This paper illustrates the results of research conducted on Italian agritourism, which is here considered as a particular form of innovation in the more traditional agricultural Business Model (BM). Agritourism is a complex and differentiated phenomenon [1
] that has been widespread worldwide since the early twentieth century [2
] and it is affected by the socio-economic characteristics of each individual territory, landscape and regulations. In Italy, agritourism was imported during the 1960s by agricultural entrepreneurs who travelled around the world (especially in Austria and France), and they immediately developed this in a country in which rural outmigration was particularly intense and many abandoned buildings were available for this utilisation [4
]. Consequently, it has gained economic and social relevance, with an increasing diffusion in all regions [5
]. Italian agritourism represents a truly unique case in the international scene, because the national legislation regulates it in a particular way in comparison to other forms of rural tourism worldwide [6
]. Indeed, Italian agritourism can only be managed by the farmer and his family, and the tourist activities of the farm must be connected and complementary to agriculture, which remains the fundamental activity of the farm [4
]. In addition, the predominance of agricultural activity is explicitly determined in terms of number of working hours and not in terms of income [6
], as occurs in other countries.
Agritourism can be seen as an innovative and diversification strategy for farms, by including recreation and leisure activities for tourists, with many economic and non-economic benefits for farmers, visitors and communities [9
]. Visitors can enjoy and reinforce the atmosphere of the agricultural life, while the agricultural entrepreneurs have the opportunity to increase their income providing touristic services, remaining in the business and creating additional employment. The agricultural heritage is preserved, and the economic situation of local communities is improved. In other words, agritourism can be considered as “a sustainable strategy: in its stated objectives, it promotes the conservation of a broadly conceived rural environment through its socioeconomic development” [4
]. Agritourism is perceived as the “missing link in a quality territorial system that integrates agricultural, tourist, environmental, cultural and historic resources” [4
]. It likely represents “the most radical product innovation that has ever concerned the national agriculture” and has different characteristics in comparison with other more traditional forms of agricultural farms [7
]. Agritourism offers good opportunities for business and employment, conserving and developing rural landscape and biodiversity [7
], while answering to a tourist demand. In other words, agritourism can be considered as a peculiar form of innovation in the more traditional agricultural Business Model (BM). This is because a BM represents a general and holistic understanding of how an organization creates value through its activities and processes, involving several actors in its value chain and creating various interdependencies and dynamics with stakeholders [10
]. Business Model Innovation (BMI) can refer to both the development of new BMs for start-ups and to the reconfiguration of existing BMs [12
]. In our research, we refer to this second interpretation of BMI when analyzing the agritourism phenomenon. Indeed, agritourism can be interpreted as a reconfiguration of the existing model of agricultural farms to a new one.
Usually companies and institutions develop new ideas and value creation through their existing business models, investing extensive resources in research activities, and the results they reach are often not so satisfactory if they do not invest any effort in changing the business models, through which new ideas and technologies will pass. Indeed, the same idea or technology that passes through different BMs can lead to different results. Therefore, it might be appropriate for companies and institutions to develop the capability to innovate their BMs [13
A certain part of the literature on BMI has emphasized the importance of the innovation in terms of a firm’s success, while a new literature strand has investigated the relevance of the BMI in terms of sustainability, considering the consequences of BMI in terms of corporate social and environmental impact [12
]. This means that an innovative and sustainable BM should try to align the firms’ profitability with economic and non-economic benefits for society and the local community. In our work, agritourism is interpreted as a BMI aimed at generating sustainability. In these terms, if agritourism is meant as a BMI towards sustainability, it is important to study this phenomenon through the BM’s key success factors.
As observed by Choo [14
], agritourism research still needs a framework for systematically studying and creating knowledge. Indeed, it is necessary to observe the management, planning, and policy implications, since agritourism studies and related researches are still in the early stage of development and there is great scope for theoretical advances [14
]. Based on this evidence and trying to answer to a general call for more research directed at identifying the drivers of the agritourism success [7
], the present article aims to analyze the features of agritourism in order to provide a more holistic picture about these kinds of businesses. It tries to capture the key elements in their value creation process and to improve the understanding of an innovative and sustainable BM. To analyze the key success factors at the centre of agritourism-sustainable BMs, we used the Osterwalder [15
] approach, which explains a BM through 9 components, underlining the sustainable features adopting the Schaltegger [16
] approach. We based our empirical analysis on a sample of 110 companies from Piedmont, an Italian region located in the North-West. The agritourism business is particularly interesting for the Italian economy due to its continued growth, and the main concentration of agritourism farms is in the Italian northern regions [17
]. To conduct our research, we adopted a questionnaire as the main tool of analysis, and the following research questions have been formulated:
R.Q. 1: what are the key success factors of Italian agritourism BMs that enable a sustainable value creation?
R.Q. 2: is there any correlation among these key factors affecting the agritourism BMs?
R.Q. 3: is it possible to identify different groups of BMs inside the sample?
The rest of the paper is structured as follows: the next section illustrates the theoretical background of the agritourism phenomenon and the BMI framework, which informs our research under a sustainability perspective. The methodological design is presented in Section 3
, while Section 4
offers a reading of the empirical results achieved and the discussion. In the last section, conclusions and future research are presented.
3. Methodological Design
The research focuses on agritourism located in the Piedmont, a North-West Italian region. Italy is a regionally administered country, with a general national legislative corpus for agritourism, but in which each region decides, based on the agricultural characteristics of the area, to what extent the general criteria stated in national laws should apply to local needs [8
]. The agritourism business is particularly interesting for the Italian economy due to its continued growth. In particular, in the North of Italy there is a high concentration of agritourism farms, providing accommodation (41%); in addition, 45% of agritourism providing food services is located in the Italian northern regions [17
]. The choice of the Piedmont region is driven by the relevance of this geographical area, as the Piedmont is one pre-eminent region in terms of agritourist supply and which has a strong attraction for tourists such as natural resources, countryside and food and wine. Moreover, the Piedmont is at the top position in Italian ranking for number of agritourism businesses and the first region for didactical agri-farms [17
]. Furthermore, the Piedmont territory of Langhe-Roero and Monferrato became a World Heritage Site of UNESCO in 2014.
A questionnaire-based survey was conducted among a sample of 110 Italian agritourism businesses located in the Piedmont Region. The sampling list was drawn from the regional lists of Italian agritourism farms. In detail, the initial sample of 1030 agritourism farms represented the whole regional universe and the questionnaire was sent by e-mail to all the agritourism businesses located in the Region. The respondents were selected using the database provided by the same Region and were sent a description of the research aims, a compilation guide and a link to an online questionnaire. The compilation period was about 3 months, with several requests made by telephone in order to solicit the answers. The final sample was composed of 110 agritourism businesses, which corresponded to a response rate of 11%; this compares favourably with rates reported in previous online surveys among tourism and hospitality operators [53
The questionnaire included questions in the following areas of research: company profile, key financial data, type of services offered, type of customers, involvement of family/external managers, and key activities. Answers included both opened and closed questions, as well as a five-point Likert scale. In addition, free spaces were given to the operators to write any additional comments about their experience with agritourism.
The questionnaire method was chosen because it allows researchers to obtain a significant amount of data that can be used for statistical investigation. Based on the methodology followed by different studies on this topic [3
], the data were analysed using SPSS software and evidence was studied using descriptive and inferential statistics. Specifically, the Pearson coefficient was used as it enables, better than other types of correlations, to measure the relationship between linearly related variables.
The Sample Features
The sample is composed of 110 predominantly “young” agritourism businesses as they are mainly managed by the first generation of owners. The next Table 1
shows the number of generations involved with agritourism.
With respect to the agritourism features, the role of the family members in agritourism was also investigated, and the results are shown in Table 2
As it emerges from Table 2
, families with both managerial and operating roles characterize the great majority of agritourism businesses.
Moreover, it is possible to affirm that, referring to the gender diversity of family and non-family members, the women involvement in running agritourism slightly predominates (see Table 3
4. Findings and Discussion
In order to answer the first R.Q.: what are the key success factors of Italian agritourism BMs that enable a sustainable value creation?,
we used the questionnaire responses and depicted the 9 key success factors identified by Osterwalder [15
] and by Osterwalder and Pigneur [28
], integrated within the sustainability dimension through the Schaltegger et al. [16
4.1. Key Activities
The next Table 4
shows the activities carried out by the agritourism businesses of the sample.
Analysing this table, it emerges that the most widespread activities are those linked with the accommodation and sales of one’s own agricultural products. The majority of the samples also offer catering and restaurant services, while camping is not particularly widespread.
The activities considered as particularly relevant in agritourism in this sample, especially for the value creation in their business, are represented by:
the offering of complementary products and services (agricultural products, cooking courses, cultural events, agri-camping, swimming pools, and didactical farms);
restaurants and catering.
In particular, 47.64% stated availability to address more investments to support the offering of complementary products/services, while 8.19% indicated support for restaurants and catering services. Furthermore, they affirmed the activities considered strategic for the agritourism business are constantly monitored under the point of view of cost (87.50% of the sample) and quality (95.74% of the sample).
Under a sustainability perspective, a strong link with the land and the natural environment emerges, also highlighted by the offering of one’s own agricultural products, excursions and nature trails, learning farm activities and additional activities such as harvesting grapes and fruits.
4.2. Partner Network
A total of 98% of the sample declared not to have key supplier partners; according to the Italian agritourism laws, they have to internally produce the products destined for restaurants or for sale. Under a sustainability perspective, this aspect indicates a very short supply chain, while, adopting a particular point of view, key partners can be considered the employees working in agritourism, as will be analysed in the following section.
4.3. Key Resources
The resources considered strategic by the respondents in order to run the agritourism business are represented by the involved family and not family employees and the required financial resources to support agritourism investments. The next Table 5
shows the number of family members involved in the agritourism activity.
A total of 43% of respondents declared that two family members are involved in running the business, both at the managerial and operational levels. A total of 31% of agritourism businesses is run by more than two family members, while one quarter of agritourism is run by one family member. These data show good involvement and presence of the family in managing the agritourism.
Under a sustainability perspective, this result highlights the increase of wellbeing and the safeguard of the cultural heritage of rural families, carrying on the traditions and laying the foundation for job creation for future generations of the family.
With respect to the number of employees not belonging to the family, the results are shown in the following table (Table 6
The majority of agritourism (54%) does not involve “external” personnel, while a number of non-family employees, between one and three, characterizes 38% of the sample. The maximum number of external employees involved does not exceed 11 units (1% of the sample). Matching the results of Table 5
and Table 6
, it emerges that there is a limited dimension of these organizations in terms of people involved.
Under a sustainability perspective, it has to be underlined how, despite the limited opportunities of employment due to the small average dimension of agritourism, the high involvement of family members confirm the previous evidence and the effort by the family in passing on the business and consequently creating value for the future generations.
After investigating the human key resources, the financing sources used by the agritourism businesses of the sample were analysed, and the results are shown in Table 7
The previous table highlights the considerable involvement of the family from a financial point of view, as the key financial resources are mainly represented by financing of the owners, while the bank loans are widespread across 33% of the sample. Only 1% declared the use public sources.
Under a sustainability perspective, there emerges a strong self-financing in covering the new agritourism investments, and this aspect can create a virtuous circle due to the reinvestment of the gained earnings internally.
4.4. Cost Structure
The next table focuses on the cost structure of agritourism of the last three years (2013–2015). Firstly, the weight of the total costs on the turnover was investigated (Table 8
shows how in the majority of the sample (58%), the percentage of annual average costs is between 50% and 70% of the company’s turnover, while for 27%, the cost weight is lower than 50% of the turnover.
Subsequently, the cost composition analysis was deepened. From the questionnaire, it emerged how the cost structure is represented mainly by the cost of personnel, the raw materials, and the depreciation of fixed assets. Table 9
shows this cost structure composition.
Analysing the data included in Table 9
in 63% of agritourism businesses, the cost of personnel represents between 10% and 20% of total costs, confirming family management;
in 64% of agritourism businesses, the cost of raw materials represents between 20% and 30% of costs;
the depreciation cost, compared to the previous two categories, is more distributed, highlighting a generally higher incidence.
Under a sustainability perspective, the ability of agritourism to optimize the direct cost is evident, especially by self-producing the raw material goods, preserving the natural environment and the wellbeing of the local community.
4.5. Revenue Flows
The next table shows the average turnover declared by agritourism businesses.
shows a significant prevalence of small businesses, with the average turnover of the last three years (2013–2015) lower than 100,000 euros. Only 2% of the sample declared a turnover higher than 300,000 euros. This result confirms the limited development of agritourism in terms of revenues flows.
Under a sustainability perspective, the small dimension could represent an advantage as it enables preservation of cultural and product heritage. Indeed, the exploitation of the local resources to achieve turnover is not so greedy as in a large industrial-scale production. In addition, the scarce presence of agritourism with a turnover greater than 300,000 euro underlines a limited ambition to increase the dimension, confirming the will to focus more on quality than quantity, also preserving the territory.
4.6. Distribution Channels
The distribution channel is predominantly direct (80% of the sample), because agritourism offers services and sells products without intermediation of customers. However, when the absorption capacity is not sufficient (20% of the sample), the businesses use a fragmented distribution channel represented by distributors or retail shops. The choice of the distribution channel is strongly represented by the type of final product (food or beverage).
Under a sustainability perspective, this aspect again shows a short supply chain, offering “farm to table” products.
4.7. Value Proposition
Within the questionnaire, we also investigated the perceived needs and the features behind the customer behaviour choice (Table 11
Analysing the previous table, it emerges that the elements perceived as the most important to address customer’s behaviour are the offer of genuine products, ability to valorise the link with the territory, followed by the high quality of the same.
Moreover, in order to improve the business, 45% of the agritourim businesses declared to have finalized activities to reorganize the company’s structure from the point of view of activities and of the role of employees.
Under a sustainability perspective, the will to preserve cultural and product heritage, protecting the environment, is again observed.
The main benefits achieved thanks to these reorganizational interventions are described in the following table (Table 12
The main benefits resulting from the reorganization are recognized in an increase in efficiency turnover and customer satisfaction.
Under a sustainability perspective, this aspect shows a cost saving implementing recycling programs.
4.8. Client Segments
The next tables (Table 13
and Table 14
) show the customer composition by age and nationality. We firstly distinguished three clusters by age: the first one is represented by young (18–35 years) customers; the second one by families (with parents and children) and the third one by customers over 65.
Analysing the previous table, it emerges that around 30% of the sample works with 30% of young customers, while 25% of the sample works with 40% of families and 28% of the sample works with 20% of customers over 65 years.
The next table (Table 14
) shows the customer composition differentiated between Italian and foreign customers.
The previous table shows different classes—Italian and foreign—of customers declared by the sample. For example, 14% of the sample works with 50% of Italian customers, another 14% works with 60% of foreign customers and 5% of the total sample works with 70% of Italian clients and 40% of foreign clients.
Under the sustainability perspective, no particular patterns emerge.
4.9. Client Relationships
With the questionnaire, the perception of the importance of maintaining and improving relations with customers was also investigated. A total of 96% declared they invested in activities to increase customer loyalty, while 4% did not invest in them.
Furthermore, we identified the main tools applied to increase customer loyalty (Table 15
From Table 15
, it emerges how discounts, compliments and promotional activities are some of the most used tool to maintain and improve customer loyalty.
Under a sustainability perspective, the capability to improve customer loyalty emerges, as well as communicating value and raising awareness for the safeguard of the environment. Furthermore, it should also be highlighted that a loyal customer can increase the wellbeing, not only of the family behind the agritourism, but also of the local community.
Answering the second R.Q. 2: is there any correlation among the key success factors affecting the agritourism BMs?
, we analyzed the results of the Pearson correlations (Table 16
), taking into consideration the main variables previously described and characterizing the key factors of the Osterwalder and Pigneur [28
Based on the Pearson correlation, it is possible to highlight some interesting results. Positive and strong correlations involve:
young customers, with an age between 18 and 35 years old, of Italian nationality;
the number of generation involved in agritourism with the presence of family members;
average turnover of the last three years with non-family members involved;
average costs of the last three years with non-family members involved;
average costs of the last three years with the average turnover of the last three years.
Some moderate correlations are also present between (i) customers over 65 and foreign customers and (ii) reorganization activities and average turnover of the last three years.
These strong and moderate correlations, previously listed, highlight that, at the basis of agritourism value proposition, there are some emerging key elements.
In particular, from the customer perspective, it is possible to suggest that the key factors are based on Italian young customers and families and foreign customers over 65.
A relevant result that characterizes the analyzed agritourism shows that an increase in the turnover is linked to an increase in non-family members involved in running the business.
In addition, the regression result was calculated; a significant result refers to the link between the presence of non-family members and the average turnover of the last three years, with an R2 of 0.59 and a β of 0.744.
Based on the results of Table 17
, there is an increase in average turnover influenced by an increase in non-family members within company staff.
Despite the previous evidence about the strong involvement of the family within the business, this result suggests that, if agritourism aims at expanding and growth, they should involve external personnel, not belonging to the family.
Answering the last research question—R.Q. 3: is it possible to identify different peculiar groups of BMs inside the sample?
—the agritourism businesses were clustered in “New Generation” (NG), when these businesses were in their first stage of generational succession and in “Old Generation” (OG), when the businesses were in their second or third generation. More specifically, NG represents 50.91% of the sample, while OG represents 49.09%. From the clustering, two different BMs emerged and their peculiarities are described below, according to the 9 key success factors identified by the Osterwalder [15
] and by Osterwalder and Pigneur [28
] model, integrated with the sustainability dimension of Schaltegger et al. [16
4.10. Key Activities in NG and OG
The next Table 18
shows the activities carried out through agritourism, clustered in NG and OG.
Analysing the table, it emerges that NG and OG are similar in some key activities for value creation, such as:
Excursions and nature trails;
while some differences, relevant for value creation, are shown in:
Catering and Restaurant;
Learning farm activities;
Sales of own agricultural products.
In both NG and OG the accommodation activity is the most relevant for value creation, while camping is not particularly significant. On the contrary, catering & restaurant, learning farm activities, and sales of own agricultural products are considered more important in OG than in NG.
Under a sustainability perspective, there is a strong link with the land and the natural environment, especially in OG where the focus is mainly concentrated on the offering of own agricultural products and learning farm activities.
4.11. Partner Network in NG and OG
The features of the partner network confirmed the results previously described in the general sample. The short supply chain is confirmed when considering the sustainability perspective.
The employees, as potential partners, will be analysed in the following section.
4.12. Key Resources in NG and OG
Analysing the key resources, in terms of employees belonging to the family, it emerged that the number of family members increases within OG agritourism.
shows the number of family components involved in the NG and OG agritourism activities.
It emerged that 89.29% of NG agritourism involves between 0 and 2 family members (compared to 48.16% of OG), while 51.86% of OG agritourism involves between 3 and 5 family members (compared to 10.72% of NG).
Under a sustainability perspective, this result highlights the increase of wellbeing and the protection of the cultural heritage of rural families, especially in OG agritourism.
With respect to the number of employees not belonging to the family working within agritourism, the result between OG and NG agritourism is shown in the following Table 20
It can be observed that NG agritourism is more inclined to involve employees not belonging to the family, compared with OG agritourism. Indeed, 96.43% of NG agritourism involves between 0 and 4 employees not belonging to the family (compared to 94.45% for OG), and 3.57% of NG agritourism involves between 6 and 11 employees not belonging to the family (compared to 5.56% of NG).
Under a sustainability perspective, it is possible to confirm the limited employment opportunities in both NG and OG.
The financing sources used by the NG and OG agritourism are shown in the Table 21
Under a sustainability perspective, the NG propensity is greater toward bank loans, compared to the OG, which prefers own financing. Indeed, it emerges how OG agritourism prefers strong self-financing to support new agritourism investments.
4.13. Cost Structure in NG and OG
The next Table 22
focuses on the cost structure of NG and OG agritourism.
The table shows the propensity of the OG to contain costs, which is not that evident. The costs are under 60% of turnover in 61% of OG agritourism businesses (55.35% in NG), while they reach 60% of turnover in 44.63% of NG agritourism businesses (38.89% in OG).
The cost composition is quite similar in both NG and OG agritourism.
The cost structure, shown in Table 23
, is mainly represented by the cost of personnel, the raw materials and the depreciation of fixed assets.
From a sustainability perspective, it is confirmed, in both NG and OG, the ability to optimize the direct costs, especially by self-producing the raw material goods, preserving the natural environment and the wellbeing of the local community.
4.14. Revenue Flows in NG and OG
The Table 24
shows the average turnover declared by agritourism businesses.
The table shows a significant prevalence of small businesses, both in NG and OG; however, only the OG declared a turnover greater than 300,000 and more than 4.50% of NG has revenues between 100,000 and 200,000.
Under a sustainability perspective, both NG and OG have a small dimension in turnover, and this aspect can favour cultural and product heritage, as indicated above.
4.15. Distribution Channels in NG and OG
The distribution channel is confirmed predominantly direct (80% of the sample), both in NG and OG, underlining, under a sustainability perspective, a short supply chain.
4.16. Value Proposition in NG and OG
With respect to the perceived needs and the features behind the customer behaviour choices, it is possible to confirm an inclination in OG toward genuine products and a strong link with the territory, while NG is more focused on obtaining quality certifications, as shown in Table 25
Under a sustainability perspective, it is confirmed, especially in OG, the will to preserve cultural and product heritage, protecting the environment.
The main benefits achieved thanks to these reorganization interventions are described in the Table 26
4.17. Client Segments in NG and OG
The next tables show the customer composition by age (Table 27
) and nationality (Table 28
) in NG and OG.
Analysing the previous table it is possible to highlight that OG agritourism, compared with NG, is more focused on families and “Over 65”.
The previous table shows mainly how NG attracts more foreign customers, while OG is more oriented toward national clientele.
4.18. Client Relationships in NG and OG
Both NG and OG consider important the ability to maintain and improve the relations with the customer, as demonstrated by the following Table 29
The peculiarity that emerges from the two different BMs is that the NG agritourism is more inclined to offer service customization, while OG is more oriented toward traditional methods such as discount and compliments.
Under a sustainability point of view, the capability to improve the customer loyalty emerges, raising awareness for the safeguard of the environment.
Analysing the Pearson Correlation, it is possible to discover additional peculiarities of the two different BMs investigated, as illustrated in Table 30
and Table 31
In particular, in NG agritourism is positive, and strong correlations involve:
customers over 65 and foreign customers;
average turnover of the last three years with non-family members involved.
In OG agritourism, positive and strong correlations involve the average turnover of the last three years with non-family members involved, while negative and strong correlations involve:
investment in activities to increase customer loyalty and young customers;
customers over 65 and families;
non-family members involved in agritourism and gender diversity.
5. Conclusions and Future Research
Analyzing one of the main Italian regions, the Piedmont, where the agritourism business is a developing phenomenon, it was possible to identify the key factors that enable the sustainable value creation for these kinds of organizations, basing the research on a sample of agritourism businesses.
Analyzing the BMs of agritourism in the Piedmont, it emerged as a key activity the offering of complementary products and restaurant services and it emerged that rural culture and tourists' mutual engagement were critical for agribusiness to integrate the specific characteristics of internal service [54
Generally, the internal employees are recognized as key partners and key resources; they support the core business and the key activities. The employees mainly belong to the family; they are limited in number, and show a prevalence of the female gender. Empirical evidence shows that the number of generations involved in agritourism is positively correlated with the presence of family members. However, a relevant finding underlines a positive relation between the average turnover of the last three years with the non-family members involved in running business. This evidence is also confirmed by the linear regression, suggesting that the ownership may enlarge the staff involving external members in order to improve the dimension of the business. This is also supported by the study conducted by Hung [55
], which affirms that the quantity and quality of human resources are key success factors for mid- and high-performance agritourism.
Another key factor is represented by the financing sources, mainly characterized by the family investments, showing the will to strengthen the economic development and support the durability of the business.
In supporting agritourism, the main costs are strictly tied to raw materials and fixed assets, even if generating a limited turnover. Empirical evidence highlights a positive correlation between the average costs of the last three years with the non-family members involved and with the average turnover of the last three years. In this way, increasing staff with external members, the operating costs increase, but so does the company turnover.
To improve value proposition, some actions of reorganization have been implemented, generating customer satisfaction and an increase in efficiency. In addition, a moderate correlation between reorganization activities and average turnover of the last three years was highlighted, pushing towards a business reengineering approach.
Finally, the agritourism businesses are aware of their customer segmentation, showing an equal distribution among Italian, foreign, young, families and clients over 65. Furthermore, empirical implications show a strong correlation between young customers, with an age between 18 and 35 years old, and the Italian nationality and a moderate correlation between customers over 65 and foreign customers.
Under a sustainability perspective, according to Schaltegger et al. [16
] and Barbieri [32
], deepening the three pillars, it emerges that:
from the economic point of view, there is an ability to optimize the direct and operating cost, especially by self-producing the raw material goods, preserving the natural environment and the wellbeing of the local community. However, the limited turnover clusters agritourism as small businesses. The small dimension should not be interpreted in negative terms, as it enables strengthening of the link with the territory, preserving cultural and product heritage. The ability to attract customers contributes not only to the economic growth of the company, but also to the local economy. In addition, a financial virtuous circle is created due to a relevant self-financing;
from the sociocultural point of view, there is a strong link with the territory, highlighted by the offering of one’s own agricultural products. In this way, it is possible to increase the wellbeing of rural families, contributing to the employment of family members and future generations, and also of non-family members, attracting youth in rural communities;
from the environmental point of view, the offer of ecotourism activities strengthens the preservation of the rural landscape, and can sensitize customers to preserve nature. In addition, the companies’ behaviour represented by recycling habits and the short supply chain shows the attention to safeguard the environment.
In addition, the study highlights the presence of two different groups of BMs, based on the number of successive generations in agritourism: the NG group and the OG group. In particular, observing the 9 key success factors integrated with a sustainability perspective, some differences arose between the NG and the OG. It seems that OG is more inclined toward sustainability practices, while NG stresses more attention on obtaining quality standards and certifications. This evidence emerges, in particular, by the activities carried out and by the main value proposition elements. NG attracts more foreign customers, while OG attracts a national clientele of families and those over 65, underlining a greater link with the local community.
It is possible to affirm that the agritourism business model generally plays a critical role in determining performance [55
implications could be addressed to implement adequate policies for the development of agritourism as an instrument for the sustainability of the rural community. In this way, the communication of the key factors to attract more customers could be more effective. Furthermore, this tourism form is not perceived as the prerogative of a particular market segment as it attracts both families with or without children as well as young people traveling in groups [56
]. In addition, an ecologically and socially inclusive model of agritourism is put forward based on principles of sustainable; agroecological tourism strengthens the linkages between tourism and agriculture while fostering sustainability principles. [58
From the theoretical
point of view, this study contributes to the national and international debate on peculiarities of agritourism, trying to bridge the gap highlighted by Barbieri [32
], especially under the sustainability dimensions.
Future research could involve other Italian Regions in order to expand the sample of analysis and better understand the meaning of key factors for sustainable value creation.