New data from outdoor booking platform Pitchup, reveals that more than 50% of UK campsite owners on its platform are women.
This is one of the highest figures across Europe, with women making up just 26% of campsite owners on the platform in Germany, 28% in Spain, 36% in Italy and 41% in France.
Brodie Farrow, Brand Marketing Manager, commented on the results: “The feedback we’ve heard from site owners in the UK is that our sector provides enjoyable and often lucrative careers for women, so we’re glad to see that the results reflect this. In fact, our top earning
campsite so far this year is owned by a woman, with sales topping £160,000. Pitchup itself is made up of 60% women, many in senior leadership roles, which we are very proud of.”
One such woman taking the lead in campsite ownership is Harriet Cunningham, owner of Benville Manor Camping, which she runs alongside her daughter (pictured above, image from pitchup.com).
“We really got into it because of Covid. We’d already spent about 10 years turning a former cattle field into a wildflower meadow and then my daughter decided it would be the perfect place to offer wild camping, since no one could holiday abroad. Everyone got involved – it was a multi-generational family project.
“It was extraordinary really how many people turned up unprepared. A lot of young families came from Bristol for their first ever camping trip, in order to escape the city. In the beginning we lent out a lot of wellies, jumpers and extra pairs of socks! Once people got the hang of it,
it was lovely to see how everyone embraced being out in the wild.
“I think it’s a great industry to work in as a woman. It’s not easy – you have to clean a lot of toilets and clear up a lot of rubbish – but it’s very sociable and so rewarding seeing how much people enjoy the experience you’ve created.”
More than 33% of the campsites listed on Pitchup are on working farms, with agritourism becoming a popular form of diversification, supporting farms through the turbulence of reductions in subsidies, increasing costs and unpredictable weather.
Although 80% of farm holders are men, agritourism and the outdoor accommodation sector appears to be offering equal opportunities for both men and women. In fact, a recent study in Ireland argues women have played a key role in the growth of agritourism.
According to the study’s leading researcher, Dr Maura Farrell, women in the farm sector “are much more open to farm diversification and they’re much more open to going beyond that productivist type of thinking in agriculture.
“Women are willing to go beyond the tradition and engage in diversification, giving rise to this idea of a progressive feminism within agriculture for women.”
For Lesley Nicholas, owner of Girt Down Farm in Devon, this was certainly the case.
“I am part of a women in farming group on Exmoor and we meet regularly and look at ways that we can make a difference to our farm income – always the main topic of conversation since the government is cutting payments to farmers and we are trying to make up the shortfall.
“I first came across Pitchup in the summer of 2020. With the pandemic meaning no one could go abroad, I knew there were problems getting accommodation locally. Always looking for ways to diversify, I thought a campsite could work for us.
“I decided to fill in an application, having told my husband I was doing so (who wasn’t too keen on losing a farming field!). After adding some pictures, I was advised that it would be live on the website by tea time.
“I thought I would be lucky to get five or six bookings a week, little did I know by the time I went to bed that evening I had 30 bookings with the first arriving in the morning!
“This first family still visits every summer, along with many others who return as they love the beautiful views and friendly farmer (my husband) who actually interacts with everyone knowing most by name, like he does the sheep. Despite his initial scepticism, he is now totally sold and is always answering questions about life on the farm and all it entails which visitors really enjoy.
“We have been open for three summers now and have enjoyed it immensely.”
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