Glamping, the perfect solution for farmers looking to diversify?

Cow and shepherd's hutHand in hand a couple make their way across the meadow towards the shepherd hut sitting beneath the tree, wood smoke curling from its chimney.

Could this be your field and are you intrigued by the possibility of diversifying into glamping?

“Farms which have diversified into tourism can achieve extra incomes of about £21,000 a year.” – Phil Bicknell, Head of Farming – National Farmers Union

Glamping or glamorous camping is all about comfortably roughing it. Gone is the idea that campers must shiver under a damp canvas pitched on a muddy field. The new, posh camper wants to experience nature but they want to do it without the rough edges.

Is running a glamp site for you?

There are several factors to consider before pressing ahead with a glampsite.

Location, location, locationButtercup filled field

The Wales Visitor Survey – 2013 showed that 69% of holiday makers considered the natural environment, landscape, countryside and beach the main factors when choosing their holiday destination.

If your location ticks the right boxes the next thing to consider is accessibility. You may have the most picturesque spot in the UK but if your glampers can’t reach it easily your market will be limited.

How much space can you offer? Unlike traditional camp sites where tents and caravans are shoehorned onto every available inch of grass, modern day campers want room to breathe. Ideally you should allow enough space for your guests to feel that they have their own slice of countryside – even if it is just for a few days.

It would be great if it wasn’t for customers!

If the thought of strangers wandering around your land and wanting attention at the most inconvenient time makes your blood run cold, this isn’t the venture for you. However if you enjoy meeting people and can be relatively tolerant of their foibles… glamping could prove to be hugely rewarding.

Play to your strengths.

Feeding the goatIt is no longer enough to put a pod in a field and expect people to pay a premium to stay there; you need to think carefully about how you will stand out from the crowd. This is when, with a little imagination a working farm can give you a head start.

The number of holiday makers seeking to experience a taste of farm life is increasing. Could you do farm tours? Can your guests collect their own eggs for breakfast, feed the pigs or watch the cows being milked? Can you sell your produce to your Glampers? How about foraging and bush-craft lessons for the kids?

Get your creative muscles working and have fun with your ideas, it will pay dividends when it comes to attracting bookings and keep things interesting for you.

Good news travels fast but bad news travels faster.

Running a glampsite takes time and effort with internet review sites making the old adage truer than ever so attention to detail is essential if you want to be a success. The “to do” list will be long; cleaning, laundry, repairs, bookings, the dreaded marketing and promotion and then there is all of that innovating to be done!

You could consider employing someone to do the day to day tasks and there is help available on the booking front with a host of online agents to choose from. However this comes at a cost and you need to consider how it will affect your bottom line.

It’s all about the money!

Do your sums carefully. You need to consider initial set up costs, upkeep, maintenance, marketing and any wage costs. However if you get everything right it is reasonable to work on an income in the region of  £15,000 per unit.

Check to see if you qualify for one of the grants available from the government to help farmers looking to diversify.

Yurts or tree houses, hobbit holes or carriages, what will you choose?Tree house

Before making a decision on which kind of accommodation you will opt for, take some time to consider the following;

Nature of your site – A shaded field may be too damp or cold for canvas. Tree houses may still be novel but are no use if you don’t have trees. Ten units will bring in more revenue than two but has your site got the capacity and could you cope without bringing in additional help? First walk your site to get a feel for it then draw it out. Include boggy areas, bushes, trees, hills and hollows, suntraps and shaded areas. Now you can begin planning which kind of accommodation suits your site best and where your units will go.

Planning – Not all types of accommodation will need planning permission but you will generally need to change the use of the land they are to be situated on. Unless you are confident that you have the knowledge and time to deal with your planning authority it will almost always pay dividends to employ a local planning consultant. Whilst this can be costly their knowledge will save money on wasted applications and lost holiday income in the long run.

Access to utilities – if your site is off grid you need to consider the practicalities and cost of getting services put in vs an off grid solution.

Season length – Do you want to operate all year round or is a shorter season better for you? Glamping tent Canvas
structures need to come down in the winter leading to a shorter season than a more substantial construction such as a cabin or pod.

Regional weather conditions – Initially a tent based structure may cost less than a more robust one but the canvas often suffers from mildew in damper climates and will need to be replaced every few years if you want them to continue to look inviting.

Target market group – Do you want a cosy romantic vibe to attract couples or would you prefer family groups? Would you like to host events such as hen do’s and wedding parties? These factors will inform the size and spacing of your dwellings along with the facilities you will need to provide.

Cost and ease of set up – Employing a company to provide you with a turnkey solution will add to the cost of set up but when this is offset against your time and lost income it is often worth it. A good supplier will guide you through the set up process removing a significant amount of stress and you can be safe in the knowledge that you will have a quality product with a professional finish to offer your clients.

Could a shepherd’s huts tick all the boxes?

We admit that we are a tiny bit biased here but when you consider the list of benefits that come with a shepherd’s hut, we think you will see why!

• Can be sited almost anywhere
• On or off grid solution
• Eco-friendly – appealing to the escalating number of eco-tourists
• Year round accommodation – more bookable nights per year
• Family friendly
• Romantic
• Ideal shower block and/or site office
• Each hut is unique and designed specifically for your requirements
• Can be purchased complete requiring minimal set up
• Mobile
• Long lasting investment
• Perfectly at home on a farm!

So if running a glamp site sounds like your cup of tea, why not join the growing number of enterprising farmers and join the glamping party?

If you are interested in discussing any of the points raised here in more detail give us a call, Glenn and I are always happy to chat!

Glenn

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