The revenue generated by shooting is a “vital source of income” for rural firms, while farmers are “the foundation of the rural economy”, the EFRA committee has been told

Shooting and countryside organisations have highlighted the important role that the shooting and farming industries play in supporting rural tourism.

A number of groups gave evidence to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee inquiry into tourism’s role in supporting rural growth in England last month.

Vital source of income for rural business

The committee is also examining issues that could be limiting this growth, such as poor transport connections and broadband access.

BASC vice-chairman John Thornley commented: “People who shoot are prepared to travel long distances to experience high-quality shooting across rural England. The money they spend on food, accommodation, fuel and other local goods and services is a vital source of income for rural businesses, especially during the tourism ‘off-season’.”

Dr Conor O’Gorman, BASC policy development manager, added: “The impact of shooting-related tourism on rural growth is measurable across England. Our evidence shows that investing in the marketing and development of shooting destinations should become the cornerstone of any future plans to boost the rural economy.”

The organisation also highlighted the £2.5billion that is spent on goods and services each year by people who visit the countryside to shoot.

Farming makes economic contribution

Ahead of the inquiry, National Farmers’ Union (NFU) deputy president Minette Batters discussed the economic contribution of farmers and their role in making the countryside accessible to visitors. “The food produced from British farms is the bedrock of the UK’s largest manufacturing sector — food and drink, worth £108 billion to the economy and providing jobs for 3.9million people,” she said.

“Farms are also the foundation of our rural economy. Farmers manage the countryside that millions visit every year and maintain the 200,000km of public footpaths that they use to enjoy our great British countryside.”

As reported last week in Shooting Times, the CLA told the EFRA committee that rural tourism is threatened by underinvestment and poor digital connectivity.

The Countryside Alliance echoed these concerns. Head of policy Sarah Lee stated: “Lack of broadband is holding back rural businesses from competing locally, nationally and internationally — it is unfair and unacceptable. We need to make ourselves more competitive — looking at reducing VAT and other tax incentives to provide a financial incentive for rural tourism. There is also a greater need for collaboration across government and those agencies responsible for supporting tourism, particularly destination management organisations.”

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