It’s news to no one that the pandemic led to a boom in domestic tourism. Rural and outdoor holidays, in particular, had extraordinary levels of demand and planning rules were temporarily relaxed to make it easier to open a campsite. Today, that’s left a legacy. Demand for camping remains well above pre-pandemic levels. And, while planning and licensing regulations have returned to normal (and, in some areas, even tightened), agricultural reform is rapidly changing people’s approach to rural land use. 2023 is quickly shaping up to be the most opportune time to enter the camping market.
Despite a return to travel normality (strikes and airport delays aside), interest in domestic tourism remains high. As anyone with footpaths on their land will know, the increased time people spent outdoors during the pandemic has waned but is still far above previous levels. And that’s the same with demand for outdoor holidays. Google searches for camping are still up 20% on pre-pandemic levels and have settled at this new norm. The public, reconnected with nature and squeezed by the cost of living, are set to continue their love affair with nights under canvas.
For landowners, at first glance, the opportunity looks the same as it’s always been. Host campers on your land and, on platforms like Hipcamp, you can earn up to £150,000. The Hipcamp platform (previously known as Cool Camping) has already helped thousands of UK landowners get camping and glamping businesses off the ground, offering insurance cover to fledgling hosts, providing marketing and bookings, and making it easy to start generating revenue. The Camping & Caravanning Club estimate that a well-run campsite on ten acres of land can generate an average revenue of £35,000–£50,000 per annum. It helps diversify your income, makes good use of non-arable land (such as floodplains and woodland), and supports (or inspires) other income streams, including farm shops, weddings, and events.
This year however, the Rural England Prosperity Fund and new actions through the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) also mean upfront costs, for many, should be at their lowest in a decade. Improving access and opening a campsite inevitably dovetails with the goals of Environmental Land Management schemes (ELMs). Many staple ‘public goods’, including hedgerow and waterway management, tree planting and providing recreation opportunities, naturally feed into the makeup of any good campsite.
The list of actions the government will pay for through the SFI and Countryside Stewardship (CS) is extensive, but some of those most pertinent to preparing your land for a campsite include grants for providing access maps and signage, new paths and gateways, and establishing new hedgerows. Though ELMs continue to evolve, the direction of travel is already one that will benefit environmentally friendly campsite owners. From April, local grants through the Rural England Prosperity Fund will also become available (totalling some £110m across England). Defra’s own example for eligible grants includes a “farm diversification project [that] received £15,500 for glamping facilities”, listing the many local and environmental benefits the project provided.
Beyond government grants, trusted organisations can help you establish your campsite without extra cost. Hipcamp provides liability insurance, property protection, and other benefits when you list your campsite for free on hipcamp.com, a booking platform with over six million visitors each year.