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Trends in agritourism development in Poland

The article aims to present trends in agritourism development in Poland. The growth of agritourism can be divided into three stages. The first one, at the beginning of agritourism, involved renting ordinary rooms of a low or even very poor standard with no additional services and amenities, most often offered by farmers whose living conditions were below standard. The second development stage took place when sanitary standards and living conditions in the buildings with guest rooms were raised. The third stage was a decisive and qualitative extension of the recreational offer, including complex organisation of leisure by service providers, organisations, institutions and local authorities that care about the development of infrastructure and appropriate land management taking account of tourism.


At the end of the twentieth century, both in polish literature and world literature has emerged the concept of tourism. It was formed from the merger of two parts: agro and tourism. The prefix „agro‖ comes from the greek „agros‖, meaning the role and

„agromos‖, relating to the agricultural wealth management. On the other hand, tourism is a form of active leisure outside the home, which is mainly inspired by the needs of recreational, cognitive and sports[Sznajder, Przezbórska, 2006, p. 15].

„Agritourism can be defined from two perspectives: from the demand side and supply side‖ [Kosmaczewska, 2007, p. 32]. According to M. Drzewiecki for tourists is a form of rest „which takes place in rural areas of agricultural character, based on a range of accommodation and leisure activities related to the farm (...) and its environment (natural, manufacturing, service)‖ [Drzewiecki, 1995 , 23]. In contrast, agro-tourism services providers within the concept of tourism „include various forms of hospitality – agrohotel, catering – agrocatering, recreation

  • agrorecreation, leisure – agroleisure, sports
  • agrosport and even the treatment and rehabilitation – agrorehabilitation‖ [Sznajder, Przezbórska, 2006, p. 15].

In everyday life, and sometimes in the literature is often identified tourism to rural tourism. Although these concepts are strongly overlap should not be regarded as synonyms. According to J. Majewski „rural tourism is any form of tourism takes place in the rural environment and using the values of rurality (nature, landscape, culture, buildings, etc.), which are the main attraction here‖ [Majewski, 2004, p. 7] . On the other hand, is a narrower concept agritourism which includes various forms of tourism related to the functioning farm, where and animal production are among the main attractions [Cichowska, Klimek, 2011, p. 98-99].

The term ‗holidays beneath a pear tree‘, which was coined in the 1960s, has been already forgotten because of its negative connotation of the former political system. It has been substituted by the term ‗agritourism‘, which does not, however, cover all the forms of recreation in the country. Thus, the term ‗rural tourism‘ is becoming more and more popular. The development of agritourism can be divided into three stages. The first one, at the beginning of agritourism, involved renting ordinary rooms of a low or even very poor standard with no additional services and amenities, most often offered by farmers whose living conditions were below standard. This form of tourism did not prove to be a success and it came to an end countrywide in the 90s. The second development stage took place when sanitary standards and living conditions in the buildings with guest rooms were raised. Tourist services of that stage were in general limited to basic forms: lodging and board, and additional services were occasional. The third stage was a decisive and qualitative extension of the recreational offer, including complex organisation of leisure by service providers, organisations, institutions and local authorities that care about the development of infrastructure and appropriate land management taking account of tourism.

In some countries, such as Austria, Estonia, Spain, Germany, Italy, agritourism farms offer of a similar nature are grouped under a common name, which facilitates the promotion and distribution of [GarciaRomana, Canoves, Valdovince, 1995, p. 35, Oppermann , 1996, p. 24, Unwin, 1996, p. 21]. Agritourism as an example of diversification of activities in rural areas is also included in the policy of the European Union [Mette-Hjalager, 1996, p. 17].

The article aims to present trends in agritourism development in Poland. In order to do that, literature on tourism was used. The article uses a descriptive method. 

Agritourism in the space of time

To present the origin and trends in agritourism, it is necessary to start with tourism as an earlier and superior concept. We can talk about the existence of tourism in Poland, in the present-time meaning of the word, from the turn of the 18th and the 19th centuries, i.e. the time of StanisławStaszic and Julian UrsynNiemcewicz, who introduces a cognition element to tourism. TytusChałubiński, Wincent Pol, Oskar Kolberg, MariuszZaruski, Kazimierz Kulwieć and MieczysławOrłowicz were other, equaly important progenitors of tourism in Poland.

Rural tourism (including agritourism) has a relatively long history in Poland. It has its roots in the 19th century rich town dwelers‘ ‗holidays in the country‘, the tradition of which originated from even earlier times when landowners‘ went on trips to

‗waters‘, i.e. baths and spas. As early as in the 19th century, ‗regionalists‘ (eulogists and

‗local‘ history and tradition explorers)propagated leisure in the country as one of the forms of local economic and cultural initiatives. At the same time,

‗hygienists‘ (doctors–activists) did the same while looking for an alternative to critical

living conditions in impetuously developing industrial centres [Passaris, Sokólska, Vinaver, 2002, p. 18-19].

Thanks to those initiatives, as early as before World War I, going on suburban holidays became really fashionable and popular in the areas of contemporary Poland. It resulted in the creation and development of many summer holiday villages prepared to host holidaymakers on their own farms and in purpose-build houses, which wereentirely or partially rented to visitors [Passaris, Sokólska, Vinaver, 2002, p. 19].

In the interwar period, holidaymaking started to take organised forms. In the 30s, local organisations coordinating these activities came into being in many parts of Poland. In 1936, Krakowski ZwiązekLetniskowy [Cracow Holidaymaking Association] was founded. In 1937, there were other organisations of that type: WojewódzkiZwiązekMiedzykomunalny ―KarpatyWschodnie‖ [Voivodeship Intercommunal Association‗Eastern Carpathians‘], KomisjaLetniskowaPowiatówiGminWojewód ztwaTarnopolskiego [Holidaymaking Committee of TarnopolskieVoivodeship Communes and Counties], and ZwiązekLetniskowy ―Bieszczady‖ [Holidaymaking Association –‗Bieszczady Mountains‘]. As a result of the initiative of LigaPopieraniaTurystyki [Tourism Support League], self-governments got involved in the development of summer holiday villages, investing in the improvement of sanitary facilities in the country and encouraging investors to build bigger houses with rooms for rent. One of the statutory objectives of ‗Gromada‘ Tourist Cooperative, founded in 1937, was a task to organise holidays in the country for town dwellers. It organised twoweek training courses for farmers‘ housewives to prepare them to be landladies and host holidaymakers. In 1937, ZwiązekPowiatówRzeczypospolitej [Union of Counties of the Republic of Poland] published a training brochure entitled ―Jakurządzićletnisko‖ [‗How to organise a summer holiday resort‘]. The number of summer holiday resorts was enormous then: almost 800 in Eastern Poland; and about 300 summer holiday villages belonged to the Cracow Holidaymaking Association [Sikora, 1999, p. 26].

The late 70s brought another adverse change, namely a return to entirely centralised economy, a new administrative division of the country with the establishment of new voivodeships and voivodeship tourist institutions to act as obligatory intermediaries in private room rental, which resulted in higher tax burdens. All that stopped the development of this form of leisure industry. The difficulties of the 80s, the restrictions of martial law and rapid impoverishment of the society – all these hampered the development of rural tourism on the one hand, and resulted in the creation of the black market in private room rental on the other hand [Drzewiecki, 1995, p. 19-20].

The development of agritourism that can be observed in Poland since the 90s has not been the same in all the regions. The areas that are especially attractive for tourists, those with special recreational, natural and anthropogenic touring values have dominated. In addition, the existence of some natural landscapes, although small but extraordinarily attractive ones, is typical of those areas. They are most often accompanied by harmoniously developed cultural landscapes with a small share of urban areas. Such regions include PobrzeżeSzczecińskie, PobrzeżeKoszalińskie, PobrzeżeGdańskie, some mesoregions of the Pomeranian Lakeland, the Masurian Lake District, Suwalskie Lakeland, Lubuskie Lakeland, PrzedgórzeSudeckie, the Sudetes, the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland, Roztocze, Podkarpacie and the Carpathians [Kuźniar, 1998, p. 299].

Thus, the early 90s were undoubtedly a period of acquiring first experiences, overcoming psychological barriers to new undertakings and opening to outsiders – tourists (especially in villages with no summer holidaymaking tradition). In the first years of that period, the development of agritourism was mostly spontaneous and the offer was most often limited to board and lodging. The adaptation of accommodation facilities was based on farmers‘ own vision of what a tourist needs, i.e. by trial and error [B. Perepeczko, 2004, p. 38]. At that time, agricultural advice centres played a specific role in the development of agritourism: they popularised the idea, helped to overcome psychological barriers, helped to solve problems and provided education. Agricultural advice centres carried out a large-scale informative campaign and complex training – first, for advisors and agricultural schools teachers, next, for potential service providers – village dwellers preparing to start an agritourism business. Showing them Western European patterns proved to be very inspiring. Promotional publications and the organisation of the first tourism fairs as well as distribution of agritourism farms‘ offers were also of great importance.

Having noticed that tourism could soften the deepening crisis in the agricultural sector, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development took part in the campaign of popularising it in rural areas in the early 90s. Thanks to it, agritourism business was legally regulated and credit facilities for this kind of undertakings were made available [Wojciechowska, 2006, p. 113].

Thanks to great interest in agritourism in that period, many associations were founded: SuwalskaIzbaRolniczoTurystyczna[Suwałki Agriculture-Tourism Chamber] (1991),

TurystycznyZwiązekGminŚwiętokrzyskich [Świętokrzyskie Communes‘ Tourism Union] (1991),

GdańskieStowarzyszenieAgroturystyki [Gdańsk Agritourism Association] (1993), Warmińsko– MazurskieStowarzyszenieAgroturystyczne[W armia and Masuria Agritourism Association] (1993) [Wojciechowska, 1996, p. 186].

The characteristic features of the mid90s were that rural service providers felt the need to integrate and they founded associations as well as strove to improve the level of their services. And although the ideological, professional and organisational leadership belonged to agricultural advice centres, an economic self-government represented by agritourism associations developed at that time. The discussed period is the time when regional agritourism associations developed –there were four associations in 1994 and already 13 in 1995. There were about 23 of them in the whole country [Kmita, Strzembicki, 1997, p. 83].

The 90s were a period of rapid development of this form of tourism that resulted from liberal policy of the state, central authorities, self-governments and social organisations on the one hand, and market needs on the other hand. Numerous voluntary organisations of service providers, caled ‗associations‘ or ‗chambers‘, which were founded at that time, were involved in the coordination of the activities. In 1996, PolskaFederacjaTurystykiWiejskiej ―GospodarstwaGościnne‖ [Polish Rural Tourism Federation ‗Hospitable Farms‘] started operating. It focused mainly on the unification of some marketing elements connected with categorisation and promotion as well as publishing a national catalogue of tourist offers [Strzembicki, 1999, p. 1].

Changes in the operation of entities directly involved in agritourism, i.e. of agritourism farms, were also typical of the period. While agritourism accompanied agricultural activities on the farms in the initial period, on this stage also nonagricultural entities started to operate under the label of ‗agritourism‘ more and more often. The phenomenon, although in conflict with the ideological assumptions of agritourism, can be observed even today. Positive initiatives also included eco-tourism undertaken by the growing number of organic farms. Another characteristic feature of that period was an attempt to improve the quality of services offered and to enrich and differentiate tourist offers. In the discussed period, one could also notice some signs of agritourism farms specialisation, e.g. focusing on horse breeding and offering horse-riding or hippotherapy. Creation of the so-called educational farms hosting children and youth within ‗green school‘ programmes was another interesting initiative. It was a sign of a marketing approach and showed the ability to recognise the market and to use market niches.

Trends in development of rural tourism in the European Union are stimulated to some extent by its policies. So far, tourism, rural tourism or, more broadly was and is supported by the Structural Funds. For specific leaders in the development of rural tourism is undoubtedly Austria. Where the organization operates nationwide „Urlaub am Bauernhof― („Holiday in agriturism―) brings together more than 4,000 family tourist farms (total number of farms in Austria is more than 16,000). This association has developed its own standards of quality and introduced a system of grouping farms depending on special features. In Greece, the farmhouses are treated as „traditional ecotourism accommodation‖, where the board is based on natural products, and the organization of leisure time is done with the use of off-farm natural and cultural values of the region. 

Summary and conclusions

Summing up, it mustbe stated that the tradition of holidaymaking in the country has been known in Poland for years, and rural tourism (including agritourism) is attracting increasing interestand is developing fast. The facts that confirm this statement are as follows [Compare Lewan, 2004, p. 17-19]:

  • The increasing popularity of rich town dwelers‘ summer holidays in the country since the middle of the 19th century, resulting from a wish to visit friends and relatives as well as a desire to be equal to rich land owners and upper class, who travelled to well-known foreign and domestic resorts (the so-caled ‗waters‘);
  • The increasing popularity of trips to areas close to big cities before World War I, which contributed to the development of many suburban villages and tourist resorts as well as the remote ones like g. Zakopane, which was discovered for tourism by TytusChałubiński at the end of the 19th century;
  • Organisation of the so-caled ‗holidays beneath a pear tree‘ in summer holidaymaking vil ages by ―Gromada‖ Tourism Cooperative in the interwar period and promotion of nature sites situated in attractive regions by CentralneBiuroWczasów [Central Holidaymaking Office] founded in 1938;
  • Reactivation of the ‗holidays beneath a pear tree‘ programme after World War II and the programme of developing tourism in the country caled ―The Jabłoński family visit the Matysiak family‖, which were implemented within the state‘s social policy of group tourism financed from the state and company budgets;
  • Gradual development of private accommodation rental in the country in the 80s, which was hampered, however, by numerous administrative restrictions and economic difficulties of private entrepreneurs, which resulted in the black market in private lodgings;
  • Undertaking steps for the development of rural tourism in 1990-1994, e. promotion of its idea, taking into account tourism development strategies by local and regional self-governments to develop their economic development strategies for the regions;
  • Establishment of organisational structures of rural tourism and agritourism in 1995-1998, including local, voivodeship and regional agritourism associations reflecting rural tourism service providers‘ activeness;
  • Granting Poland aid funds from the European Union SAPARD programme since 2000 to help to develop agriculture and rural areas, and after the accession – structural funds;
  • Currently, the so-caled ‗new agritourism‘ requires high investment input in order to ensure a comfortable stay in the country and maintain rural



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