Agri-tourism: Temporary campsites provide £25m boost for rural Britain
Following a boom in agri-tourism and staycations in 2020 and 2021, campsite owners and the industry are calling on the Government to extend temporary campsite dates again in 2022
Tourists headed to all corners of the UK as they looked to enjoy the countryside this year, with temporary campsites generating more than £25 million this year. Campsite owners have appealed to the Government to extend the right to open temporary campsites again in 2022.
It was not just destinations such as the Lake District and the West Country which benefitted, according to outdoor accommodation provider Pitchup.com, with areas such as Staffordshire, Lincolnshire and Herefordshire all attracting tourists.
£9.8m was generated through pitch fees alone, with an extra £2.9m being spent with campsite owners on firewood and farm-fresh produce. £12.9m was spent in rural businesses such as pubs, shops and restaurants.
Dan Yates, founder of Pitchup.com, said the boom in pop-up campsites started in summer 2020 after the government temporarily extended the right to open them from 28 days to 56 days without applying for planning permission. But the period is due to revert to 28 days in 2022.
Mr Yates said the extension had a ‘tremendous, positive impact’ when it was most needed.
“It has enabled pubs, shops, restaurants, and rural tourist attractions to negotiate the pandemic when a lot of them may not have survived and helped a large number of farms that are facing large reductions in support payments,” he said. “It has also seen the British countryside step up to the mark to cater for the huge demand for staycations as people could not holiday abroad.”
The Welsh Government was consulting on a permanent extension but Westminster had no plans to do the same.
And Mr Yates said they believed the pandemic had prompted a permanent shift towards outdoor accommodation in the UK, even as foreign travel recovers. He added demand for agri-tourism for next year was showing no sign of abating.
“Bookings for 2022 are already 145 per cent up on the same time in 2019 and one campsite has already taken 305 bookings for next year,” he said. “If the 56-day extension were to remain in place on an ongoing basis, the impact on the rural economy would be very significant.”
Grange Paddock Camping owner Demelza Hoban, from Lincolnshire, was furloughed during lockdown. But with increased interest in staycations, she left her job to focus on the campsite set up on the family farm.
She added it was the ‘easiest and quickest’ form of farm diversification, setting up a campsite is a relatively simple form of agri-tourism.
“Setting it up is one of the best decisions we have made,” she said. She highlighted the impact on the rural economy, with the local pub seeing a notable uplift in customers with the majority saying they were staying on the campsite.
“They were thrilled with the extra business and keep asking whether I will be doing it again,” she said.
Sarah Wheeler, who runs Hever Campsite in Kent, said many people had said they wanted to stay in the UK next year too.
“Local businesses, pubs, cafes and tourist attractions, which had to close during the lockdowns, are trying to hold on by tooth and nail, relying heavily on the tourism our campsite generates. They would massively benefit if we were permitted to open for extended periods again next year. I implore the government to help small businesses recoup our previous losses and offer our campers what they are asking for: more dates in their own country to have affordable holidays whilst supporting their own country’s economy.”