01 Jun Equine Tourism in the UK
The popularity of the horse has continued to grow year on year since the London 2012 Olympics brought equestrian sport in the United Kingdom to a wider audience. The horse is worth £4.3 billion to the UK economy according to a survey undertaken by the British Equestrian Trade Association in 2015.
Three million people have been on a riding holiday in the past 12 months according to the survey. This is clearly a contributor to the £121.1 billion tourism value in the UK, £23 billion of which is generated from the rural sector. The effect of Brexit on the holiday trends of the UK population has been significant and the numbers of British holiday makers who stay local rather than going abroad has increased. This trend is set to continue in 2017 as Government and financial uncertainty remains as we start the process of leaving the European Union. There is therefore a significant opportunity for landowners and farmers to benefit from this growing market by providing equine tourism opportunities on their land.
Holiday lets are one of the biggest opportunities available to rural stakeholders and redundant farm buildings can provide authentic and popular experiences. For farmers, the Rural Enterprise Scheme (RES) offers funding for agricultural businesses that benefit the environment or community. Tourism is included in this definition. The buildings must be of an appropriate size and be capable of conversion if this route is to be explored. Planning Policies both nationally, through the National Planning Policy Framework and at local level are supportive of a prosperous rural economy and encourage sustainable tourism. Planning permission will be required for any change of use of a building and it is worth looking at the site as a whole when considering diversification. Other forms of accommodation include providing Bed and Breakfast, camping, glamping and caravanning pitches. Permitted Development rights allow for land to be used for camping for up to 28 days per year, this can be a useful option for short term accommodation in the summer months. The provision of tourism facilities will also bring additional benefits for local shops, restaurants and pubs, this will in turn benefit the rural economy.
Bed and Breakfast on horseback, trekking, horse hotels and hunting holidays are all popular options for both domestic and international visitors catering for the four-legged variety. The diversification of farms and livery yards into providing horse hotels is an option to be explored which can provide enjoyment in the countryside for people and their horses. Many avid riders who enjoy hacking and trail riding can take their horse with them. This also allows areas to be explored outside of the home turf. Providing horse hire can also be a route to take including for trekking, hacking and lessons. The main consideration required with this route is that of insurance. Following British Horse Society guidelines and taking the appropriate insurance policies will ensure that the element of risk that horse riding can bring is covered.
There are a number of successful yards such as ‘Blackthorn and Brook’ in Somerset who offer an authentic hunting experience with the Blackmore and Vale. This includes staying in quintessentially English accommodation, exciting days in the saddle on safe, high-quality horses, an unforgettable experience of English country life and special trips tailored to the individual. The attention to detail they offer includes airport transfers and meals organised. For those less looking for a more relaxed break trips are offered to Exmoor, the New Forest and the East Devon Coast.
The provision of equestrian facilities is also a popular form of farm diversification across the country. Providing facilities for hire such as cross country schooling and farm rides can be a hugely financially rewarding and make use of unproductive agricultural land. Providing full time livery for horses can vary from grass keep to a full livery service where stable owners will feed, care and exercise horses on behalf of their owners. The amount of land available and the existing facilities on site will of course have an impact in determining what is possible. Using land for point-to-points, horse trials and hunter trials can also be financially rewarding. Badminton Horse Trials has over 160,000 thousand visitors each May and is one of the Top 10 most popular sporting event in the country. Whilst not all venues will see numbers anywhere near this, providing a place venue for competitive sport that will be enjoyed by both riders and spectators can be a lucrative move.