FARMING: Expert predicts surge in rural tourism ventures in Buckinghamshire next year

Loss of subsidies will spark wave of innovative 'experience' offerings
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A surge in rural tourism ventures across Buckinghamshire and the South East has been predicted by an agricultural expert.

Rupert Wailes-Fairbairn says farmers across the region received more than a third of their income from diversified activities last year.

Total income for the region fell by £174 million last year to £360 million, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Rupert Wailes-Fairbairn of LycettsRupert Wailes-Fairbairn of Lycetts
Rupert Wailes-Fairbairn of Lycetts

Farmers now face the loss of direct payment subsidies, as the tourism sector accelerates its recovery from Covid.

Mr Wailes-Fairbairn, of rural insurance broker Lycetts, believes 2022 will be year they reinvent their businesses.

“The vast untapped business opportunities for the sector are clear, with diversification last year making the smallest contribution to South East farming output,” he said. “As farmers face burgeoning financial challenges and a period of unprecedented industry change, many will be planning now to protect their financial futures.

“To help them achieve this, a range of new business activities are likely to be embarked upon, from the hosting of experience days to putting non-productive land to revenue-generating use with the introduction of glamping pods, tent pitches, shepherd huts or yurts.

“Renewable energy projects also promise lucrative opportunities, with operators paying farmers and landowners rents of up to £1,000 per acre.”

Although rural diversification can open the door to profitable revenue streams, Mr Wailes-Fairbairn has warned of the risks of launching new business ventures in markets where farmers’ experience and expertise can be limited.

“Due diligence and prudent steps should be taken to avoid falling foul of unexpected financial pitfalls,” he said.

Tourism-related projects will invariably involve members of the public setting foot on farmland.

Health and safety risk assessments, along with measures and procedures to ensure a safe environment, are therefore essential considerations.