Glamping can provide more farm income

5:00 AM Saturday June 25, 2016 Paul Charman

Camp Kekerengu at Ngaio Downs

Some primary-production revenues are feeling the squeeze, but rural landowners are also finding alternative means of income generation.

For some farmers, croppers or horticulturalists the possibilities include subdivision, turning part of the homestead into a B&B or the addition of tourism-related activities such as quad-biking, hunting or horseback tours.

Among these is also a cohort keen to convert “back-blocks” locations into high-end camping sites.

“Glamping”, as it is known, provides a break under canvas in a rustic rural setting — albeit with many of the home comforts.

You may sleep on an inner-sprung king size-bed, under a double-layer duvet, but there’ll be beer and wine in a fridge in the corner, and a plate of antipasto and sourdough bread on the table outside . . .

The national country manager for Bayleys, Simon Anderson, sees the “glamping trend” as a reflection of a rural sector becoming smarter with its assets.

“For years (they) just focused on milking cows, shearing sheep, raising deer, growing crops, tending vines, or pruning the orchard plantation,” he says.

“Safe to say, returns were fair-to-middling. Long-term gains were reliant on capital growth of the asset over time.

“Now it’s about making the most of land assets in its various forms; we’ve seen the proliferation in tourist-related activities, leveraged off the county’s global ‘clean, green’ reputation.”

Ridge Top Farm aerial.jpg

Glamping at Ridge Top Farm

Anderson says in the late 90s and early 2000s hundreds of B&Bs sprang up around the provinces, as farmers converted worker’s cottages, shearers dorms — and even barns — into cosy rural accommodation options. “Glamping is the merely next evolution in rural accommodation. Time-constrained big city-dwellers want two nights away under the stars, feeling they are close to nature, yet with creature comforts an arm’s length away.

“They’ll pay handsomely for such convenience; nightly glamping rates range from $155 to $430, depending on how much luxury is required or delivered.”

That $155 books you a caravan in Mapua, near Nelson, while $430 is the rate for a solid frame pine-built cabin at Kariotahi Beach, about 50-min drive down the coast southwest of Auckland.

Canopy Camping Escapes is a company which has 20 carefully curated and unique largely-rural glamping locations under its marketing banner. Established in 2012, entrepreneurs Liz Henderson and Sonia Minnaar approach private landowners all over the country — encouraging them to open up land to guests wanting a luxury camping experience.

Those joining the Canopy Camping brand receive profile and exposure via its website, which had 240,000 hits last year. Some opt to close their glamping sites at times when farm duties take precedence.

Minnaar says rural property owners interested in tourism and in hosting people on their property found glamping a unique and relatively cost-effective way to share their way of life.

“Glamping provides a good secondary income. The benefit of glamping over a farm-stay or bed and breakfast operation is that guests are not staying in your home or personal space, so you don’t need to be “on duty” all of the time,” she says.

Anderson adds that though glamping services are unlikely to produce standalone revenue for a rural property, with the right marketing and service standards, five-figure incomes can be grown as the business matures.

Bayleys Research says potential glamping sites should:

• Be sheltered from prevailing winds.

• Have attractive vistas (sans distracting power pylons and motorways).

• Be peaceful, without road noise.

• Be easily accessible to two-wheel-drive vehicles.

• Provide the sense of being removed from civilisation.

• Can be on a farm, horticultural block, forest, or vineyard.

• Offer bathroom and kitchen facilities (possibly) from converted shearers’ quarters or barns.

Ridge Top Farm tent.jpg

Glamping operators Bayleys sees as worth watching, include:

Camp Kekerengu: At Ngaio Downs, between Kaikoura and Blenheim, this coastal hill country farm has three large tents on an elevated site, with covered lounge area, kitchen with running water and gas cooking. The self-catering site accommodates up to 11 people.

Ridge Top Farm: East of Hunterville and just north of Feilding, this 607ha sheep and beef property offers glampers a taste of rural New Zealand with panoramic views towards Kapiti Island, Mt Taranaki and Ruapehu.

Chattan Farm: Native bush and a kokako sanctuary make this Bay of Plenty farm unique. A luxurious tent sleeps up to five, while quirky ablution and kitchen blocks feature timber milled from the property. An outdoor bath is set up for star-watching.