FARMERS are cashing in on the domestic tourism boom and diversifying their income by offering up their property to camping.
While there have been a number of operations make use of former shearing quarters or similar to set up tourism opportunities in the past, this figure has grown, with new businesses emerging to help usher in the trend.
Website Hipcamp, which allows landowners to offer their properties up to private campers, has had its numbers double in the past 18 months to more than 2000 - including nearly 90 within SA - with the vast majority of these either farms, hobby farms or lifestyle blocks.
The site's registered campers have tripled to more than 150,000, who collectively made 4.2 million searches and spent almost 140,000 nights on a Hipcamp host's property in 2021 - a 60 per cent increase on the previous year.
Hipcamp spokesman James Jooste said the trend of domestic travel was only going to grow in the coming years, as COVID-related question marks hang over international holidays.
"What we are seeing as a rebound out of COVID is more campers than ever wanting to get away from the city, get away from their screens, get away from their phones, and completely unplug in the outdoors," he said.
Mr Jooste says, on average, Hipcamp hosts make about $10,000 annually, with some making upwards of six figures.
"It depended on how much effort landholders put into their site - could be simple as a nice spot set aside for self-contained camper vans," he said.
Some of the properties on Hipcamp offer unique agritourism exercises, such as buying fresh eggs, livestock feeding, permaculture and organic farming workshops, horse riding, and fruit picking and tasting.
"We find that farmers often make the best tour guides because they know and love their local area, and they're passionate about sharing it," Mr Jooste said.
Agritourism is "an extension of what farmers are already doing", while allowing farmers to continue to be productive and continue to farm the land, he said.
For farm businesses considering dipping a toe into tourism, websites such as Hipcamp or similar site Riparide can provide support, insurance and just takes a commission from each booking.
Through the pandemic, travellers were seeking out holidays in our regions more than ever before.
SA Tourism Commission chief executive Rodney Harrex said in recent years, his organisation had also seen growing consumer demand for "experiential accommodation" - whether that was farm stays, station stays or other off-grid and eco-friendly accommodation options.
"Through the pandemic, travellers were seeking out holidays in our regions more than ever before - in 2021, we marked seven consecutive months of record-breaking regional tourism rates," he said.
"Regional SA offers a huge range of experiential stays where people can immerse themselves in nature, 'switch off' from the hustle of everyday life, and experience our state's unique wildlife and incredible scenery."
Mr Harrex said the strength of interest in these trips was leading to the sector expanding.
"We've also seen strong investment in these types of off-grid accommodation and experiential stays," he said.
"Through our Tourism Industry Development Fund, we're supporting an expansion of Rawnsley Park Station in the Flinders Ranges; new accommodation at Softfoot Farm, Victor Harbor, to complement their restaurant and farm experiences; a train carriage conversion to holiday accommodation at The Greenly Carriage in Eyre Peninsula, and a bus conversion into accommodation at Yorke Peninsula-based Redwing Farm."
EXTRA INCOME IN DIVERISIFCATION
MANY South Australian farming properties and stations have turned to providing accommodation services, in a bid to drought-proof their operations.
Almerta Station owner/operator Shane Rowe from Yanyarrie in the Southern Flinders Ranges said she was thankful they decided to incorporate tourism on their property in 2010 as it meant her family wasn't separated anymore.
"We diversified into tourism to find another income when we were going through drought," she said.
"My husband Patty was also working away with his dad for 10-11 months of the year, so we were trying to get him back as well.
"We ran a shearing contracting business with two teams, while I was back here working the (12,000-hectare) property."
Mrs Rowe said tourism had become a big part of their business, which also runs 4000 breeding ewes.
"In the past three years, it has really bumped up," she said.
"Last year, South Australians were travelling within the state and we actually got a lot of that traffic.
"The property has 13 private bush campsites. Then we have the shearers quarters accommodation that can accommodate up to 28 people.
"We are also doing up an old cottage to be off-the-grid, which we hope to launch in the middle of the year."
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