Rural tourism scheme boosts New Forest businesses

Daisybank Cottage bed and breakfast, Brockenhurst

Published Tuesday 19 March 2013

A rural tourism scheme which emphasises the importance of local landscapes has helped boost bookings in the south east, including in the New Forest.

As English Tourism Week (16-24 March) signals the start of the 2013 domestic tourist season, rural tourism initiative Our Land has announced that despite 2012’s poorest tourist season for a decade, it created more than 10,000 overnight stays across the South East. In the first 16 months of operation it has also more than doubled the return on public investment by DEFRA over the same period, generating £750,000 for rural economies.

Our Land was launched in October 2011 by the New Forest National Park Authority, South Downs National Park Authority, and seven Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in the South East and it currently represents 16 protected landscapes across the country.

The initiative champions Britain’s countryside and rural responsible tourism. Set up to develop and promote locally distinctive experiences it ensures the rural economy simultaneously receives a crucial boost. National Park and AONB managers work with local businesses to help develop their commitment to tourism that benefits their local community and landscape. Once successful, businesses feature on www.our-land.co.uk - a website offering visitors a selection of 800 hand picked holidays.

Statistics from the last tourist season had set a very gloomy picture revealing the impact of Britain’s wettest summer for 100 years. The washed out summer and the decrease in UK domestic travel over the Olympic period, coupled with the depressing economic climate triggered the worst domestic tourist season in over a decade.

Despite the climate, Our Land has demonstrated there is a growing market for rural tourism experiences which directly contribute to an industry worth over £97 billion to the economy.

Daisybank Cottage in Brockenhurst sits in the heart of the New Forest National Park and is one of 650 businesses who feature on www.our-land.co.uk. The boutique bed and breakfast includes at least three locally produced items as part of their breakfasts, whilst the building was restored using local materials designed by local artists and craftspeople.   

Owner Cheryl Maher said: ‘Our Land has been a really positive way to reach people and grow our business. We used to get one or two enquiries a week but now it’s three or four a day. Visitors seem to really enjoy the local produce we provide as part of their stay. The exposure provided by Our Land has been very beneficial.’

Paul McDaid, Sustainable Tourism Project Officer for the New Forest, said: ‘Local businesses are already seeing the benefits of Our Land. It’s not just about an increase in enquiries and bookings, but it’s about training and a network of support so that businesses can help visitors find out what makes the New Forest so special and distinctive.’

Our Land holidays include staying in traditional and characteristic buildings, tasting distinctive home grown food, watching local wildlife, learning rural skills and – most importantly – meeting local people and hearing their stories. All engage visitors in the culture, heritage and nature of the UK’s rural protected landscapes.

Justin Francis MD at responsibletravel.com, Our Land's private sector partner, said: ‘By uniting and working in collaboration, the UK can offer exciting, meaningful alternatives to the low cost, short haul overseas holiday. The strength of Our Land lies in its collaboration with National Parks and AONBs where we’ve come together for the benefit of the local rural economy, helping to safe guard jobs and to keep rural communities alive.’

Nick Johannsen, Chairman of Our Land said: ‘Our Land is able to offer tourists distinctive and special experiences in the countryside because the National Parks and AONBs work with local businesses to unearth and develop unique features, knowledge and characteristics that make their business a powerful part of the local experience.”

The 2013 UK tourist season is looking bright for the continued growth of Our Land with its expanding list of partners and supporters including the RSPB, Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) and Ordnance Survey.

James Berresford, CEO of Visit England, said: ‘At the start of a new tourist season English Tourism Week is a great way to get Britons thinking of England as their next holiday destination by reminding them what’s on their doorstep. I’m excited to see how Our Land performs this coming season and fully support its ethos and development.’

Seven new protected landscapes from outside of the South East have recently signed up to join the initiative, including one from Northern Ireland, and Our Land is now available to all UK National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty to become members.

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Our Land is funded for three years (2011-2014) with nearly £1million from the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE), which is administered through DEFRA.

Visit England methodology calculates that visitors spend around £39 per person per visit on activities, food, travel and shopping. The average spend on Our Land accommodation per person per night is £38, making total average spend per person per night to the visitor economy £77.

www.our-land.co.uk was founded in collaboration between two National Parks and seven Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and private sector partner responsibletravel.com. Those Protected Landscapes are; the Chilterns, Cotswolds, High Weald, Isle of Wight, Kent Downs, New Forest, North Wessex Downs, South Downs and Surrey Hills. responsibletravel.com, the world's leading company for marketing green and sustainable tourism, is the project's private sector partner responsible for commercial strategy, branding and marketing, including creating and managing the Our Land web platform. responsibletravel.com has committed to running the project beyond the funding period.

Our Land’s new protected landscape partners are Exmoor National Park, Scilly Isles, Ring of Gullion, Shropshire Hills, Dedham Vale, Suffolk Coast and Heaths, Cranborne Chase and West Wiltshire Downs. Our Land was launched in October 2011 after two years of research and development. Around 36% of the South East region is designated Protected Landscape, the primary purpose of which is the conservation and enhancement of the natural beauty of the landscape.

Government Tourism Policy:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/78416/Government2_Tourism_Policy_2011.pdf

About English Tourism Week:

Set up by Visit England, English Tourism Week runs from 16-24 March this year. English Tourism Week 2013 is designed to raise the profile and importance of tourism and showcase the value of the industry to local communities and to the national economy. http://www.visitengland.org/england-tourism-industry/etw/etw13/

Full list of Our Land’s partners and supporters: http://www.our-land.co.uk/copy/love-our-land


Protect - Enjoy – Prosper

The New Forest National Park Authority’s statutory purposes are to:

■ Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park - Protect

■ Promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities – Enjoy.

We also have a duty to:

■ Seek to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park – Prosper.

The New Forest National Park was designated in March 2005. Its unique landscape has been shaped over the centuries by grazing ponies, cattle and pigs which roam free. Majestic woodlands, rare heathland and a spectacular coastline provide fabulous opportunities for quiet recreation, enjoyment and discovery.

Visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk to find out more.

Media Contacts:

Sion Donovan, Communications Officer, New Forest National Park Authority

Tel: 01590 646639

Email: sion.donovan@newforestnpa.gov.uk

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