The British countryside is the perfect place to escape, with its diverse range of attractions and places to stay. Emily Ashworth explores how tourism is creating endless opportunities for rural businesses.
You can see the attraction; who wouldn’t want to wake up to the rolling hills and picturesque views of Britain’s landscape? There is nothing quite like the gentle beauty of our nation’s countryside, with its diverse landscape offering up something for everyone, and its rural heritage charming and appealing.
Figures prove Britain’s popularity when it comes to attracting tourists. According to Visit Britain, a total of 38.9 million people visited Britain last year, all eager to immerse themselves in our history and culture.
From the winding country roads and walks, to farms which have diversified into play centres and made themselves a firm family favourite, the British countryside is continually adapting to lure massive numbers, and there is no sign of it slowing down.
The Defra Farm Business Survey 2016-2017 stated the income generated by letting buildings for non-farming use came to a staggering £440m and, more specifically, the total income of farm businesses using their farm for catering and tourist accommodation purposes totalled £20m.
Almost two-thirds of English farmers have now diversified and with more farm businesses looking to follow suit, the tourism industry is most certainly a route to venture down. The latest trends include wedding venues, breweries and traditional crafts, but many look to use their resources to give families an entertaining day out.
Glamping, shepherd’s huts and farm cottages are seemingly having their moment, with the pull of nature and space desirable for those looking to relax, or families seeking out a place for children to roam and explore. In 2016/17, 3,400 farms were using their property as tourist accommodation, and during 2016, more than 17m camping and caravan trips were enjoyed, including yurts, safari tents and holiday lodges.
Research from Mintel states the number of trips are set to rise to 21m in 2020, providing a huge amount of scope for farmers considering opening their farm to potential new business. The accommodation idea ticks all the boxes for a diverse range of tourists, but the chance to escape urban lifestyles is key for many.
Of those choosing a camping holiday, 41 per cent said connecting with nature was an essential part of their decision, and you cannot get much closer to the land than by pitching up your tent on Britain’s farmland. The idea you can educate as well as enjoy yourselves is an intriguing prospect for many families, meaning day trips out to rural areas are becoming favoured.
Farmers across the country have turned their land into playgrounds and interactive sites and offer on-farm experiences for children should you choose to stay with them. In 2016 alone, day visits proved to be extremely popular, with 48 per cent of people visiting small towns and rural areas.
The Ice Cream Farm, Cheshire, is notably one of the largest family attractions in the North West of England, recording 80,000 visitors through its gates last year.With its quirky ice cream features and farming characters to guide you through the outing, it is the prefect representation of how a farm can become a must-visit family hotspot. Its founder Jonathan Fell says getting your foot in the tourism door could be vital for safeguarding the future of your farm.
He says: “Recognising many families were visiting the parlour and seeing a rising demand for somewhere to entertain the kids, we saw the opportunity to create an outdoor play area and we haven’t looked back since.
“Since 2015, more than £5m has been spent on a complete remodelling and reinvention of The Ice Cream Farm, without compromising the core values and commercial philosophy on which the success of the business has been built.
“Even through the recession in 2008/2009, we saw substantial growth, so clearly specific demographics within the tourism sector are proven to be sustainable.”
Aside from its undeniable scenic magnetism, the attraction to holidaying in or visiting the countryside is more than skin deep. Visit Britain says the public tends to split rural destinations into three areas:
One of the most interesting aspects is how countryside destinations are regarded as safe compared to other types of holidays; rural locations are seen welcoming, comfortable and the perfect way to relax.
‘Staycations’ are also on the up, according to Pitchup.com, a UK campsite and holiday park booking website, meaning we are choosing to visit places in our homeland rather than holiday abroad. But valuable organisations, such as Visit Britain, are consistently trying to advertise the countryside and rural attractions to the global market, confident in its ability to impress.
VisitBritain and VisitEngland director Patricia Yates says: “Britain’s stunning countryside, natural beauty and sheer diversity of landscapes are major draws for visitors and a crucial part of our tourism offer.
“Rural destinations are offering an increasing range of year-round activities, experiences and attractions, to cater for all visitors from food, music and literary festivals to sporting events, farm-stays and rural retreats. There is also an outstanding range of quality accommodation, food and visitor attractions on offer.
“We are inspiring overseas visitors, as well as Brits, to get out and explore more of the countryside and rural destinations right here on our doorstep, boosting tourism and spreading its economic benefits across our nations and regions.”
With so many iconic and historic places spread across the country, the future is paved by Britain’s rural communities, passionate and proud in their aim to show off the Great British countryside to the world.
AUGUST 9, 2018, is the agricultural industry’s chance to use its collective power to demonstrate the hard work which goes into producing the food we eat and maintaining the British countryside.
Farmers Guardian has once again teamed up with Morrisons to host the industry’s biggest online event. For 24 hours, we are asking anyone within the farming industry to use their social media accounts to share posts, pictures and videos about the work they are doing throughout the course of the day.
The idea is to flood social media with farming activity to champion the industry and the food produced. Anyone can take part on any social media platform, simply by using the hashtag #Farm24.