Drought-ravaged farmers are leading a tourism revival in regional NSW during the pandemic by converting empty space on their properties into farm stays.
Drought-ravaged farmers are leading a tourism revival in regional NSW during the pandemic by converting empty space on their properties into farm stays.

Booming farm stays provide lifeline in struggling regions

Drought-ravaged farmers are leading a tourism revival in regional NSW during the pandemic by converting empty space on their properties into farm stays.

Airbnb says it has seen huge enthusiasm for farm stays, with regional properties among the "most wish-listed" in recent months.

"Importantly, farm stays provide a fantastic way for people in rural communities to diversify their income, showcase their region and help build tourism for the benefit of everyone in their local community," said Susan Wheeldon, Airbnb's Australia country manager.

Murray and Michele Prior with their daughters Maddy 10 and Tilly 8 at their home in Gundaroo, where they have recently converted a garage to an Airbnb. Picture: Sean Davey
Murray and Michele Prior with their daughters Maddy 10 and Tilly 8 at their home in Gundaroo, where they have recently converted a garage to an Airbnb. Picture: Sean Davey

Quentin Long, from Australian Traveller, said a wave of regional farms and businesses were turning to tourism during the pandemic because interstate and international travel was restricted.

"Across most agricultural parts of NSW people are now opening farm stays - whether it be shearer's quarters or farms converted into nomad estates or luxury stays," Mr Long said.

The burden of staying home during the lockdown has made people more grateful for "open space", feeding into the appeal of a country getaway.

Livestock and crop farmer Jamie Warden is one of many farmers benefiting from the wave of city tourists venturing into the regions.

In September, he and wife Gina opened a rustic farm stay on their sheep and chickpea farm in Cumborah in the far north of NSW.

Jamie Warden (right) of Kigwijil Country Escape with his son Harley on his Cumborah property.
Jamie Warden (right) of Kigwijil Country Escape with his son Harley on his Cumborah property.

It's given the Wardens the chance to droughtproof themselves - having suffered eight years of barren conditions that forced them to sell most of their flock.

It was this hardship, coupled with the recent explosion of tourist numbers in nearby Lightning Ridge, that prompted them to renovate an old cottage on the property.

"There's a lot of people that can't travel overseas and are holidaying in rural areas and there's a lot of tourism in Lightning Ridge, so we decided to get on the back of that," he said.

"While we're only starting off, we hope it will supplement our income and I think we're going to see huge demand for this sort of holiday in the bush from our city brothers in coming months."

Southern Tablelands cattle farmer Michelle Prior and husband Murray opened a farm stay on their property in Gundaroo in June to "diversify their income" after their move from Sydney almost three years ago.

Since then, business has been a "fabulous success".

"It's really an important revenue stream for us," she said.

Originally published as Booming farm stays provide lifeline in struggling regions


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