Farmers thinking of branching out into tourism – or upping their existing game – need to prioritise quality, originality and a connection with their environment. In this special diversification feature, we bring you top tips from the people who know this growing sector best.
From concerns over carbon footprint to political destabilisation, there are a number of reasons why increasing numbers of UK residents are seeking to holiday in their own country this year.
According to figures from last year’s Staycation Index, commissioned by UK holiday accommodation firm Sykes cottages, 66 per cent of Britons enjoyed a staycation in 2018, with 2019’s figures expected to be even higher, especially given that the Met Office declared 2019 the eleventh warmest year in the UK since 1910.
More warm weather in 2020, together with the travel implications of Brexit, could mean further incentive for the staycation option for Brits.
And they are not the only ones who are holidaying here.
According to Visit Britain’s inbound tourism forecast for 2020, we can expect to welcome 39.7 million visitors from oversees to the UK this year, up on 38.5m in 2019 – and with an anticipated spend of £26.6 billion.
Greater demand means unprecedented opportunity but, for those looking to move into tourism, having a point of difference is key.
Debbie Queen, associate director, tourism, leisure and events consultancy at Savills says: “People are not just looking for a holiday anymore – they are looking for an amazing experience.
"We stress to our clients that they have to think about providing the highest quality of accommodation and with a sense that it is ‘unique to place’.”
Thinking ‘outside the box’ is important too.
“Group accommodation is increasingly popular,” she adds.
“So if you have outbuildings that could be converted to provide communal spaces for 15-25, plus private areas too, you could be on to a winner.
"Are you just offering accommodation, or could you move into the wellbeing-holiday sector by, say, creating a space that could be used as a yoga studio?”
It is also all about ways of bringing the outdoors in.
Ms Queen adds: “Fire bowls, pizza ovens, outdoor kitchens – they are all ways of enabling your guests to spend more time outside but without them having to have the practical hassles of building a camp fire.
Anything that enables them to make the most of outdoor spaces whatever the weather is a good idea, too – open shelters around cooking areas, for instance."
Someone who has come up with a winning, unique formula is Caroline Millar.
Caroline and her husband Ross launched The Hideaway Experience in 2005 offering boutique-style, 5-star lodges for couples from the family’s 263-hectare beef and sheep farm on the Sidlaw hills, 15 minutes’ drive from Dundee.
“There is a tradition of farms offering accommodation, but these days, consumers really are wanting new bespoke experiences and a higher level of service,” she says.
“We offer niche, adults-only luxury accommodation with high-end extras such as hot tubs and cocktail bars as standard, but we have found other ways to add to the guest’s holiday."
For an additional cost, Hideaway Experience guests are offered personalised farm tours.
She adds: “These give us the chance not just to up-sell and increase revenue from our point of view, but to connect consumer and land, too.
"We show guests round the farm, explain how we produce Scotch beef, Scotch lamb and malting barley for whisky, then we will drive them into the Sidlaws and leave them with a picnic made up of local produce – smoked salmon; cold roast beef from the local butcher, a nip of whisky.
"They can sit and enjoy their food while looking out over the land it has come from. It is a gentle, friendly way to bridge the gap between consumer and producer."