Why farming is crucial for our tourist industry

22 January 2010 by
Why farming is crucial for our tourist industry

In another of his regular columns, Peter Hancock, chief executive of luxury hotel marketing consortium Pride of Britain Hotels, explains why the tourist industry has a duty to support Britain's farmers .

What does Britain have to offer tourists? Compared with warmer and less congested countries, it would be easy to dismiss the UK as a second-rate destination, yet despite everything we are still the seventh most popular in the world.

Part of the answer must be our beautiful countryside. In almost every region we have attractive fields and hedgerows. From the air you can still see extensive forestry. In some regions we can add mountains, lakes or coastline and picture-postcard villages. Those of us lucky enough to live in the countryside see it every day. It's what makes Britain unique.

In fact, the backdrop to many of our hospitality businesses has for centuries been created or maintained by farmers. Without them we'd have no grazing, no dry stone walls and of course no home-produced food. Local communities would vanish. There would be very little left to appeal to visitors.

That is why I think tourism and farming should really be considered together. We need our farmers to stay in business because they are the practical custodians of what attracts people here in the first place. This has been recognised by the Prince of Wales, who is spearheading a countryside fund to assist those farmers whose livelihoods are under threat and to help tourists appreciate their critical role in maintaining the scenery we like to roam in.

At a recent meeting of the Tourism Society in Cumbria I learned more about the issues facing farmers today, many of whom run B&B or catering operations themselves, and was surprised by how much we depend on one another. Hoteliers and restaurateurs buy vast amounts of locally-grown food and those who produce it are the caretakers of the whole setting.

So the next time I see a pick-up truck with a dog and a bale of hay in the back, I shall view the driver with renewed respect. He or she could well be the only thing that's keeping my rural view intact. If we let our farmers go under, we may not be very far behind them.

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