A series of events and occurrences such as the creation of the European Economic Community were decisive for the later creation of these establishments.
These events can be traced back to the treaty of Rome in 1957. Here diverse measures of an economic and social nature were set up, one of them being the idea of establishing a common agricultural policy; the so-called CAP with the following social and economic objectives:
- Ensure an equitable standard of living for the farming community.
- Ensure low prices supplies to the consumer.
- Increase agricultural production.
- Stabilisation of the markets.
To reach these objectives, an organisation depending on the European Community was set up; FEOGA, which acts on two fronts:
- FEOGA ORIENTACIÓN, supporting modernisation and rationalisation of farms.
- FEOGA GARANTÍA, funding interventions aimed at regulating agricultural markets.
The situation experienced during this period gave rise to two types of agriculture: Competitive and marginal (within which mountain farming can be found).
To sum up, it can be said that competitive agriculture would be responsible for supplying, while areas taken in by the so-called marginal agriculture would run the risk of becoming depopulated. There was certain willingness to maintain the small farms in these disadvantaged areas, since besides producing food; they are a guarantee of landscape and the countryside. In short, the maintenance of these small farms would be justified to preserve the natural heritage that constitutes the environment and landscape.
Therefore, Europe did not relinquish its family farming model but provided a solution in terms of support for non-farm investments, and this is precisely where agrotourism plays a decisive role. Euskadi in the large part is a typical mountain farming region.
Euskadi in the large part is a typical mountain farming region.
In order to become more aware of the apparent problems in this region and the different solutions that have been found to solve them, advantages were drawn on from other regions with the same characteristics. The Basque Government studied the situation of territories like Switzerland, Aosta Valley, Belgium, etc... Therefore the living experience in areas of a similar nature has been the reason for a serious commitment to the agrotourism business, with the aim of maintaining the farming population and the world that encompasses it.
European funding for agrotourism
European community leaders were willing to improve the living conditions of the farmer, especially in the aforementioned disadvantaged areas, among which can be found mountain farming.
To do so EEC grant aid was brought about for farms as an investment in tourism. With this philosophy in mind, in 1988 The Basque Government published a Decree summarizing that income from farming, tourism and crafts would complement each other in order to guarantee the quality of life in the rural area.
The Degree envisaged a funding scheme to set up rural tourist accommodation up to the amount of 40% of the cost of work required to renovate the dwelling provided it did not exceed 30,000€.
Faced with a new product and as it was one of the pillars for the mountainous areas to be able to move forward and gain protection from an uncertain future, a high level of protectionism occurred at an Administration level.
1988 saw the creation by the Department of Agriculture of the Basque Government and The Foral Governments of Alava, Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa of an Agrotourism programme, enabling rural dwelling owners to offer lodging services to the public. During the period of 88-89 the phenomena appeared in Spain and started to take shape as a promotion campaign with two aims:
- Promote awareness among the rural lodging owners of this mode of tourism.
- Make the general public aware of the existing offer.
Promotion of agrotourism in Euskadi
1989 saw an intense information and promotion labour being carried out in the rural communities of the three Basque Provinces in general and in particular on the funding available in order to eliminate the two basic problems:
- Fear of the unknown, i.e. the negative influence that an influx of strangers in the traditional way of life of the farmer and his family could have.
- The consciousness awareness of agrotourism on behalf of the farmer as an economic activity, i.e., as a means of obtaining income, given that until now accommodating guests at home whenever it occurred was not charged.
In this way interest began to arise in the programme launched by the Basque Government and the first rural guesthouses were set up to meet a demand which was not too heavy; due mainly to the lack of knowledge of the offer in existence.
Spring 1990 saw the inauguration of the first rural tourism offer in the Basque Region "Txopebenta" in Gautegiz-Arteaga (Bizkaia).
June of the same year saw the creation in the San Miguel area in Garai (Bizkaia) of an office to coordinate the agrotourism offer in The Basque Region with several aims:
- Coordinate the offer and the demand.
- Carry out promotion campaigns.
- Collaborate with owners on the distribution of all the information and acts orchestrated from the Administration.
This was an office located in a small village in a rural area, in charge of coordinating, therefore, this initial "countryside tourism", lumped together with green tourism.
The organisation comprised a programme director and coordinator and a working team comprising three people and a secretary.
The management and administrative body which funded this Agrotourism office was until 99 Meneko (Mountain Farming Federation of the Basque Region).
When this coordination office was opened in Garia there were already 11 establishments fully up and running and with highly successful occupancy rates, despite the limited advertising which had taken place.
During 1991 the office was responsible for several advertising campaigns in the media on a regional and state level.
October 1991 saw the creation of "NEKAZALTURISMOA-LANDATURISMOA" and in 1998 the first establishment, "Arboliz", was set up in the rural guesthouse mode in Ibarrangelua.