Tourism generates more revenue and provides more employment for the rural sector than farming, John Hoy, Head of Rural at Bidwells, revealed at a special rural seminar recently.
John, who was the chief executive of Blenheim Palace for 14 years, before joining Bidwells in January, was speaking at the Firm’s latest event, which was themed around the wealth of diversification opportunities available to the rural sector.
Whether it is glamping, farm parks, holiday lets, sporting events, filming and photography, wedding venues, concerts or even hosting festivals, the tourism sector offers an array of profitable opportunities for farmers and estate owners.
And tourism is set to play an even more important role in the rural sector in a post-Brexit environment especially if it is incorporated into any replacement scheme for CAP.
John said: “The value of tourism for the rural sector is very poorly understood. If we look for example at the numbers around tourism and agriculture there are 365 million trips to rural destinations each year, generating £18.6bn for the rural economy and providing 340,000 full-time jobs.
“So tourism actually generates more revenue and provides more employment for the rural sector than farming, which might surprise many who work in this industry.
“It is therefore really important that the linkages between farming, the environment and our unique landscape is recognised in how the CAP is reformed going forward.”
During the presentation, he talked through the potential key areas that must be addressed in order to ensure that the tourism industry continues to thrive post-Brexit, such as reinstating tourism planning guidance, developing a skilled workforce, reducing red tape and improving public transport.
And he said that the rural industry must look at innovative new ways to generate income in a post-Brexit environment, and the returns could be very rewarding. He told the audience that Britain’s Events Industry is alone worth over £41bn to the economy through direct visitor spend.
John also gave guidance on some of the do’s and don’ts when hosting events and highlighted the additional incomes which they can provide.
He said: “There are huge opportunities in all of these areas and the rural sector needs to look creatively in the post-Brexit market that we are in. It needs to be more entrepreneurial, find other things to do and discover just what opportunities are out there.”
Bidwells Rural Development and Diversification Team (RDD) has been working with rural clients for a number of years on key diversification projects which unlock the potential of their assets.
The RDD team of specialists includes rural surveyors, planners, architects, landscape architects, plus members of the building and heritage teams.
Dan Jones and Cath Anthony from the RDD team spoke of the income opportunities available through diversification and highlighted some recent successful projects they had been involved in, ranging from glamping to converting rural barns into residential properties and how to tackle Class Q applications.
Dan said: “If you think about the different sectors of the market, some diversification schemes have been around for years, such as office conversions and holiday lets, whereas others are more recent. Wedding venues have escalated over the past five to six years, others are relatively new.
“And if you are going into a new sector, you don’t necessarily have to be the very best in the field. But if you are going into a sector that has already been tapped into then you need to ensure you have a good USP.”
Examples of their work included high-end holiday lets at Goodnestone, a large country house in Kent which was no longer required for residential use. The team project managed the renovation project.
And at Bressingham Hall, an 18th Century Georgian Mansion set in 17 acres of beautiful gardens on the Norfolk/Suffolk border, the team worked with the owners to create a spectacular wedding venue which involved the conversion of a derelict 19th Century oak barn into a stunning wedding ceremony building.
Cath added: “We identified this as a potential wedding venue given the setting within the beautiful gardens. The barn provided the opportunity for a ceremony building, with the rest of the site for everything else together with the potential for the hall to provide accommodation which is very important on wedding days.”