Peace and quiet, the sound of water, and crackling campfires are among the top attractions helping farmers to cash in on the staycation boom, according to leading online booking platform Pitchup.com.
The website – Europe’s largest outdoor accommodation provider – has analysed the top rated and highest earning UK farm campsites on its platform in a bid to help other farmers and landowners get the most out of their own sites.
The research found that offering a truly peaceful experience, a close proximity to water, and the chance to relax around a campfire were among the key features campers most valued.
Other attractions included scenic views, local produce and clean facilities with hot running water.
Farm-based campsites can generate thousands of pounds in extra revenue for farmers and landowners each year, for a relatively modest investment of both time and money.
The simplest pop-up sites, which can operate for up to 28 days each year without having to apply for planning permission, only require toilet blocks and running water to function, and still generate on average £13,000 per year.
However, according to Pitchup.com’s research, to fully maximise visitor numbers, there are a range of features farmers and landowners can consider, all of which are common across the platform’s top reviewed and top performing sites.
Sites across the South West, South East, East Anglia, Yorkshire, Cheshire, Cumbria, and Scotland topped Pitchup’s list of high performers in 2022, all earning a six-figure sum from agritourism.
The full list of features that the top rated and top performing sites have in common includes:
Offering a combination of pitches
All of the top rated and top performing on-farm sites offered both tent pitches and touring caravan pitches, and some included glamping facilities too. This enables them to attract a range of different customers, maximising their potential revenue.
Providing peace and quiet
Most people, when booking their rural getaway, are looking for just that – to get away from the hustle and bustle of their daily lives. As a result, they really value a few days’ respite of peace and quiet.
Some sites provide this by having an adults only policy, or others might have pitches among trees to offer a degree of privacy. However it is provided, peace and quiet is essential for a high performing site.
Clean, warm, and dry facilities
Although many campers are looking for an authentic wild experience, that doesn’t mean they want to be uncomfortable. Warm showers, clean toilets and a washing up area top the ‘must-have’ list of facilities for a comfortable stay.
When it comes to scenery, some farm-based campsites have distinct advantages. Those close to the coast or areas of outstanding natural beauty, such as the Lake District, have spectacular scenery just beyond the farm gate.
But even if you don’t have a National Park on your doorstep, most farms in the UK are in a rural setting and making the most of this will pay dividends. Ensure pitches face the most picturesque landscape and clear up any mess in the stackyard are easy wins. To create a real haven, consider setting aside a small patch of land to create a wildflower meadow, or planting some trees.
The sound of water
One thing that the top rated and top performing farm-based campsites all seems to offer is a close proximity to water, something that is loved by holidaymakers.
As with scenery, some campsites are at a natural advantage here, especially those close to the coast. But what the analysis shows is that in many cases, it doesn’t matter what type of water it is, it is the presence of water that is the attraction.
This means that campsites close to rivers, lakes, streams, and ponds, and are all equally successful at attracting guests. So, if running a campsite is a long term investment, creating a water feature on your farm could be well worth considering.
The majority of farm campsites that make up Pitchup.com’s most highly rated and top performers provide facilities for people to safely have campfires, including fire pits for hire and logs for sale. It’s easy to see why. The draw of a campfire is almost irresistible – the smell of woodsmoke, the sound of crackling, the dance of the flames. Relaxing around a fire after a fun-packed day outdoors is high on the list of many campers.
Top quality food
Regional, seasonal food has rightly gained in popularity over recent years and often, when visiting a new part of the country, people want to sample the local produce.
Some of the top performing farm-based campsites do this by providing food directly from their farm with products like bacon, milk, fresh meats, cheese and vegetables available to purchase from a shop or honesty box.
Indeed, if a farm business is looking for further diversification beyond tourism, a farm shop is well worth considering as not only will it keep campers happy, local people are likely to use it too.
But farmers and landowners don’t have to invest in a farm shop to attract a lot of guests. Simply highlighting top quality local shops, pubs and restaurants is enough to help campers sample the delights of the region.
Highlight local attractions
People may stay on farm caravan and campsites for the peace and quiet, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want a day out or two during their stay. All the top rated and top performing farm campsites listed on Pitchup.com ensure their guests can quickly find out about what the area has to offer. Providing this enables guests to get the best out of their holiday, and will increase the chances of them returning in the future.
Dan Yates, founder of Pitchup.com, said the research demonstrated what holidaymakers look for in a staycation, particularly in a rural area.
He said he hoped farmers and landowners who wanted to optimise the returns on a campsite would find it useful.
Mr Yates said: “We have more than 1,000 farm-based caravan, camping, and glamping sites listed on Pitchup.com, some of which make hundreds of thousands of pounds each year.
“Farming is about to undergo some of the biggest changes since World War II, particularly in relation to how it is funded, and we wanted to look at what farmers could do to protect themselves against any potential loss of income.
“So, we analysed what our top performing sites had in common to see if we could work out what it was that made them so successful.
“The results should certainly provide some food for thought for farmers already running campsites who want to make more from them, or those considering setting one up for the first time.”
Mr Yates said the research showed many campsite visitors wanted a simple, ‘back to nature’ experience, but with some luxuries thrown in such as hot running water, and high quality food.
He added that getting this offer right could be the difference between having a trickle of visitors and a fully booked season.
He said: “Our research shows people want a slice of the simple life from their camping or caravan trip – beautiful scenery, peace and quiet, water, a good fire, and great food, all combined with comfortable facilities.
“The good news is, with a bit of thought and investment, these things are readily achievable by most farm-based campsites, helping them to provide the authentic and tranquil haven visitors want.”