Consumers want convenience and unique experiences from farm-based businesses and are willing to pay for the privilege, according to Hannah Moule, of Worcestershire-based rural surveyor and diversification specialist Moule and Co.
“People want to do something different and then share it with their friends on social media,” she told the Farm Business Innovation Show in Birmingham last week.
“The ‘a day with the sheep’ experiences offered by Airbnb might be baffling or funny to farmers, but they are providing much-needed extra income for the farmers offering them.”
She said there was still an interest in farm shops, but done in a different way.
Ms Moule added: “We have a client who put in a vending machine to sell produce 18 months ago. They are now ripping it out and installing one which is three-times larger.
"The machine allows the farm to sell 24 hours a day, while some shoppers welcome the fact they can pick up food quickly, easily and anonymously.”
Ms Moule added the glamping boom was not over. The growth was in high-end experiences with guests willing to pay £150 a night for hotel-type luxuries or get-back-tonature camping experiences.
Meanwhile, the mid-range pod and bell-tent market was crowded.
Ms Moule urged farmers to do their homework before diversifying – in particular asking the question whether a new venture was needed to help keep the existing business afloat.
If it was, then the lack of capital might limit options.
Solicitor Johanne Spittle of Ware and Kay told the event that diversifications could fail because legal checks had not been made early on.
Rights of way were the main issue, while some land has centuryold covenants preventing certain activities and temporary events, such as pop-up restaurants, weddings and festivals which can become unstuck because of breaches of nuisance laws.
Domestic visitors make up most of the £150 billion tourism spend, but there is still a lot of potential from foreign visitors.
The weakening of the pound after the Brexit vote meant the foreign visitor spend in 2017 was at a record £24.5bn, but fell to £23bn in 2018.
Joss Croft, of tourist promotion body UKinbound, said Brexit had damaged the image of the UK among EU visitors, but there was still growth in visits from the USA and Asia.
After Brits, for example, the Chinese made up the greatest number of visitors to the Lake District.