Farmers are looking at the uncertainty of what Brexit will bring and in particular what will happen to the single farm payment. Deadlines are looming (May) on being able to capitalise on funding opportunities and it’s never been a better time to see whether diversifying into glamping could work for you. Rural tourism is still on the government agenda and having plans and ideas in place for funding applications has now become very important in order to start new glamping businesses on farmland.
Glamping Consultant Simon Thomason explains: “What we are hearing is that with an uncertain future and no guarantees on subsidies most farmers will need to cover a shortfall and diversify. Although we don’t know this for certain what we do know is that it will be harder and more hassle to get additional money in the future. Any farm looking to diversify into a rural tourism business such as glamping should be looking to get feasibility studies and plans ready now to get expressions of interest in place for funding. It is vital for any funding application that it has a solid business case in order to succeed. We are currently helping many farms with those plans and having a third-party expert put those plans in place swiftly and with all their knowledge can help applications progress more effectively.”
There are currently good opportunities to take advantage of funding to help with diversification into glamping businesses but this is not going to be available for much longer as latest grants will need to be applied for by end of May. The CLAs economics advisor Charles Trotman recently outlined funding post Brexit. Under the Regional Development Programme, there is £500m spread across productivity, LEADER and socio-economic schemes that make up the Growth Programme with the European Structural and Investment Fund (ESIF). Under ESIF rural business also have access to a further £6bn under two funds and for businesses looking to diversify these funds are vital. It has been recognised by Defra that the three priority areas will include rural tourism as well as knowledge transfer and food processing.
For a farmer or landowner looking to create a new glamping business, there is money available up to 60% of the total cost of the project. The minimum size of the grant is £35,000 towards a £87,000 project. Simon Thomason continues; “These grants hit the sweet spot of money needed to create engaging and strong glamping businesses. Glamping is all about the visitor experience as well as the accommodation pods, resources and facilities on site. A good glamping business case should include everything from planning to marketing, and by having a grant, farmers can afford to set up professionally. Most grant providers also ask for consultation with experts in the field and it can progress applications faster if that is part of the application. Getting professional help pays for itself as well as giving the confidence to set up the business in an area which can be outside of a farmer’s comfort zone.”
So, what are the next steps if you are looking to diversify into glamping and pick up funding?
1) Check out ESIF grants that provide funding for Rural Tourism and find their deadlines
2) Set a target date to get your expression of interest sent to the fund before the fund closes
3) Use a professional to help with your business case and include everything that will be required to transform the land into a tourism business and then make it operate efficiently afterward. Planning permission, architects, pod manufacturers, site facilities and experiences and marketing should all be covered. This should then work into financial projections and applying for the right amount of grant funding.
4) For a glamping business consider out of the box (franchise) options alongside bespoke glamping experience creation. There are benefits to both sides.
Simon Thomason concludes; “Glamping experiences should be good quality and enjoyable for the business owner as well as the guest. We advise on everything across the board and use the knowledge we have gained from our own glamping sites to make our clients businesses work profitably. We made quite a few mistakes along the way when we were new to the industry but that was part of our journey and has led to now ultimately helping others. The opportunity that funding can bring to reduce risk, provide higher quality experiences and get businesses up and running quickly should be taken if at all possible.”