro-tourism ticket packages for convenient purchase by travelers who will enjoy exciting travel itineraries to farming and fishing communities. In addition, the COA has cultivated the domestic tourism market as well as developed international markets including those for travelers from New Southbound Policy partner countries (such as Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Brunei), Hong Kong ,Macao, China ,Russia, Japan ,Korea, and Muslim. In 2019, there were 621 reports in the foreign media about rural tourism in Taiwan, and such tourism was incorporated into 535 tours offered by foreign travel agencies. In that same year there were about 27.8 million journeys by tourists to rural leisure and travel destinations, of which over 717,000 were foreign tourists, creating production value of NT$10.9 billion. This drove “local production, local consumption,” attracted people back to rural areas for jobs, and promoted sustainable development of rural areas.