Farmers in the South East should look to diversify into tourism to thrive in a post-Brexit world, according to the CLA.
CLA South East Director Robin Edwards has argued that tourism could present an opportunity for a new income stream especially as the countryside is set to benefit from the rise of the staycation and the weak pound as the UK heads towards Brexit.
It comes as the CLA releases the results of a survey which show that of the businesses surveyed, nearly half (49 per cent) said that their organisations had expanded over the last five years.
The results from the CLA’s rural tourism survey of businesses clearly show a positive attitude from operators, with just five per cent saying they were reducing in size.
Mr Edwards says Brexit means farmers and landowners must look to diversify their businesses as support from the Common Agricultural Policy is replaced by a future system of payments for public goods.
Mr Edwards said: “It is more important than ever for land based businesses to diversify and look to opportunities in the rural tourism sector if farming and rural businesses are to remain profitable after Brexit.
“As Britons continue to seek out staycations and with a fall in the pound, rural tourism businesses are set for a boost as we leave the European Union.
“Farmers who choose to embrace change and start new business ventures such as rural tourism are the ones who will thrive in a post-Brexit world.”
As part of the recent tourism survey, the CLA asked businesses what they saw as the greatest challenges to business growth.
The biggest challenge for 26 per cent of respondents was planning and the difficulties that continue being experienced in trying to expand the business. Some 18 per cent saw problems with marketing the tourism product as challenging, with red tape and labour other issues cited.
Tourism is worth £12 billion a year, supporting 10,000 businesses and 400,000 jobs. But with this success comes major challenges, and Mr Edwards warned that the Government had an important role to play in ensuring rural businesses are resilient and robust enough to survive Brexit.
He said: “Moving to payment for delivering public goods can only be achieved through a carefully planned transition period. It is vital for the Government to give farm businesses the time and certainty they need to adapt and prepare so they do not face a cliff edge on day one of Brexit.
“Rural businesses also need more flexibility in the planning system so growth is not restricted and improved digital connectivity across rural areas. It is crucial for the countryside to have access to the same level of 4G mobile coverage as in towns and cities.
“Without this fundamental service, rural tourism businesses will be severely disadvantaged.”