Cashing in on tourism as more Brits holiday at home

If the recession is persuading more people to holiday at home, it could mean a boom in farm-based breaks. A Cumbrian engineering firm’s diversification project is aimed at farmers who are looking to diversify and cash in on tourism.

While steel and aluminium continue to form the backbone of TFM Engineering’s business - making ATV and other trailers and accessories for agriculture and forestry - the family firm is now moving into timber and manufacturing ‘beehive style’ camping lodges for ‘posh camping.’

Fergus McFarlane and son James says they wanted to push the business forward within their existing customer profile and believed it was now opportune to offer them a totally different type of product, and one which would generate a tangible return.

“We know many farmers are looking to diversify, not least in this part of the country, but they do not always want to commit a big financial outlay, or dramatically change their core business.

“We also know there is a generation of campers who want a taste of the outdoors, but with a few home comforts. For a farmer it is simply a step-up from letting a field for people to pitch tents or park caravans,” says James.

“The cost compares with say £80,000-£90,000 outlay for a log cabin. Although the Beehive Lodges are smaller - 10ft x 8ft internal room - they are full height and it is all many campers need or want.

Planning

“They are built from high quality timber, with insulated walls, uPVC French doors and window and will last for decades. They are built on a metal base, which keeps them off the ground and enables a removable axle to be fitted to move them around the farm.”

Farmers should check with their local authority regarding planning considerations, he said.

At the higher price end of the holiday lettings business, Glasgow-based Hebhomes has launched a new range of Airigh buildings after an approach by an entrepreneur. They were inspired by the summer houses built on common grazing when crofters and their families would move with their cattle to the summer pastures.  

Director Neil Stephen said the specification was it had to be easy and quick to build, adaptable to various site and climatic conditions, and of a simple design.

It also had to be energy efficient and capable of meeting current planning and building regulations and could be a simple way for the crofter or farmer to build holiday-let accommodation to bolster income - and the potential was not just confined to Scotland.  

One planner on Skye is reported to have said he would allow four on one croft additional to the main house, whereas he would only have allowed one additional traditional house. 

Camping lodges as a business

  • Beehive Camping Lodges cost from £5,450 plus VAT
  • The top spec version is £6,995 plus VAT
  • According to TFM Engineering, around £45 per night is a reasonable letting charge

Running Airighs as a business

  • A one bedroom Airigh can be built for under £50,000 (excluding site servicing)
  • Returns will depend on location
  • Typically a one bedroom Airigh could let for around £500 per week  
  • Potential for grant funding

Being unique in a crowded market

ON the edge of the Peak District in the Staffordshire Moorlands, Catherine Webster is letting luxury camping ‘Yurts’.

She said in her 12 months experience so far, it was an investment well justified - 90 per cent occupancy in a season from May until the end of October.

With the project having already won a Peak District Environmental award, she has three Yurts which are let for between £400 and £525 for a full week (two people) or £265 for a long weekend.

The luxury camping business is supplementing income from a smallholding. Although grant-aided, the total investment was around £60,000 including the three Yurts, shower block, toilets, hot tubs and other facilities to justify the ‘luxury’ tag.

“I did a full, formal business plan at the outset and have a degree in tourism management and a background in luxury hotels,” she says.

And she too advises checking with the local authority on planning permission.

“Also, find out what is already available in your area as in some parts, the market is becoming saturated with ‘glamping’ opportunities. People are seeking something different and unique.

“Another consideration is the maintenance - with the yurts the canvas cleaning and re-proofing can be expensive - and this is not always clear from suppliers.”

 

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