SEEDAsees growth in farm tourism
THE South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) is encouraging farmers in the region to think about the potential of tourism as a way of keeping their farms in business.
After hosting a tourism conference last month SEEDA believes the market for tourism in the area is growing especially for people wanting to go walking, cycling and riding.
The product is right, according to Valerie Carter, head of the rural sector at SEEDA. "We have quality landscapes, quality local produce, great historic heritage, small rural towns, country houses and the ability for good quality for bed and breakfast."
"On top of that we are also the gateway to England and have a good network of footpaths and Rights of Way."
Farmers could either benefit through directly providing high quality bed and breakfast accommodation or by encouraging tourists to the region by organising farmers markets in local towns, she said.
"One of the additional benefits of rural tourism is that it can be used to sell more local produce."
But in an area where traffic problems are particularly sensitive visitor management will be essential.
"We dont want to add to traffic problems so I dont think we are talking about farmers developing attractions but there is more potential from people wanting to walk, cycle or stay on farms," she said.
Farmers wanting help for a tourism project may be able to get some funding. SEEDA has just been allocated, under a new farm diversification grant scheme for one year only, £0.5m to allocate across the region on high quality tourism projects. Application forms will be published shortly and are available on 01634 899900.